Thermal image of visually obscured room

Always at the forefront of innovation, the U.S. Army will soon begin to produce wireless thermal weapons sights that connect to a soldier’s helmet display.

Currently, to get a good aim with their guns (as those of you with airsoft and air rifles will be well aware) soldiers need to aim down their scope to get a lock on their target. However, this technology will remove the need for the soldier to physically look through the gun sights themselves.

Using a wireless link, gun-mounted thermal sights will send a targeting reticle from the gun to a HUD worn by the soldier. Designed for the M240 machine gun, M2 .50-cal and the Mk 19 grenade launcher, the system will bring higher resolution thermal imaging, as well as increasing the soldier’s field of view.

Speaking of the innovative sights, an Army official said the following: “This is the first time the soldier will have a system which combines a true day and night capability with a laser range finder to adjust for the ballistics of the various ammunition types for the crew served weapons.”

The technology is currently being developed by BAE Systems, called Family of Weapons Sights – Crew Served (FWS-CS) after they were awarded an Army contract worth up to $384 million (over £303 million).

How will it benefit soldiers?

A wireless helmet mounted display is designed to allow for a more natural firing position, as well as allowing soldiers to remain more protected. Crew-served weapons, such as the .50-cal machine gun, will greatly benefit from this advancement.

The FWS-CS system has also been engineered to greatly improve targeting speed and precision. Developers have said it uses a 12-micron sensor technology (we have no idea either!) which provides soldiers with greater range and clarity.

John Koltookian, technical director at BAE Systems, has spoken of the system in relatively simple terms, stating: “FWS-CS also, for the first time, incorporates a high-resolution day camera and laser range finder into the weapon sight, allowing the user to engage targets with a range correct reticle”.

This technology is engineered to work alongside a similar Army program called Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I). In a similar way to the FWS-CS, this system uses a wireless link to connect thermal sights on a standard M4 carbine with an individual soldier’s Enhanced Night Vision Goggle display.

The main advantage of this technology is that it allows soldiers to target and fire without having to “shoulder” the weapon and bring it up to their face, saving valuable seconds in a combat situation – although we can’t see this affecting the airsoft blindfiring rules anytime soon!

FWS-I is in Low-Rate-Initial Production, and is currently pencilled in as being operational by 2018. The initial development order is $10.5 million (£8.3 million), but as with most military developments, we could see these prices increasing over the coming year!


Photo courtesy of Program Executive Office Soldier on Flickr, under Creative Commons