Services look for eyewear to protect against lasers
- By Kevin McCaney
- Jul 21, 2016
The military has put a lot of emphasis lately on developing laser weapons, both to counter tech-based asymmetrical threats and as a way to save money over using conventional weapons. The services also are now looking for ways to protect troops’ eyes from the effects of lasers.
The Air Force has awarded a $30 million contract to Teledyne Scientific & Imaging for the company’s Aircrew Laser Eye Protection (ALEP) spectacles, essentially glasses that protect against hazards and the potential threats from laser devices, whether in combat or in training. The Army, meanwhile, has issued a presolicitation for goggles that can protect against traditional threats such as ballistic fragments while adding protection against laser eye protection in a variety of light conditions.
The Air Force contract with Teledyne is for ALEP spectacles that can prevent permanent eye damage from laser emissions while limiting visual degradation from the lenses, according to a Defense Department announcement.The sole-source acquisition is expected to run through December 2020.
The Army’s notice calls for a more a battlefield-ready piece of equipment: prototype goggles that meet the Next Generation Eye Protection (NGEP) requirements, capable of protecting against damage from lasers while also providing protection against shrapnel, sand, dust and bright sunlight. Potential solutions to the request, a formal solicitation for which is expected in early August, must meet MIL-PRF-32432 and optical quality requirements, while conforming to the Universal Prescription Lens Carrier (UPLC) standards to accommodate vision correction.
Although the Army Contracting Command issued the notice, it does mention that Marines are expected to use the goggle. And while the presoliciation doesn’t mention an eventual number of goggles to be purchased or a dollar amount for prospective contracts, it states that the command expects follow-ons to the prototype contract and that vendors should be able to make them in production quantities. For now, the Army isn’t offering any guarantees, saying that it could award one or no contracts for the prototypes.
Directed energy weapons, including lasers, have become a focus for the military services, as it looks to deal with such threats as drones, electronic warfare technologies and other relatively cheap potential threats that are available to adversaries. The military services also have been developing their own laser capabilities. The Navy, for example, recently significantly boosted the power of its shipboard LaWS laser weapon.
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.