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Improving Defense, With Precision

EuroPhotonics
Dec 2016
JUSTINE MURPHY, SENIOR EDITOR, justine.murphy@photonics.com

The 21st century battlefield is marked by distance and precision. Remote weapons systems, precision-guided munitions and weaponized vehicles that can be operated remotely are mainstays of the modern battle theater. This fundamental shift in the nature of warfare is due to seismic technological advances — many of them photonic. Today, organizations such as the European Defense Agency and Photonics21, the European technology platform, are working to improve defense capabilities for the future via tools like infrared imaging and optical communication systems. These and other advancing technologies in the defense sector throughout Europe are among many new tools aimed at protecting today’s armed forces.

Imaging devices such as thermal cameras are assisting soldiers on the battlefield; laser technology is enhancing weaponry; sensor systems are heightening surveillance, reconnaissance, and detection of weapons and other threats. Aiding these defense efforts are a growing list of photonics-focused companies. Among them are Poland-based optoelectronics and laser systems manufacturer PCO, which teamed up with American defense contractor Raytheon Co., to develop surveillance and sensor devices for the Polish military. In particular, their work has focused on enhanced night vision goggles, as well as advanced reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting devices, and IR systems development. And Mesko, a Polish military and defense ammunition manufacturer, has joined Raytheon Missile Systems in pursuit of opportunities for Poland’s air defense architecture and advanced defense technologies.

Air defense is the focus of contributing editor Hank Hogan’s “Airborne Optics to See and Strike” (read article), in which he details how infrared optics and spectrum-wide detectors are giving airborne imaging a boost. By increasing pixel counts and covering new swaths of the spectrum, the latest systems can peer through smoke and other obscurants at a high resolution. The emergence of more sophisticated precision-guided munitions has prompted enhancements to laser warning systems to protect assets and troops alike. The need for stealthier operations promises continued advances in detection and lasing materials. See Excelitas Technologies’ Eric Desfonds’ “Overcoming Precision-Guided Munitions, Sensing Challenges,” (read article).

On the homefront, safeguarding high-risk facilities and government agencies from explosives, weapons and biological agents is a top concern. In this installment of EPIC Insights, Jose Pozo examines the role of mid-IR spectrometers in remote detection of these and other threats. A pilot line is now set to offer open access to industry for prototype devices.

Also in this issue, contributing editor Marie Freebody examines recent advances in solar technology, from the development of smaller inverters with improved power/kg ratios, to improvements in the quality and longevity of solar modules. See “Solar Steps Up,” (read article).

Enjoy the issue!

EditorialJustine Murphy

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