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  SoldierMod Volume 15 - May 2015
Volume 15 Articles

Country flagSense and Sensor Abilities

News from PEO Soldier

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Budget cuts and concerns may be leading to shrinking budgets among some of U.S. DoD’s modernisation programs, but not so regarding small tech that is making a big difference – sensors.

Photo: FWS-S, Courtesy PEO Soldier.
Photo: FWS-S, Courtesy PEO Soldier.

Dr. Mike Grove, who is principal deputy for Technology and Countermine, Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate, says the reason why is, “sensors are relatively inexpensive when compared to the big weapons systems they protect, not to mention the protection they afford to soldiers…”

Of course military sensors are considerably more expensive than their civilian counterparts because of concerns of size, weight and power (SWAP) and the osts of ruggedising. Still, as far as modernisation programmes go, R&D into sensor tech provides a lot more bang for the buck.

You may not realize it, but sensors are all around us in everyday civilian life, in everything from our cars to our kitchen appliances, providing data on temperature, humidity, power consumption, fuel economy and the like.

However, sensors in the military setting are called upon to do much more, and in significantly harsher environments. Says Grove, “While it would seem convenient and logical to simply repurpose commercial sensors, it is easier said than done. Sensors used by the military are very specialized in battlefield surveillance and target acquisition. It is hard to find commercial sensors that are up to the task.”

Grove went on to say that sensors used by the Army and the Marine Corp are the hardest to develop, because they become an addition to the dismounted soldiers load, and have to survive through mud, sand, wind, rain, extremes of temperature and just about anything the soldier can put it through. Which means the challenge to the PEOs (Program Executive Offices) involved in sensor development and deployment is always one of getting the best, most reliable tech into the hands of soldiers, while keeping SWAP considerations and cost down.

Photo: FWS-S, Courtesy PEO Soldier.
Photo: FWS-S, Courtesy PEO Soldier.

Case in Point

The critical role sensors play in U.S. modernisation efforts, and those challenges were evidenced when PEO Soldier recently hosted industry leaders from 45 companies during an Industry Day for the Family of Weapon Sights-Crew Served (FWS-CS) and Sniper (FWS-S) programmes, conducted by Product Manager Soldier Maneuver Sensors (PM SMS).

At the event, contractors were introduced to the unique sensor requirements for the FWS programme, which is an effort to create, “a weapon mounted long-wave infrared sensor that provides imagery including a reticle bore-sighted to the host weapon (M2, MK19 and M240) in battlefield conditions (daylight, night, and obscurants). FWS-CS will operate as the primary sight, include a wireless helmet mounted display (HMD) and provide the soldier with a ballistically adjusted reticle based on laser range finder information.”

Based on feedback from previous sight programmes, PM SMS asked industry partners and representatives at the event to “seek improvements to range, weight and battery life. They also asked for wireless communications and interoperability with existing equipment, such as the Small Tactical Optical Rifle Mounted Micro-Laser Rangefinder (STORM MLRF).”

The Presolicitation Notice for FWS was issued 6 March 2015, Final FWS-CS/S RFPs release expected 1 June 2015, with proposals due 15 July 2015. Anticipated award April 2016.

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