F-Pano
US SOF continue to evaluate the L3 Harris Technologies F-Pano ground panoramic night vision goggles which include AR capabilities. (Andrew White)

SOF small units must be fed real-time and accurate situation awareness, particularly when operating in anti-access area denied (A2AD) environments.

Describing how command and control (C2) and connectivity could be effected by the physical environment, distance from support and infrastructure or enemy activity, Systematic product manager, Jesper Annexgaard warned that near peer adversaries now possessed advanced technologies that could be disruptive to such capabilities across the battlespace.

“Resilience and the ability to function with a variety of communications systems are essential if effective C2 and situation awareness are to be maintained. We have developed our systems to deliver these capabilities via SATCOM and even low-bandwidth RF communications, such as personal radios,” he highlighted.

Systematic’s SitaWare Tactical Communications

Annexgaard described how Systematic’s SitaWare Tactical Communications optimises the use of bandwidth, recognising when it is not possible to transmit the requisite information and waiting for windows of opportunity to do so.

SitaWare Edge
SOF operators conducting missions in A2AD environments particularly require up-to-date situation awareness and command and control. Many SOF entities around the World are adopting USSOCOM’s ATAK. (Systematic)

“In the tactical environment this can frequently be the case, such as when SOF take cover behind obstacles that restrict communications or enter buildings, it is also likely to be a factor in anti-access area denial (A2AD) scenarios.

“We also consider human factors to be of paramount importance in system design, and for the high intensity operating conditions in which SOF are typically employed the potential for cognitive overload is very real. That is why we have designed our Frontline and Edge systems – for the mounted and dismounted commanders respectively – to have intuitive interfaces and the ability to create information overlays that can be quickly added and removed.

“Our core technology is more than capable of presenting C2 and SA information on a range of device types and sizes, however, this is only useful it is done in a manner that does not introduce cognitive burden.”

Thermoteknix

Speaking to Armada International, product manager at Thermoteknix, Alistair Brown, who has been involved in the “development, promotion and evaluation of multiple products with various SOF organisations”, described how SOF units continued to demand the highest maturity in C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence) technology.

“The increasing use of portable C4I and Android Tactical Assault Kits (ATAKs) by special forces in a number of countries increases the power and data systems on the head, including night vision, to be fully integrated,” Brown explained.

“As always, size, weight and power [SWAP] is valued by any highly mobile force. Increasing use of mobile C4I and AR [Augmented Reality] technologies increases the need for the ability to view this data both during day and night operations,” he said referencing Thermoteknix’s latest solutions including the ClipIR XD Thermal Imager; CoVid Video Injection Unit; and ConnectIR Android Image and Data Sharing App.

CoVid
Thermoteknix’s CoVid Video Injection Unit allows SOF operators to maintain eyes on target while simultaneously remaining hidden and observing situation awareness data. (Thermoteknix)

“Cross training between SOF forces from many countries leads to a uniformity of equipment fit and operating procedures. But the US still lead the way with new initiatives,” Brown confirmed before adding that “the speed at which these flow down from US to other NATO and friendly forces is increasing.”

“Both our ClipIR XD and CoVid, launched at DSEI 2019, allow users to have a covert feed of C4I data from ATAK systems without any loss of situation awareness,” Brown said that Thermoteknix had supplied units to a number of undisclosed SOF organisations in both Europe and South East Asia.

ClipIR XD

Thermoteknix’s ClipIR XD provides SOF operators with a fusion upgrade to legacy I2 night vision goggles with the infection of a thermal image while maintaining 40-degree fields of view.

The unit can be supplied without an internal battery requirement, allowing it to draw power from an integrated helmet system in order to reduce overall weight and optimise helmet balance. The ClipIR XD also has an option for video input, allowing users to view video overlays such as symbology directly through night vision goggles and other end user devices, Brown added. 

“The ClipIR XD already has a video input and the format and connector are common to the free standing CoVid heads up display. CoVid has been trialled in conjunction with Applied Research Associates’ ARC4 Recon system by specialist user groups in the US and Europe”, Brown explained before concluding: “The SOF community perform a wide range of activities ranging from HALO parachute operations, land and sea. The ClipIR XD is fully qualified to cover all these diverse operating environments.”

CoVid Video Injection Unit

Additionally, Thermoteknix has made available its CoVid Video Injection Unit which enables the use of HUDs for combat operations in complete darkness, allowing SOF operators to maintain eyes on target while simultaneously remaining hidden and observing SA data.

The CoVid unit is powered by its host system and weighs less than 50g when attached to a night vision device, company literature added.

ConnectIR

Finally, Thermoteknix’s ConnectIR Android Image and Data Sharing App networks images and data between TiCAM 1000 cameras (TiCAM 1000A, 1000B and 1000C) and other devices including smartphones, tablets and computers.

“ConnectIR is indispensable for surveillance, homeland security, CT, military and police forces, providing near real-time sharing of thermal and visible images with operators and target location data using commercial or military networks,” Brown continued.

L3Harris Technologies’ F-Pano

US SOF units continue to evaluate L3Harris Technologies’ latest range in fused intelligence products. This includes the Fused-Ground Panoramic Night Vision Goggles (F-Pano) which comprises an upgrade of the GPNVGs currently in service with USSOCOM as well as numbers SOF entities around the world including KSK.

The F-Pano comprises a next-generation capability upgrade to end users seeking to enhance their situation awareness through the fusion of Infrared and I2 sight pictures as well as AR and wireless communications.

Designed to be integrated with any software defined radio, including L3Harris Technologies’ own AN/PRC-163 Next Generation Tactical Communications handheld SDR (recently selected by USSOCOM), the F-Pano is designed to provide end users with enhanced levels in situation awareness to support “improved mobility, targeting and lethality”, according to the company.

Providing operators with a 97-degree field-of-view and white phosphor technology in a quad-tube goggle design, the F-Pano also allows end users to access common operating environment imagery and digitally communicate position information across the battlefield, as well as determine the location and identity blue, red and green forces and other items of interest.

“The F-Pano ensures hyper-enabled special forces customers maintain operational overmatch against ongoing threats,” explained vice president and general manager of L3’s Warrior Mission Solutions business, Lynn Bollengier.

“The F-Pano also incorporates a high-resolution display and an embedded wireless personal area network that uses augmented reality algorithms to interface with the operator’s end user device. The complete system facilitates a hyper-enabled operator with the ability to interface with multiple sensors throughout the battlespace, providing enhanced interoperability and data sharing,” a company statement added.

L3Harris Technologies delivered a total of three technology demonstrators to force elements within USSOCOM in March 2019, with Bollengier explaining to Armada International how the company’s customer base remains “very specific about what they wanted in terms of mission pre-sets and information displayed on board the GPNVGs”.

QuadEye

Elsewhere, Spanish company NVLS is also marketing its own set of QuadEye panoramic NVGs following their unveiling at the SOF Innovation Network Seminar in France on 3 April 2019.

Featuring a similar quad-IR tube design to L3Harris’ GPNVG, the QuadEye continues to be evaluated by SOF organisations in Europe, according to Martin Snijders, marketing communication manager at NVLS’s distributor Photonis.

Providing end users with a 104-degree FOV, QuadEyes operate in the 350-1,100nm spectral range.

by Andrew White