Knowing that not only behind the next corner, but also in the next building, is an important part of military operations in urban areas. Achievements of optronics and radar enhance the capabilities of a soldier in these conditions.
Disconnected units face a lot of complex tasks that often require quick and responsible decisions in dangerous and harsh conditions. Whether conducting a long battle, conducting raids, reconnaissance, surveillance, or rescue of hostages, soldiers should receive all necessary assistance in order to better control the situation.
While manual systems dominate the current market, there is a growing interest in larger, but still portable equipment that has longer ranges, a wider field of view, video analytics and synchronization of additional sensors and target designation systems. In urban conditions, in particular, there is a need to “see” through the walls in order to reduce the risk for soldiers entering buildings in which armed opponents can hide. In all cases, the trend is aimed at integrated sensor systems, including radar and optoelectronics, which also provide a reliable connection to a common network. “Many countries around the world are seeking to increase the speed and flexibility of their forces to cope with a wider range of threats,” said Andrew Saxton, head of tactical systems at FLIR Systems. “The ability to collect valuable operational information from more sources gives commanders operational flexibility.”
The eternal restrictions on mass and power still have a negative impact on hardware for infantry, but technological progress is unrelenting, contributing to the development of even more complex multi-touch equipment. “Improvement processes in the field of optics, materials and power supply systems allow us to reduce weight, offer longer distances, integrate more sensors and increase their working time,” Saxton continued. - In recent years, a lot of work has been done in this direction. Our weight loss efforts allowed us to create a Recon-V system that combines a high-resolution thermal imager with a high resolution laser rangefinder, a digital magnetic compass, a GPS system, and it all weighs less than 2,2 kg. Five years ago it was just impossible. ”
Naweh Bahat, head of research and development of optical-electronic systems in the Tamam division of Israel Aerospace Industries, recognizes the domination of hand-held systems and notes that "in Israel there is a need to conduct surveillance at large distances." In the near future, Bakhat expects the rapid development of systems with a greater level of integration, based on uncooled thermal imaging cameras with laser range finders, GPS and target positioning subsystems. He also predicts that more and more systems will have more user-friendly interfaces based on computer and graphics technologies designed for smartphones. In his opinion, more portable and mobile search and tracking systems will appear, the level of integration of radar and optronics, as well as connectivity with other devices, will increase. He called the main limitation not the weight and power consumption, but the narrow field of view of optocoupler sensors, affecting the relevance of the current reconnaissance equipment for infantry; An important component of the solution to this problem would be the integration of light, small radars. “As for the naval sphere, reconnaissance systems fall into two broad categories: radars are used for tracking and tracking, and optical electronic systems for detecting and targeting,” he continued. “We believe that ground forces will follow this path.” IAI works in these areas. In addition, optical and cartographic technologies will allow you to calculate the exact location without using GPS. ”
Out of the car!
Johnny Carney, the vice president of Controp, said that the past decade has witnessed the rapid development of mobile optronics installed on vehicles, although the company sees a tendency that equipment is being unloaded from a car and used at some distance from it so that reduce the risk of detection, especially when performing tasks of internal security and border security. “Users complain that as soon as they install their masts with all the sophisticated optronics and radars, the bad guys see these masts and find out the weak points ... This is not a coastal position, where there are no problems - everything is clear. In other places, there are always problems with direct visibility. At the moment, we see a growing need for portable equipment that allows border patrols to be covertly located in different places and at different times. ”
Mobile and wearable equipment also helps to overcome the limitations associated with hedges and the threat of tunnels. Attackers can dig tunnels under areas of the fence being monitored, because as soon as they move more than 15 meters away from the fence, they disappear from view of the monitoring system. This problem can be solved by small groups of two or three operators with sensors that provide large coverage and radio stations, through which they can transmit information to their colleagues about what they have discovered.
According to Karni, Controp offers a number of solutions for this kind of problem; it provides its small, stabilized, uncooled cameras for use with light, portable radars to identify objects that these radars can detect; cameras were originally designed for use with small-sized UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). The use of active sensors, for example, radar stations, in conditions with a high level of threats allows you to work with them at a certain distance of removal. "Because of the risk of firing a car and to avoid unwanted losses, soldiers want to place sensors either far away from it, or very high."
Saxton emphasized the importance of sharing radar and optronics. “It's all about interconnectedness. We produce portable radars as well as manual systems. The real innovation is to combine information from both devices into common operational intelligence. We focus on this and as each component of the technology develops, the system as a whole is also improving. ” He reiterated the importance of interconnectedness, allowing dismounted intelligence units to make best use of data obtained from various sources, including UAVs, Aviation, balloons and maintenance-free ground sensors. “Using a common architecture allows us to transform several point sources of information into one multifunctional surveillance system. The mutual exchange of information between the sensors allows the infantryman to quickly see the object detected by the balloon and vice versa. A balloon system can take data on longitude and latitude from a ground-based sensor and quickly transfer sensors to an object without repeating the process of searching for an object. ”
FLIR Systems is working hard to reduce the size, weight and power consumption of optocoupler devices for dismounted soldiers. It currently produces systems weighing less than 2,2 kg
While the combination of portable radar with optoelectronics helps to solve two problems, the first is the restriction of the "straws for drinks" inherent in most cameras (the observer is virtually deprived of peripheral vision, as if he is looking through a straw), and the second is the lack of recognition and identification capabilities ground-based surveillance radars, manufacturers, including the company Controp and Elbit, offer another approach. Both have created high-performance portable optical-electronic devices with a very wide field of view.
For the first time, the Twister system was introduced by Controp at the Eurosatory 2016 exhibition in Paris. The system is transferred, configured and maintained by two operators. Scanning 360 degrees and updating her panoramic image every second, she can detect moving objects at a distance of up to three kilometers. “There are not so many manufacturers of this type of equipment in the world,” said Carney. “But as far as I know, we are the only ones who have created a portable system.”
Image processing algorithms automatically detect a moving person and other objects, while an optical lens of a thermal zoom camera with a continuous zoom allows the operator to use it in observing mode for recognition and identification. Twister can also take snapshots at the same time as recording. Each time it is detected, it saves a tracking file that the operator can access for examination in real time, while the system continues to scan the specified zone. The system can be controlled on-site from a laptop computer or remotely over a radio channel or local network. “Twister offers a significantly more advanced and more economical alternative to the high-maintenance methods used today, which tend to rely on a network of cameras distributed along protective barriers, with images being displayed on multiple screens,” continued Carney. “In the Twister system, the entire panoramic image for all 360 degrees is displayed on one screen, which is much more convenient, easier to control in the field.”
According to Shalom Binder from Elbit's division of intelligence and information systems, the SupervisIR system is similar in concept, but it also has some differences. The system is based on a non-scanning sensor that provides a field of view of 90 degrees in azimuth and 12,5 degrees in elevation, which is equivalent to about 150 standard thermal imagers. Such a very large field of view is achieved through just one camera with one detector. This new, partially patented technology allows you to "extract dozens of megapixels" from one perceiving element. SupervisIR also records everything; it uses algorithms that analyze the video image to detect and classify objects, marks the objects with red dots in the panoramic view, opens a separate window for each and allows several operators to enlarge the picture of different objects to study them. “This is not only a radar-like detection system, it has its own visual capabilities, such as the capabilities of a thermal imager.”
SupervisIR surveillance and intelligence system developed by Elbit
SupervisIR can interact with external, network-integrated sensors. “To get a super resolution, you can rotate a separate camera, for example, the Elbit LVCR-D,” Binder explained. - Select the zone of interest with the SupervisIR system and rotate the LVCR-D camera there. The advantage is that it does not rotate, compactness with a minimum footprint. " Both SupervisIR and LCVR-D systems are key elements of the Elbit company concept, called ISTAR-DS (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target-Acquisition and Reconnaissance - information gathering, surveillance, target designation and exploration, Dismounted Solutions - hardened solutions). It contains everything that is needed to detect, localize, classify and identify targets and transfer them to executive platforms for neutralization. "We are focused on a solution to equip dismounted forces, a division that will take all the equipment into its shoulder backpacks." The company Elbit illustrates this concept in a video where the target is transmitted to the Elbit Skylark-I / II UAV, since there is a risk of loss of direct visibility from the ground observation post, after which the drone provided laser target designation. “With this kind of solutions, we can carry out all sorts of attacks, whether they are laser-guided weapons, GPS-guided or conventional artillery or mortar shells; you just need to load target data into weapons. ” As Binder explained, having extensive experience in the field of communication devices, Elbit can provide any radio station that corresponds to the situation and the distance between the command post, the attacking platform and the headquarters. "The system is modular in nature, so the unit can choose the means of communication, surveillance and targeting."
The Controp system of the Controp company resets the tyranny of "straws for drinks", reducing the field of view of users of optical-electronic devices.
Behind the wall
The purpose of intelligence, in fact, is to provide the unit commander with information about what is behind the next hill, but in urban combat it is often limited to the notion of “what is behind the wall”, that is, what is in the next building or even in the next room. In this case, ultra-wideband radars come into play for detecting signs of life, or stenovizors, from the Camero Xaver family. As the vice-president of the company, Ilan Abramovich, noted, they are of great interest and are in great demand among the military, especially among counterinsurgency units. “As a consequence of the current difficult situation, these devices can be seen in Europe and of course in the USA, people want to have much more opportunities. There is an increase in demand for these systems in the market, but I cannot say that it is very sharp. ” All stenovizorov family Xaver work in a continuous frequency range from 3 to 10 GHz at very low power (even the most powerful model spends less energy than a cell phone). They can detect subtle movements (breathing and heartbeat) made by living beings (humans and animals) through most wall, floor and ceiling materials, including clay, brick, stone, gypsum, drywall, cinder block, wood, glass and even reinforced concrete. The penetration thickness varies by material, but radars cannot see through a continuous sheet of metal.
This family consists of three models: Xaver-800, Xaver-400 and Xaver-100. The Xaver-800 radar device for data acquisition, surveillance and reconnaissance with a fully three-dimensional visualization is a tripod system with four antennas that weighs 14,5 kg batteries. The device is specifically designed to collect real-time critical information for the success of specifying the presence of live and static objects hidden behind a solid wall or other obstacle. Proprietary imaging algorithms are used to eliminate parasitic environmental noise and support a three-dimensional image. In case the wall structure complicates the task of obtaining a three-dimensional image, the Xaver 800 system provides a clear two- or one-dimensional image, without leaving the operator in the dark for a second.
The Xaver 400 device weighing 3,2 kg displays a two-dimensional image on the screen: its main battery, along with additional ones, provides a total of seven hours of operation. Stenovizor displays the location of the target in the XY grid, showing the field of view and the maximum distance, the latter is selected using the button on the left side; the button on the right allows you to select the “tracking”, “expert” and “deep penetration” modes. Both Xaver 100 and 400 devices can optionally be equipped with an integrated wireless module that allows you to remotely control more than one system using a handheld or a conventional computer. This option was introduced at the beginning of 2014 of the year and has already been delivered to several customers; the maximum distance in wireless mode is 25 meters. Multiple Xaver 400 devices connected together allow you to get a two- or three-dimensional image.
The Xaver 100 model weighs 660 grams with four CR123A lithium batteries providing 3,5 hours of operation. The device has one radiating and one receiving antenna, the data from which are displayed on a small screen in the form of a one-dimensional image showing the presence of living objects and the distance to the nearest target. Detection distances are the same as for larger members of the family, 4,8 or 20 meters. The antenna provides a field of view 120 degrees in azimuth and elevation. The Xaver 100 device really does not require any training; all you have to do is to orient the device and turn it on, the screen displays the target and sensor icons and the distance between them. This is an intuitive man-machine interface, the whole system is user-friendly and even a beginner needs only a few seconds to turn on the device and determine the distance to the target. However, the second operating mode allows you to see the raw signals that an experienced operator can give more information than the “intended for the soldier” mode.
“When you're inside, you have to start the search. “This could be a building, an apartment with many rooms, maybe a basement or an attic,” said Abramovich. - Someone might hit you, someone might jump out from around the corner ... or lie low in the next room. With these devices you have information about the hitherto unknown. " For example, collaboration with a drone was even demonstrated when the Xaver 100 wall mount was installed on a small-sized UAV to detect people through the roof of a building. The drone sat on the roof, muffled the engine in order to eliminate undesirable movements and vibrations, after which the device successfully found living creatures under it.
From top to bottom: Xaver 400, Xaver 800, Xaver 100
As Saxton noted, all the systems mentioned in the article will most likely play a large role in the foreseeable future, and if micro-BLAHs like Black Hornet from Proxdynamics are widely used, the rules of the game for dismounted intelligence will change significantly. When asked to evaluate the combination of equipment available for a typical reconnaissance platoon of an army in a developed country, Saxton replied that the emphasis would remain on obtaining and distributing valuable operational information. "The focus will be on equipment that provides visualization at long ranges and high resolution, which allows to improve the detailing of objects, as well as improved power supply systems, broadband communication systems with encryption necessary for the exchange of high-resolution video in real time." Meanwhile, Bahat predicts the emergence of more compact handheld observation and targeting devices with built-in laser target designators, highly accurate orientation and positioning systems based on images and new search-tracking systems and detection systems. Carney suggested that video analytics would become a big problem, as wide-field cameras capture too large areas that the human brain cannot process quickly enough. He said that future analysis methods should determine the type and characteristics of only the object that the user needs; the system should only pay attention to such targets, eliminating false positives. "All these automatic systems have a big problem - false positives, here we have to solve the most complex tasks."
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