European Special Operations Forces (SOF) continue to consider the advent of digitised low light optics and gunsights in place of more traditional image intensified (I2) and thermal imagery (TI) technology although the progress of tangible procurement programmes remains limited at present, industry sources have explained.
Speaking to MILITARY TECHNOLOGY at the Special Operations Forces Innovation Network Seminar (SOFINS) on 29th March at Camp de Souge, France, Photonis officials described how the company was looking to follow up on deliveries of its CMOS Night Observation Device (CNOD) to US Army Special Operations Command in 2016, with particular focus on French and European customers.
Describing a ‘new’ concept of operations (CONOPS) for low light imagery for SOF customers, Geofroy Deltel, Chief Technology Officer for Digital Vision at Photonis, explained how digital sighting systems could see “remotely in pitch black conditions” without requirement for thermal imaging technology.
“Now, high performing night visible cameras are opening a new era and today, we can find cameras in the visible spectrum and in low light,” he explained to MILITARY TECHNOLOGY. “The combination of these two could be extremely interesting.”
CNOD, which has been developed in collaboration with US-based Rochester Precision Optics, joins Photonis’s other range of products in allowing operators to record and share information; generate intelligence in long range surveillance missions; as well as from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), it was explained. Systems can also be used for 360-degree perimetric vision.
According to Deltel, components from the French Special Operations Command and other partner organisations across Europe have received undisclosed numbers of CNOD sights for evaluation, although there remain no official programmes aimed at equipping the forces.
The CNOD is available in a handheld form factor; standalone weapon sight; and clip-on in-line weapon sight, each of which provide operators with a maximum range of 750m Line of Sight to identify targets.
The sight, which weighs just 18 ounces, operates in the 500nm to 1080nm wavelength range, providing operators with a X6 digital zoom capability with 22.6- degree field of view, can also be used for battlefield counter-surveillance in order to identify enemy laser designators across the battlespace.
Additionally, Deltel highlighted how ongoing evaluation and interest from the international SOF community was linked to the company’s CSPOT laser designator, which can be networked to the CNOD for target acquisition- particularly useful for Joint Terminal Attack Controllers for example.
“We have not seen any requirements as this is a new capability,” Deltel admitted while referring to particular applications for ground force components although the CNOD has also been ruggedised for surface operations in the maritime environment.
Photonis’ inventory includes the Lynx Digital CMOS Low Light Sensor as well as the Kameleon FusionSight product in collaboration with Bertin. This latter solution provides a mix of TI, digital imagery and Low Light Colour cameras, Deltel concluded.