Navy looks to upgrade infrared imaging platform

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, is the military’s bread and butter, an essential function that informs all operations. Air Force General Mark Welch III has maintained that, “ISR is the foundation upon which every joint, interagency and coalition operation achieves success.” 

With an eye toward improving that foundation, the Navy is seeking to upgrade some of its ISR platforms, specifically with regard to imaging. In a presolicitation https://www.fbo.gov/index? initially posted in October and updated this week, the Navy said it wants to procure a Combatant Craft Forward Looking Infrared 2 (CCFLIR2) system with improvements in operational range, image fusion, net-centric data sharing, information assurance, laser target designation, and seamless craft and combat systems integration capabilities. 

The Navy’s vision for future CCFLIR2 systems will enhance infrared imaging capabilities in a variety of environments and improve operational needs. The Navy in its solicitation said it plans to mount these new systems on all of its maritime crafts.    

Modernizing and developing “next generation” systems has been a key priority for the Navy. Updating maritime systems has been highlighted at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference the last two years. Highlighting various business opportunities for contractors, SOCOM stated at a 2014 conference it wanted 360-degree persistent surveillance, larger focal plane arrays and multispectral arrays including laser designator, video playback and integration with remote weapons systems to improve user interfaces, and thermal and radar signature reduction/survivability as part of its technology upgrades and vision for CCFLIR2 systems. 

In addition to the Navy’s operational plans, other branches of the military are also interested in enhanced imaging technologies. The Army’s Research Laboratory had been developing a way to see through smoke, heat and other atmospheric obstructions that might obscure warfighters’ vision. The lab’s technology, called System and Method for Image Enhancement and Improvement, “eliminates the distortions that visible-light imaging can fall victim to, but it also improves on infrared imaging, which, while effective in low light, does have its limitations.” Using what is called quantum imaging, or ghost imaging, the new technology filters disturbances and irregularities within the environment to project an image unattainable by conventional cameras.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has also expressed interest in further developing its Advanced Scanning Technology for Imaging Radars (ASTIR) program to demonstrate new imaging radar architecture Specifically, DARPA wants to develop a new “cost effective sensor solution that does not require platform or target motion” found in other types of imaging devices the military currently uses for ISR.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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