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  SoldierMod Volume 16 - January 2016
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Qioptiq

Qioptiq: "Stand in Line for Improved Capability"

Enhanced Weapon Sights for Dismounted Close Combat

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KITE In Line. Photo: © Qioptiq.
KITE In Line. Photo: © Qioptiq.

The roadmap for enhanced Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Engagement is becoming increasingly interesting as a number of national soldier modernisation programmes are now looking at refreshing system architectures and looking at what technology developments can be used to refresh soldier system capability.

The scene is firmly set for the 2015 – 2020 period where we will see significant enhancements in sighting system capability through technology evolution and deeper integration with weapon and soldier systems.

However financial constraints in any industry means time and money allocated for product design and development comes under pressure, non-more so than in the defence sector at this time.

Qioptiq recognises that new product development is vital to the organisation in order to ensure that we are able to offer our customers the highest levels of capability in order to ensure mission success and equipment needs to be developed and deployed within very short timeframes.

Qioptiq continues to push the boundaries of Weapon Sights & Surveillance Equipment for DCC users with some significant product and technology development activity planned for the 2015 – 2020 period.

Qioptiq is known for its extensive design and production capabilities, research and development and its leading-edge innovation, we also benefit from strong technology development teams and strong customer relationships.

In Line Sights – Reducing Burden, Improving Flexibility

Qioptiq has recognised the recent shifting trend to the In Line configuration, which gives the User the ability to retain his conventional optical day sight, and therefore retain the zero and other MMI settings that the User is familiar with.

With a range of technologies including Image Intensified, Thermal Imaging and a combination of both in the newly developed SAKER blended weapon sight, Qioptiq have products to suit a wide range of user groups and weapon systems.

KITE In Line

Providing the User with an In Line “Clip On” night vision capability, the KITE IN LINE sight is proving very popular with current KITE customers, who want to transition to the In Line configuration and re-use existing KIT components, and new customers who want a light weight, robust and high quality night vision capability for assault rifles and sharpshooter weapons.

KITE In Line is a very compact optical design that can be fitted with a range of Image Intensifier Tubes, with the possibility to utilise customers tubes fitted to other older equipment, such as the Qioptiq KITE sight, which means that a customer can re-utilise existing tubes and therefore reduce acquisition cost of the in line capability.

KITE In Line has been designed to be compatible with a wide range of optical day sights produced by the world’s top manufacturers, and is compatible with both Picatinny and NATO accessory rails.

Since its Launch in 2013, and building upon the success of the original KITE family, the KITE In Line is proving a popular sight with customers around the world.

DRAGON Compact

Alongside the KITE In Line, the DRAGON Compact Thermal Imager (DCTI) has been given a technology refresh and is now available in a 640x480 17um sensor format, along with other upgrades including a focusable objective lens to enhance close range focus, an Infra-Red Laser Pointer to allow target indication, and on board image capture & storage to support target data collection and dissemination amongst users.

The DCTI 640 is a truly versatile product providing a multi role capability for the User. DCTI can be used as:

  • A Clip On Thermal Weapon Sight
  • A Stand Alone Thermal Weapon Sight
  • A Hand Held Thermal Surveillance Sight

Powered from just 2 AA Lithium batteries, the DCTI will provide over 5 hours of operation.
An intuitive Man Machine Interface (MMI) means the DCTI is easy to operate with all features available to the user via 3 buttons located on the sight unit, or via a remote control unit that can be mounted to the Users weapon system to allow control of the DCTI from a comfortable observation / firing position.

DCTI gives the User a flexible means of providing thermal imaging capability that can be distributed around the squads in order to maximise the effect of thermal imaging alongside conventional night vision.

DCTI is rugged and offers excellent boresight stability when utilised on 5.56mm and 7.62mm assault and sharpshooter rifles and provides the User with the ability to detect man sized targets at ranges over 1000m in all weathers and zero light levels.

The Best of Both Worlds – Blended Weapon Sight Development

For a number of years the Dismounted Close Combat (DCC) community has been proposing, discussing and developing concepts to enhance sighting system capability through the provision of multiple wavebands in a single sighting system. Commonly referred to by a number of means, including integrated, blended or fused, the objective is to provide the User with more than one sensor so that the target scene can be viewed in different parts of the Electro Magnetic (EM) spectrum simultaneously in order to extract additional information to enable enhanced DRI in a reduced time.

Qioptiq have been at the forefront of blended weapon sight development for the past few years, which have recently culminated in the development and launch of the SAKER blended weapon sight for Assault Rifles and Sharpshooter weapon platforms.

SAKER combines conventional Image Intensifier with uncooled thermal imaging in order to provide the User with a blended image that can be adjusted to suit the target scene conditions.

Qioptiq have spent a significant amount of time and effort developing and refining the control architecture and Man Machine Interface (MMI) in order to ensure that the SAKER sight is simple to operate. Providing an intuitive control architecture that avoids increasing the cognitive burden of the User is paramount for this type of sighting system, as the User will not be able to optimise the benefits if the sight is complex to operate.

A weapon mounted remote control has also been developed which replicates all of the SAKER functionality available on the main unit. The user can attach the remote control to the weapon Picatinny or NATO rail in a location that is convenient depending on the weapon system being used.

SAKER delivers a blended capability in an ITAR free package, using a standard 18mm Image Intensifier Tube such as the PHOTONIS INTENS, which means high performance imagery is combined with the sensitive thermal imager.

SAKER has been qualified on a number of weapon platforms, and is currently undergoing assessment and evaluation by a number of NATO countries who are looking to equip their Users with blended sight capability in a lightweight, compact and robust package that is easy to operate.

SAKER is a Clip On sight unit, that has been designed to be compatible with a wide range of day scopes including fixed power combat optics and variable power sniper scopes, with software configuration available to tailor the sight unit to a particular brand or model.

As with all Qioptiq products, a low power architecture is essential as SAKER is powered from 3 AA Lithium batteries.

SAKER represents the first in a line of “next generation” sighting products to be released from the Qioptiq fold, with a number of exiting product developments scheduled for release during the 2015 – 200 period to ensure that Qioptiq has leading edge products to offer our customers around the world.

The Big Integration Push – Power & Data Connectivity

“Integration, Integration, Integration” is still a common cry amongst the DCC community, as the focus to reduce weight continues. With many nations quoting figures in the region of 55-60kg carried by its dismounted users, then the issue is very real, so we all need to do our bit.

The Integrated Weapon Sub System (WSS) has been explored by a number of nations as part of their respective Soldier Modernisation Programmes (SMP’s) with varying degrees of success, however the challenge remains with a number of nations / programmes taking a closer look at the potential to integrate centralised power onto individual weapons and provide elements of data connectivity between “modules” - e.g. sights, targeting lasers and other weapon mounted accessories.

Qioptiq have continued to support the UK MoD / DSTL Development of the Weapon As A Platform (WAAP) concept being delivered under the Delivering Dismounted Effect (DDE) programme which is being delivered by an Industrial consortium led by System Engineering & Assessment (SEA).

Qioptiq has continued to strengthen its research & development capacity and are undertaking some interesting work packages looking at Digital Optical Weapon Sights (DOWS), Augmented Weapon Sights and Integrated Power & Data connectivity within the WAAP Technology Demonstration Programme.

Powered Interface Rails and flexible power architectures offer potential for weight reduction & closer integration. This initiative requires a close working co-operation between the weapon manufactures, sighting system providers and the power industry, along with common interfaces and transportable design standards in order to allow customers to maintain a choice of solution providers.

The potential is certainly there, but as with any “revolutionary vision”, there are a number of gremlins lurking in the shadows that need to be attacked and overcome, and these things take time. From our experience it can be anything between 3 – 7 years (and considerably longer in some cases) between Industry coming up with a “good Idea” to the capability actually being deployed with Users on Operations, with the road in between often involving multiple development / refinement cycles and a lot of patience……….

It’s widely recognised that modern small arms weapon systems are incredibly accurate and reliable, and that the challenge is being able to Detect, Recognise, Identify (DRI) and engage targets 24 hours a day, through all weathers and battlefield conditions, with Users under physical and cognitive pressure.

Sighting Systems need to be easy to use, effective through all weathers and provide the ability to detect targets at the maximum range possible in order to prepare the User for the next course of action. The Urban scenario requires enhance situational awareness, wider fields of view and a rapid target engagement (RTE) process in order to respond within the close quarters. Technology development and connectivity between soldier worn devices will support the evolution of such capabilities.

The challenge for us is to provide all of this capability to the User in a package (or suite) that is easy to use and easily configurable for role / mission requirements, whilst remaining affordable and having the potential to endure a service life of 10-15 years.

Digital Optical Weapon Sights – The art of the possible is immense

The future is digital, and Qioptiq has continued to move forward on the development of Digital Optical Weapon Sights (DOWS), with as number of projects looking at specific aspects including the integration of fire control information and a modular architecture to allow the User to tailor a host sighting system in order to meet his specific mission need.

We are digitising the sighting systems of the future. This is very relevant to the future of the DCC Users, and DOWS is the start of that journey. But we realise that one size does not fit all. Our work could maximise the performance of rifles, Sharpshooter rifles, heavy machine guns, general purpose machine guns and grenade launchers, especially at night.

One of the programme aims is to get them (weapon systems) to their maximum effective range, 24 hours a day, no matter what the conditions. This presents some interesting challenges, particularly with SWaP, so we are looking at how technology and the appropriate use of high definition sensors and image processing algorithms can help.

Another area of significant interest is the use of image processing to assist with target detection and identification in order to support the User with early target location and tracking. We can now effectively use sensors to pick out targets and other objects of interest in a scene that the User may not normally see with the naked eye or standard optical sights.

Digital Weapon Sights can also offer enhancements due to advances in low power processors (predominantly driven by the smartphone market) and high resolution CMOS sensors, which have the ability to operate at a higher wavelength than the human eye, therefore offering potential low light enhancement. Coupled with high optical / digital magnification capability, enhancing Detect, Recognition, Identify (DRI) capability is a reality, therefore reducing the number of pieces of kit the User needs to carry, which has positive reduction effects to both physical & cognitive burdens.

We are continuing to take commercial world capability and consider it for use in the military environment. Human integration factors are key and having the user and stakeholder involved is critical. The art of the possible is immense, but we need to ensure we keep a check on complexity and information overload, as with any other complex integration issue.

Augmented Reality (AR) has been demonstrated within military equipment over the last few years. A number of systems have demonstrated the benefit of integrating and displaying target cueing information into support weapon sights to provide enhanced situational awareness and target designation across a networked battlefield. AR provides the potential to improve the capability of the Individual Soldier by providing targeting / navigation information within the weapon sight view, therefore reducing the need for other display devices to be carried & accessed.

Conclusion

As Qioptiq continues to move forward with enhanced sighting systems for dismounted users, we are always on the lookout for opportunities to collaborate and partner with industrial players around the world in order to bring world class capabilities to national programmes and to ensure that Qioptiq products remain state of the art and provide features and capabilities called for by the User community.

Qioptiq, along with our industry partners are totally committed to reducing the size weight and power burden placed on to our customers – developing the battle winning equipment within the realistic constraints of technology while maintaining affordability.

We will continue to develop, push forward and challenge the boundaries to ensure we always stay one step ahead.

QioptiqFor more information visit:
www.qioptiq.com

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