When packing for a mission, both the devil and salvation are in the detail. It is not just about what you take with you, but what you do not take. It is not just about what will work but also what can be subject to interference. In high-intensity combat situations, the functionality of the kit armed forces have with them can make all the difference between a clean, efficient strike and long minutes spent refining coordinates, especially if this equipment needs to be as light and compact as possible.
Building on its extensive expertise in precision optronic systems, Thales has developed VisioLoc®, a powerful technology that combines accuracy and ergonomics. Fitted in compact handheld thermal imagers and target locators, it takes the load off the operator’s mind… and backpack!
Impervious to interference
Regardless of whether they are out in the battlefield as artillery forward observers, Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC), platoon leaders or specialised group leaders, armed forces rely on high levels of precision to carry out their missions successfully. Several instruments exist to determine coordinates for precision strikes in GNSS-denied environments, but many of those instruments can weigh up to 10 kg and are vulnerable to interference. In other words, if a GPS signal is jammed, the interference caused by the electromagnetic environment will damage targeting precision with most of the instruments that have been available to date.
Thales's innovative VisioLoc® solution puts a Resilient Positioning Navigation (RPN) system directly in the hands of tactical leaders to provide CE90 CAT 1 positioning accuracy in high-intensity combat situations. “By not relying on a GPS, VisioLoc® works in GNSS-denied environments and is also impervious to electromagnetic interference,” says Pascal Sécretin, Product Line Director Imagers and Sensors at Thales.
No room for mistakes
Obtaining precise coordinates is not just a matter of accuracy, it is also about enabling faster, cleaner strikes in the midst of high intensity, potentially saturating, combat situations. It is about having the right instrument but also retaining agility to be able to move quickly if necessary. It is about ergonomics – and yet working with systems that require multiple instruments to derive precise coordinates often results in quite the opposite: awkwardness.
Thales has successfully developed a powerful technology that combines multiple key assets that can fit into Thales hand-held cameras. Sophie Ultima and Sophie Optima, Thales’s latest hand-held thermal imagers weigh around 2.5 kg and yet can provide higher levels of accuracy than the combination of a direction finder (approx. 5 kg), a laser rangefinder with direct view optics (1.9 kg) and goggles and a handheld thermal camera with GPS (approx. 2 kg). “When carrying around a backpack that already weighs well over 30 kg, lightening the optronics burden by a factor of three is a decisive factor in preserving the cognitive capability that is key making the right decisions,” Sécretin comments.
Agile and passive
It may come across as an oxymoron but out and on the battlefield, the ability to remain agile and be passive is critical. Agile because while they wait for precision strike support, armed forces must be able to move quickly in the event of an imminent threat. Passive because at times it is necessary to detect without being detected.
VisioLoc® enables both. The powerful technology is able to work without using a rangefinder, which could be detected by an adversary and reveal not only the positions but also the intentions of the armed forces.
As a consequence, out in the battlefield, VisioLoc® not only enables resilient positioning, but also ensures survivability, taking a load off armed forces’ mind and gear.
*CE90: Circular Error at 90%