Night-vision technology is rapidly advancing with step changes in performance, user experience, and comfort. These advances are a result of technology for NightVision Devices (NVD) transitioning from being hardware heavy and dependent on legacy processing platforms to software-driven hardware. This has allowed NVD providers to harness the ever-growing processing power of commercial computing platforms. Electro-Optic (EO) devices today make use of edge video processing, have real-time auto target recognition capabilities and utilise deep learning models to deliver night-vision capabilities far in excess of what was available only five years ago. The development of these advanced NVDs for mounted and dismounted soldiers, however, is the realm of only a few companies worldwide, who are able to deliver on the highly challenging and competing demands of size, weight, and power consumption and manufacture these systems in volume. Militaries, however, have been quick to take note of the advanced capabilities now available on NVDs and are planning accordingly.
The Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) continues to invest in state-of-the-art night fighting capability and is on schedule to receive more than 5,500 cutting-edge helmet-mounted Fused Night Vision Systems (FNVS) from L3Harris. Deliveries are expected to begin next year with Final Operational Capability (FOC) slated for September 2023. “The new fused night vision systems will provide greater survivability to our ADF personnel through increased situational awareness and the ability to detect movement at greater distances,” said Defence Minister Linda Reynolds. “The fused night vision system will also allow Augmented Reality (AR) enhancements, including location and navigation data in the Heads-Up Display (HUD).” Along with its investments in NVDs, the ADF is also working on a new integrated digital soldier combat helmet system for which New South Wales company Spearpoint Solutions was awarded $2.7 million in February.
Missions Systems Australia, a subsidiary of L3Harris, received the night-vision systems contract worth $173 million in December 2020, which included full in-country support and repair. L3Harris announced in January that it would provide the advanced NVGs to the ADF under a $118 million contract. L3Harris’ FNVS fuses image intensification technology with thermal imagery to deliver enhanced situational awareness, targeting, and identification capability to soldiers in all battlefield conditions and light levels. The FNVS can also deliver vital battlefield information directly to the soldier’s eye when it is combined with the L3Harris battery pack
The ADF’s night-vision procurements fall under its LAND 53 Phase 1BR project which sought to replace its helmet-mounted night-vision equipment and laser-aiming devices which attach to specified ADF weapons for dismounted combatants, including regular infantry, Special Forces (SF), and selected elements of the Navy and Air Force. Tranche 1 of LAND 53 Phase 1BR was aimed at meeting requirements for new generation NVDs featuring the latest technology with improved ergonomic performance and reduced weight. The new devices were would replace existing night-fighting products to enhance the ADF’s dismounted night-fighting capabilities.
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