Defense And Space Technologies To Watch In 2014

By Graham Warwick
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
December 30, 2013

Digital Night Vision

The digital imaging revolution is coming to night vision. Analog goggles have transformed warfare, allowing operations with only starlight for illumination. But a breakthrough in digital image intensification is bringing to night vision the ability to share, manipulate and store imagery. After development challenges, Intevac Photonics' electron bombarded active pixel sensor now matches the performance of analog devices and will be fielded as the night-vision sensor for the critical helmet-mounted display in the Lockheed Martin F-35. Now the company is developing digitally fused image-intensification/thermal-imaging night-vision goggles around the technology.

Big Picture Cockpit

Steam gauges gave way to display screens in fighters beginning in the late 1970s, but it has taken decades for technology to enable the vision of a “big picture” cockpit, where the entire instrument panel is a customizable touchscreen interface between human and machine. Large-area liquid-crystal displays, combined with low-profile optical-waveguide head-up displays and helmet-mounted displays, are transforming fighter cockpits. Elbit's 11 X 19-in. display for advanced versions of the Boeing F-15 and F/A-18 and Saab JAS 39 Gripen brings iPad-like interaction to the cockpit, with double-touch control of sensor imagery, terrain graphics, mission information and system menus.

Passive Precision Targeting

Proliferation of advanced jammers that can intercept and mimic radar signals rapidly and accurately is spurring development of passive targeting technologies. In 2013, Boeing and the U.S. Navy showed that two electronic-attack EA-18G Growlers and a Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye, sharing emitter-intercept data via a low-latency link, could track a moving ship precisely enough to guide a missile to it, without radar. The demo used a Northrop Grumman algorithm to geolocate the target by comparing the difference in arrival times of signals at each platform. The next step is to demonstrate passive air-to-air targeting using the F/A-18E/F's electronic support measures and infrared search-and-track sensor.

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