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  SoldierMod Volume 9 - 2012
Volume 9 Articles

QioptiqQioptiq: Welcome to the New Family Member

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MERLIN Long Range on H&K G28 DMR
MERLIN Long Range on H&K G28 DMR

As we reported in the last edition of SoldierMod, 2011 was a busy year in which we launched a number of new products. The DRAGON and MERLIN product families were very well received.

Significant Product and technology development activity has continued apace at Qioptiq and we have new introductions for 2012.

MERLIN - Magic for Germany

Earlier in 2012, we were informed that our MERLIN Long Range (MLR) In Line Night Vision Sight had been down selected as part of the German Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) contract award to H&K for the G28 Rifle System. This was a fantastic result for Qioptiq and demonstrated that our hard work in both product development and strengthening the integration between the international Qioptiq organisations had paid off.

With the Qioptiq profile raised significantly within the European Soldier Modernisation community, we are now supporting a number of other opportunities where high performance, ITAR free equipment is required.

SAKER - Welcome to the Family

For a number of years, the Fused Weapon Sight (FWS) has been both greatly debated and eagerly anticipated by Users worldwide. With recent technology advances we are now at the stage where the potential becomes the reality…

Qioptiq is involved in a number of programmes addressing the requirements and potential for FWS for the Dismounted Close Combat User, and we have now reached the stage where we are able to share the results of some of our work with the wider Soldier Modernisation community.

We are really excited to be launching a new product. SAKER is our first Fused Weapon Sight product, which we are formally launching at Eurosatory 2012 which takes place at the Paris Nord Villepinte exhibition center from June 11th to 15th, however there will be a number of customer demonstrations prior to product launch at the show.

SAKER is a Clip On In Line (COIL) fused weapon sight that combines Image Intensification and un-cooled thermal imaging capability in one compact, lightweight unit. Targeted at Special Forces Users and Urban environments in particular, SAKER delivers a flexible architecture to allow the User to maximise the benefits of both technologies in order to suit his requirements.

Qioptiq developers spent a considerable amount of time looking at trade studies, design options and prototypes in order to get the launch variant right first time to make an impact and produce something the User will find easy to use.

As with all of Qioptiq’s products, we are able to provide ITAR free solutions, without compromising performance.

Lightweight Technology Innovations

Along with utilising the latest in Image Intensifier and Thermal Technologies, there are a number of other innovations taken from our ongoing technology development process; for example, a number of the components have been produced from lightweight materials we are exploring as alternatives to aluminium, and plastics to replace conventional glass optics. Every little change helps when it comes to weight reduction.

Flexible Power Provision

SAKER is built around a very forward facing architecture. We have considered a number of requirements for power provision and communications resulting in a flexible system that can take power from a range of standard batteries including AA and CR123, along with having the ability to integrate with powered rails and other centralised power supply systems as they become available with modern weapon systems.

MMI - Keep It Simple

SAKER features elements of the Man Machine Interface (MMI) recently developed for the DRAGON thermal weapon sight family, coupled with simplistic controls for managing the fusion elements of the system. We have learnt over the years that simplistic MMI significantly reduces the training burden in both time and cost terms.

SAKER is the ideal capability choice for the User who requires a lightweight low / zero light solution that will greatly assist in target detection and recognition at ranges well in excess of most modern assault rifles.

Being compatible with a range of optical sights and attaching via a quick release bracket, SAKER provides a true 24hr capability with the ability to continue operating even during the harshest visibility conditions.

As with all Qioptiq product lines, SAKER will develop into a family of products, all built around a common architecture, with the ability to be tailored for specific user needs, so more product releases can be expected throughout the year.

The Qioptiq team look forward to welcoming you to our exhibition stand at Eurosatory in Paris during June for a demonstration of SAKER and its capabilities.

The Digital Generation

The roadmap for Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) is becoming increasingly interesting as a number of potentially revolutionary capabilities are making their way up the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) ladder.

With Fused Weapon Sights and Digital Optical Weapon Sights (DOWS) now under evaluation and firmly within reach for emerging programmes, Qioptiq are continuing to focus on “the digital generation”.

We are leading an industrial consortium that is looking at the potential for DOWS and Sensor Fusion capabilities for a number of User groups. Bringing these technologies together and combining them with Augmented Reality (AR) capability and integration of targeting data has the potential to enhance the Dismounted Close Combat (DCC) Users capability significantly but, as with any technology led initiative, the issues of power consumption and reducing complexity are significant challenges.

Commercial technology development has really opened up a huge potential for enhanced sighting systems. For example, it’s amazing what you can “cram” in to modern smartphone processors. The smartphone market has moved aggressively and delivered huge processing capability in low power, compact packages. The time is right to start tapping into this commercial development and exploit it for enhancing DCC digitally augmented sighting systems.

Also, emerging sensor technology, coupled with novel optics will allow Positive Identification (PiD) of potential targets at the maximum effective range of the weapons they are integrated with, which significantly increases User survivability and allows additional time for decision making.

Compact Laser Range Finders and other positional, direction & orientation sensors are being integrated into compact “clusters” in order to provide accurate range, bearing and location information in order to reduce target location error and therefore increase precision of effect.

Our experience in the development of the POINTER Weapon Cueing system alongside QinetiQ and ISTEC has taught us a lot about Augmented Reality (AR) Sighting capability and how it can be used to good effect by both Mounted and Dismounted Users, and we are feeding this experience into our R&D projects for UK and International Customers.

The potential for an Integrated sight for the Dismounted Soldier allowing him to send / receive location and targeting data 24hrs a day and in all weathers draws ever closer as the building blocks start to slot into place.

Modification for Modernisation

However, even with all of the new developments ongoing, we haven’t lost sight of the fact that over the past few years a number of our NATO / ISAF customers have procured equipment in support of their operational requirements, including the UK MoD.

With worldwide focus firmly set on cost control and a desire to reduce operational commitments, it may be sometime until we see a resurgence of monothlithic modernisation programmes. Modification is a more palatable way of ensuring the warfighter has the tools to conduct his mission and remain technologically one step ahead of his enemy.

We are now seeing the US Army taking the first steps to what may be the biggest modification programme of Thermal Weapon Sights yet. The idea of modifying a stand alone weapon sight in to an In-Line weapon sight is not new, indeed this is how the “thermal clip on” came about with Qioptiq among the front runners for this technique during the late 00’s.

Qioptiq has been involved with thermal weapon sight programmes since the mid 90 ‘s. The early years had given us an insight into just how fast the technology was moving in this field when compared to other technology such as image intensified tubes, the advancement of which has been slow in comparison. This insight gave Qioptiq the foresight to build an architecture that could be modified to keep pace with technology and take into account obsolescence.

The architecture is VIPIR2, modular in its design; modifications can take place to enhance greatly the performance of the Thermal Weapon Sight while fit, form and function remain the same – thereby avoiding impacts on re-training and in-service support commitments.

While it may not be beneficial or practical to go for a fleet wide approach, a technology refresh of certain capabilities may be an option in order to ensure that specialist / precision weapon systems are able to deliver their full potential in terms of effective engagement ranges.

Obsolescence will start to become a thorn in the side for many forces. As urgent procurements for operations were made in relatively small numbers, it is not unreasonable to expect the thermal core inside the weapon sight to become obsolete. The options will be to do a life time buy, scrap or modify.

Life time buy could be an option in order to maintain a capability. This may be acceptable for a defence force or peace keeping duties, but the warfighter will become overmatched very quickly and the force will be at a significant disadvantage

Scrapping is always controversial and the asset will need replacing which means a lengthy procurement process for a product to be delivered 2-3 years on; delivered with technology that is 2-3 years old, it won’t be too long until you may be facing the same crisis.

Modify: today’s technology installed today, no training issues, at a similar cost to lifetime buy.

In summary, modification can enhance capability whilst causing minimum disruption to operations, training and logistic chains. Power consumption is reduced which means fewer batteries. The reduction in the consumption of batteries alone will go some way to cover the cost of the modifications. Detection and resolution are increased and 17u ITAR free technology can be used; User groups can be prioritised to ensure the right equipment is with the right user in the right theatre and the force will remain at the top of the technological tree.



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