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Brilliant new imaging system gives soldiers hybrid thermal/night vision on the battlefield

In news that seems plucked straight from a Call of Duty game, defense contractor BAE Systems has recently unveiled a new imaging system that provides both night vision and thermal imaging in a single unit.

Currently, soldiers need to carry separate imaging systems for each function: goggles for night vision, and a special scope for thermal imaging. Using these systems gives fighters a huge advantage, but it also requires them to swap from goggles to sights, raising the odds that they will lose track of the target, and at the very least causing delay. Obviously, this poses a bit of a problem.

thermal view“In today’s battlefield environment, it is critical for soldiers to be able to quickly locate and identify targets,” BAE said in a release, “especially during nighttime operations or when visibility is poor because of heavy smoke or bad weather. Currently, soldiers use two different devices — night vision goggles for situational awareness and the thermal weapon sight for aiming, which impacts how quickly the soldier can acquire and engage the target.”

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BAE’s newly-developed Rapid Target Acquisition (RTA) technology fixes this problem in a simple yet effective way. Instead of having soldiers switch between head-mounted goggles and rifle-mounted sights, they built a wireless video interface between the two. The optic itself is mounted on the soldier’s rifle, and what it sees is beamed via a Bluetooth to a head-mounted display. This allows soldiers to quickly toggle between the two modes at the push of a button.

The technology hasn’t hit the battlefield quite yet, but the US Army’s Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate has awarded BAE a five-year, $434 million contract to continue development of the RTA system. Look out, terrorists!