Northrop Grumman has been selected by the US Naval Surface Warfare Centre to provide the US Marine Corps with a gyroscope-based non-magnetic compass designed to augment laser target rangefinders used by forward observers and forward air controllers.
Forward observers and forward air controllers are teams of Marines who scan the battlefield for unusual activity and act as the “eyes” of artillery batteries or attack aircraft. They operate from concealed locations, provide target co-ordinates and report the results of bombardments using equipment that includes laser target rangefinders and global positioning systems.
The Northrop Grumman system being provided under this development contract is said to provide more precise compass readings than electromagnetic compasses. It is not affected by magnetic fields, which increases the accuracy and dependability of the target location information the rangefinder provides. The system can also be retrofitted to current laser rangefinders.
“The miniature azimuth gyrocompass unit works near vehicles, in buildings and in other areas with high magnetic fields, areas where conventional electromagnetic compass-based targeting systems can be compromised,” said Tony Matthews, an engineering consultant at Northrop Grumman and developer of the miniature azimuth gyrocompass unit. “The miniature unit simplifies calibration, reduces set-up time and is designed to limit operator exposure to enemy detection and fire.”
A digital data interface allows it to replace electromagnetic compasses, currently part of the target rangefinders, and provides reference data to the eyepiece display on the laser rangefinder. The miniature unit can also communicate with other equipment such as handheld computers and global positioning system (GPS) receivers. The unit also features a small display that allows the operator to read target information while remaining concealed from enemy fire.
The unit uses a Northrop Grumman G-2000 spinning mass gyroscope and miniature accelerometers to detect compass heading, bank and tilt readings, allowing a rangefinder equipped with the miniature unit to be held by hand.