The night-vision goggles of TM-NVG from Harris Corporation were supplied to the Italian army, as well as to the customer who wished to remain incognito. The TM-NVG Fusion model has also been demonstrated to the US command by special operations forces.
In recent years, much attention has been paid to improving the situational awareness of a soldier with a special focus on surveillance, target designation and communications systems. The Canadian Institute for Defense Research Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC), which conducts research in the field of military science and technology, has worked extensively in this area, developing technologies and target designation concepts, as well as lethality of weapons systems.
Describing the tests carried out, which confirmed the importance of accurate determination of the distance to a target that significantly increases the accuracy of snipers, a representative of the institute spoke in detail about the work on installing laser range finders and fire control systems on small weapon. These systems, for example, include a surveillance device for SWORD sniper weapons (Sniper Weapon and Observer Reconnaissance Device) from General Dynamics and Colt Canada and Kopin’s Precision Acquisition and Targeting System. A SWORD is a mounted on a weapon surveillance and targeting device integrated with a hardened smartphone, which is designed to increase the level of situational awareness of a soldier.
The British Department of Defense recently replaced its Browning 9 mm and Sig Sauer P226 pistols with a Glock 17 pistol, remaining true to the 9 mm caliber
Colt Canada spokesman Jeff MacLeod explained: “SWORD makes sense as an integrated soldier system. By combining the technology of a modern smartphone with weapon-mounted sights and laser rangefinders, soldiers have all the necessary information literally at their fingertips. SWORD doesn't just provide a computer or display to soldiers; it provides completely new weapons-focused features. ” The device includes a power source, communication unit and navigation capabilities, including GPS and inertial navigation in cases of lack of GPS signals. Combat control systems can also be integrated into the device’s communication unit based on the Android operating system, so the company offers its system as an alternative to the tactical communications system.
The PATS system, according to Kopin Vice President Michael Prege, is a "fully integrated fire control system that allows you to convert most of the optical sights into smart lethal target systems." The PATS system installed in front of existing rifle optical sights, improves the accuracy of firing at any time of the day. It consists of a laser range finder, a ballistic computer and a display with overlapping images. "The PATS system allows the military to significantly improve the performance of weapons sights in service by reducing the time of opening fire and increasing the likelihood of hitting at distances up to 600 meters," continued Prezh.
The PATS system uses augmented reality technology (adding imaginary objects to images of real-world objects, usually of an auxiliary informative property), which is integrated into an overlay display powered by a single CR-123 battery. The gun sight with augmented reality technology, which is a further development of helmet-mounted displays, allows the operator to capture targets through the traditional sight, while seeing icons and symbols superimposed on top. “The PATS block has great potential in the sense that it can turn every green youth into an exact shooter, allowing you to increase mortality while reducing the cost of training and ammunition,” concluded Prezh.
In the meantime, CDND is preparing to conclude the first contract at the end of 2015 for the Integrated Soldier System Project (ISSP) project for an integrated soldier and a representative of this institute talked about how, starting with 2016, the equipment will be supplied.
The first stage will include GPS, tactical radio stations, end-user devices (ATD), low-noise communications, power supply systems, unloading system and body armor, which demonstrates the presence of a wide range of devices and systems currently available to the soldier. Stages 2 and 3 will focus on power supply, data, and additional PCD. At the same time, according to the Land Command Support System Life Extension program, which is headed by the CDND institute, long-range communication tools are being developed. The program is expected to reach full operational availability for 2018.
One of the existing contracts worth 39 million dollars, concluded with the Canadian division of DRS Technologies, provides for the modernization of communication centers of armored vehicles. Another 122 contract worth a million dollars was issued to the Canadian branch of General Dynamics, Rockwell Collins and SigmaPoint, to upgrade tactical radio stations worn by dismounted soldiers. Of great importance in the work of a tactical radio station is the headset, which allows the soldier on the battlefield to clearly receive and transmit voice commands, despite the noise of shooting or weather conditions.
Bullet-proof vests are now obligatory for all military personnel who can be fired with one or another probability by the enemy. The Afghan and Iraqi theaters gave several invaluable lessons regarding the direction in which the design of the body armor should be improved in order to increase the level of protection and improve mobility.
According to an Invisio spokesperson, “loud noise from helicopters, heavy vehicles, explosions and gunfire is part of everyday life, and the quality of communication, and simply the availability of it, depends on the success and failure of a combat mission, the life and death of soldiers.” He also noted that in order for the divisions to effectively carry out their tasks, modern communication equipment, which can also be integrated into new and existing communication systems, is subject to strict requirements. "For example, fighters from special forces sometimes need to communicate in a whisper, literally breathing," he explained. In addition, it is very important for a soldier to protect his hearing in a noisy environment with a short and long-lasting impact on the hearing, resulting in injuries that could undermine the combat effectiveness of the unit or destroy the career of a serviceman.
One of the systems in service with NATO special forces is the Tactical Communication and Hearing Protection System V60 Advanced Tactical Communication and Hearing Protection System developed by Invisio. The V60 device can withstand immersion to a depth of 20 meters, it can be connected to four different communication nodes, it has separate push buttons, voice priority buttons, three command switches and a controller. In addition, this headset allows you to work in full-duplex communication mode or in communication mode with a local effect (self-audibility). “Solutions with inserts (in-ear headphones) are increasingly preferable for military communications, and the importance of hearing protection is confirmed by the amount of money spent on soldiers returning from military operations with reduced hearing. In an instant, a soldier may lose the ability of an effective fighter and many countries have long been convinced of this, ”said a spokesman for Invisio.
However, more traditional solutions in the form of overhead sets are popular in the armed forces of the whole world. One of the latest offers on the market in this area is the ComTac XPI headset from 3M Peltor Communications Solutions. The headset, introduced in February 2015, features a new built-in “voice assistant” that helps with menu navigation and warns of low battery power; In addition, it became possible to adjust the input sensitivity of the transceiver. The headset can also operate in the earmold mode, allowing the operator to receive double hearing protection when he has the ability to hear surrounding sounds, but at the same time is protected from "dangerous noise".
“With the ComTac XPI headset, you can hear warning signals and communicate with your colleagues. You are not isolated from the environment, and you can use a headset with a respirator with a bone conduction microphone and connect to a receiving / transmitting radio station that helps keep in touch with people in your group or with the base, ”said a representative of 3M Peltor Communications Solutions.
Requirements for future equipment include the integration of various optical, optoelectronic and communication devices into combat helmets and undergarments of soldiers, with particular attention to reducing the size, weight and power consumption of all wearable systems
Optical electronic devices also increase the lethality of weapons systems. An example is the British company QinetiQ, which is developing a shot detection device as part of the Muzzle Flash Localization program (localization of the muzzle flame) of the British Ministry of Defense. According to a company representative, the new device uses image enhancement and thermal imaging technology to enhance the intelligence capabilities of a dismounted soldier operating in an urban environment. The reliable identification of enemy fighters was a significant problem for NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan when entrenched Taliban fighters occasionally fired 7,62-mm weapons with maximum range of 800 meters, including Dragoon’s sniper rifles.
The three-year program of the British Ministry of Defense is scheduled for completion in 2016. In accordance with it, a new device should provide a definition of a shot with accurate localization of the target even in the shelter, instantly determine the distance to the target and the azimuth with high accuracy, up to the definition of a specific section or “shooter”, where soldiers risk running into an ambush. A QinetiQ spokesperson said the current speaker definition systems are too inaccurate. “They do not allow for quick response fire and are too dependent on the external environment with a lot of interferences reflecting sound waves. Alternatively, the mid-wave IR sensors provide very good range and accuracy, but they need cooling power. These systems are good for vehicles, but for a dismounted soldier they are too expensive and large. ”
For this reason, the QinetiQ solution is based on a device operating in the far [shortwave] infrared region of the spectrum that has lower power consumption, although the company recognizes that it is still necessary to minimize the response to interference in the form of insects, plants, reflected sunlight and camera movements. “This is a small, easy and cheap solution,” a QinetiQ spokesman added.
Recently, tests of the Raptor Photonics OWL 320 HS SWIR medium-wave IR camera were carried out in various climatic conditions in order to localize the AK-47 submachine gun firing at distances up to 600 meters. After testing, QinetiQ confirmed that at distances up to 400 meters, the gunscope could determine the shot with an accuracy of 90 percent. However, at distances over 550 meters, the probability of determining fell to zero. Finally, the probability of detecting shooters moving at a distance of 250 meters reached 60 percent, although QinetiQ was quick to note that the false positive rate was zero. “We will try to refine the algorithms before returning to the tests. This is a promising technology, its accuracy is good enough to detect a shot and determine the direction of return fire, and therefore further research is needed. ”
The Harris Tactical Mobility Night Vision Goggles (TM-NVG) family of Harris takes target designation and target detection and situational awareness to the next level. This family includes glasses with enhanced image brightness and a combined version of the TM-NVG Fusion with two channels: thermal imaging and enhanced image brightness. Both systems are capable of receiving data from a tactical operations center and transmitting data there; in addition, they can receive full-frame video and view intelligence data from reconnaissance platforms. To date, under the program Finmeccanica Soldato Futuro (Soldier of the Future), 5000 TM-NVG points have been delivered to Italy, and several thousand more systems have been delivered to the named country. According to the company, a “small” number of TM-NVG Fusion points were also supplied to the Italian army; These shipments will end in 2016.
Headsets, such as the Peltor invoice headset (pictured), provide hearing protection and at the same time allow you to hear the surrounding sounds, which is becoming an increasingly popular feature.
A Harris spokesman called the tactical advantage of TM-NVG glasses, which is that they do not emit light and therefore it’s difficult to detect the operator by the enemy. These systems are available both in monocular and binocular versions, as well as in versions with a green or white phosphor, in addition, Harris is considering the possibility of integrating this technology into a fixed gun sight.
Initially, the family of glasses was developed to work with the SpearNet radio station, and now Harris is working on integrating TM-NVG points with its own hand-held radio stations from the AN / PRC-152 and RF-7800 families. One of the most interesting solutions for TM-NVG glasses is the integration of Augmented Reality (DR) technology. Harris is actively working with Applied Research Associates (ARA) in order to obtain such opportunities.
Adding PD means that TM-NVG glasses will be able to output information layers on top of a real thermal image, providing the operator with a number of possibilities, starting from navigation points and ending with target designation, tracking of their strength and sending messages. In addition, TM-NVG glasses with DR can be reprogrammed before the task, they can “pawn” information that will help to conduct more accurate reconnaissance in force or direct the reconnaissance team to the target, and during deployment it will also allow updating the operational situation in real time.
An ARA representative explained that the DR component is an integration of “virtual icons, avatars, and messages that are exactly superimposed on the real world.” DR provides a processor that is attached with a guide to a combat helmet. He also explained how this can work in motion, as well as in combat areas with "strong magnetic disturbances." “You can get information about objects just by looking at them in the device; You can designate elements and objects in your space by clicking on the icon, which has a geo-reference to the real world; and you can distribute these icons among other colleagues so that they can evaluate them from their point of view. ” This technology will be integrated into TM-NVG systems in the 2016 year. He added that currently there are no official requirements for this technology, although it has already been demonstrated to the US command of USSOCOM special operations forces. The US Air Force Test Center is also involved in the development of augmented reality technology.
In the section on body protection (Universal soldier and his equipment. Part 3), the importance of the mobility of a soldier has already been considered, especially when applied to infantry-worn flak jackets of various variants designed for various combat missions. One of the ways to improve the mobility of a soldier is to develop exoskeletons that reduce the burden on the soldier. There are currently several options on the market, including the HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier exoskeleton - a human-based exoskeleton based on a universal supporting structure) from Lockheed Martin and the XOS family of Raytheon Sarcos; In addition, government agencies in several countries are developing several more models.
The design of the exoskeleton HULC company Lockheed Martin transfers the entire load from heavy loads, transferred during combat operations or logistics operations, through titanium legs with a power drive to the ground. The HULC exoskeleton is capable of moving loads weighing up to 90,9 kg over a distance of 20 kilometers at a speed of 10 km / h. HULC can also serve as a “framework” for integrated systems, including protection, cooling or heating systems, sensors, and other items of equipment, and ensure their operation for 72 hours if necessary. In total, the system with lithium-polymer batteries, which are necessary to perform any task, weighs 24 kg. “The unique HULC energy saving design allows the user to work on battery energy for a long time. With low batteries, the HULC system continues to support the load and does not limit mobility. The HULC exoskeleton can support the maximum load with or without power supply, ”said a representative of Lockheed Martin.
A similar concept is currently being evaluated by the TALOS department of military equipment (as part of the USSOCOM command), for which many companies offer their solutions, including Revision Military solutions. This company showed its Kinetic Operations Suit concept in May 2015 at the Florida Industry and Special Operations Conference held in the form of the Prowler Human Augmentation Exoskeleton. In Prowler, the emphasis is more on increasing the capabilities of the soldier’s musculature by distributing the load on the main muscle groups in the lower body, rather than on transferring this load to the ground. “Unlike many other systems where the soldier“ moves ”inside the reinforcing system, the Prowler exoskeleton is almost skin, complementing the costume for the lower body. It has been proven that a load that “surrounds” the knee joints and at the same time strengthens them reduces the forces applied to the knee by 33 percent when a load is applied, said a spokesman for Revision Military. “This system has passed state tests in the United States and Canada, it increases the capabilities of the soldier by redistributing the load from the upper body to the lumbar region and upper and lower limbs.” The prototype of the exoskeleton passed mobility tests at the Camp Lydzhen Marine Training Center in October 2014.
Meanwhile, the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research, TNO, continues to work on creating a quasi-passive exoskeleton capable of operating without an energy source. Judging by the words of one of the scientists of this organization, the second version of the Exo Buddy exoskeleton (Exo Buddy 2) was ready for evaluation tests in August 2015. He explained: “We have reached the physical limits of the soldier and now we see how uncomfortable it is, how it causes irritation and pain. Research and development in this area are conducted in three directions: the distribution of mass over the body of a soldier, the exoskeleton and automatic ground vehicles. But we chose an exoskeleton. ”
As for the support of soldiers with automatic ground vehicles, there is a somewhat alarming trend. For example, the SMSS robotic self-propelled vehicle (Squad Mission Support System) of Lockheed Martin, the company’s combat mission support system, received negative reviews after realistic tests. After the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, the demand for abandoned vehicles, such as ReconRobotic's Scout XT, also dropped significantly.
Exoskeletons are no longer exclusively objects of science fiction novels, but are means of physical and psychological unloading of a soldier, helping to carry heavy loads over long distances.
QinetiQ develops a thermal shot detection system that is more accurate than speaker systems, such as the Raytheon-BBN Boomerang system (pictured)
For the first version of the Exo Buddy of TNO, the XOS 3 exoskeleton developed by Raytheon Sarcos was used as the basis, although the scientist described it as “too complicated and expensive”. According to TNO estimates, the dismounted soldier’s average combat load is estimated at approximately 60 kg, while the Exo Buddy 2 exoskeleton weighs only five. These are a pair of telescopic legs and hinges, located on the hips, knees and ankles, plus hip straps connected to field boots. TNO published the results of the initial test program, which confirmed that up to 90 percent mass is transferred from the infantryman to Exo Buddy 2 exoskeleton, although the organization admitted that operators used 12 percent more oxygen compared to soldiers who worked without exoskeletons.
The following Exo Buddy 2015 tests are scheduled for the end of 2. "The first technology demonstrator has already been tested by soldiers and proved to be an inexpensive, easy, simple and easy to use system ... Now we have put all our forces on the combat mobility of the Exo Buddy 2 exoskeleton, with particular emphasis on shooting positions, movement along an obstacle course, and how best this mobility is, one can even say agility, pass to the Exo Buddy system, ”the representative of TNO summed up.
To the problems of ergonomics and mobility associated with the concepts of the future soldier, for example TALOS (see Universal soldier and his equipment. Part of 3), involved and Hollywood companies specializing in special effects. California-based companies Ekso Bionics and Legacy Efects, for example, are currently studying reviews of US special operations force soldiers wearing the first TALOS combat gear.