US Army Takes Next Step To Develop Sensor To See Through Fog of War

WASHINGTON — The Army has taken a critical step in developing a next generation sensor to help US ground forces see through the fog of war.

The service has awarded contracts to Raytheon and DRS Technologies to develop the 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared (3GEN FLIR) in the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the program.

If all options are exercised the contract value for 96 3GEN FLIR B-Kits is $154.4 million.

Raytheon and DRS first announced their partnership for the 3GEN FLIR competition at the Association of the US Army’s Global Force Symposium in 2015.

With an asymmetric battlefield, being able to ID your target at even greater ranges provides our commanders additional time to both understand and shape the battlefield to their advantage,” Lt. Col. Scott Madore, product manager for ground sensors with the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, told reporters Thursday. “It allows our soldiers to detect, recognize and identify those enemy targets outside of threat ammunition ranges.”

And the 3GEN FLIR will do just that; detecting what’s out there, identifying what it is — like a tank — and then determining whether it belongs to a friend or foe.

The next generation FLIR will make identifications more quickly, clearly and confidently through advanced technology; combining a mid-wave and a long-wave band, which allows forces to see through fog, dust, snow or at night and also allows them to see better in a clear environment, Col. Anthony Sanchez, Terrestrial Sensors project manager, explained.

An operator will be able to switch between mid-wave and long-wave bands and will have the option to see what’s going on through four different fields of view, Sanchez added.

The plan is to outfit M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles with the new FLIR, which amounts to about 8,300 FLIR B-Kits for 4,150 vehicles, Madore said. The 3GEN FLIR will also go on the Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System (LRAS3).

The Army plans to conduct its preliminary design review in September and will follow with a critical design review in the summer of 2017. The service plans to reach a low rate initial production decision in fiscal 2022 and full rate production in the 2024 timeframe.

Both Raytheon and DRS have “proven track records” working together on the 2nd Generation FLIR system, Madore said.

But there’s still some major technical components to develop further, namely the Dewar Cooler Bench (DCB), which collects the thermal radiation and creates the FLIR image, Madore added.

While Raytheon is the prime contractor for the B-Kits, Raytheon and DRS are separately designing DCBs in the EMD phase.

The Army will decide when it reaches the next milestone decision whether to move both DRS and Raytheon forward to produce DCBs or select just one to continue, Madore added. That decision will be based on risk and the budget environment in the mid-2020s, “but there is a possibility post-Milestone C that we would go to a single contractor,” he said.


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