Nightvision and thermal imaging play similar -- but very distinct -- roles on the modern battlefield. Soldiers utilize night vision to illuminate their darkened surroundings while thermal imaging is employed to illuminate darkened targets. But until now, soldiers have had to carry separate imaging systems for each, which negatively impacts how quickly they can switch optics and acquire their targets. BAE Systems, however, announced Monday a new kind of optic that packs the functionality of both into a single unit.
"On today's battlefield, this slower [two optic] approach, which is often further hampered by heavy smoke or bad weather, compromises soldiers' safety and can reduce mission effectiveness," a BAE release reads. "By integrating night vision and thermal targeting capabilities into one sight displayed on the soldiers' goggles, BAE Systems' new solution allows troops to more easily acquire targets and engage faster."
While the optic itself is mounted on the soldier's rifle, what it sees is actually beamed via a Bluetooth connection to a head-mounted display. This allows the warfighter to quickly toggle between the two modes at the push of a button. The US Army's Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate has awarded BAE a five-year $434 million contract to continue the optic's development. There is no word yet on how much the finished products would cost or how soon they'll actually actually make it to combat zones.
[Image credit: Getty (lead), BAE Systems (inline)]