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Connecting the Nodes at Night

“Sensor-to-Shooter” concepts are nothing new for the U.S. Army, enabling the warfighter to benefit from real-time information gathered from across a multi-domain battlefield to facilitate rapid decision-making and targeting.

Thanks to a rich legacy in innovation and close relationship with the land service, L3Harris Technologies is now bringing forward “Shooter-as-a-Sensor” (SaaS) concepts that inject organically generated intelligence into the wider battlespace.

The warfighter plays a central role in the SaaS concept. When equipped with appropriate capabilities and technologies, operators can deliver critical intelligence across the force, according to Dario Valli, L3Harris Account Management director.

“Within the SaaS concept, information is flowing quickly and accurately around the battlefield, so warfighters have a bigger sight picture of everything that's going on, which allows them to make faster decisions in the moment,” Valli said, noting the Army’s vision for the future is to shorten targeting cycles while focusing on survivability and lethality against peer threats. “In the battlefield of the future, individual warfighters will most likely be spread across the battlefield.”

With SaaS, they will be able to collect and provide information as seamlessly and as error-free as possible. SaaS is about pushing that information to soldiers, so they have the most up-to-date information whether it be data, text, imagery or video. This is the future battlefield.
Dario Valli
L3Harris Account Management director

Leading the Way in Night Vision Advancements

Critical to this emerging concept is night vision. As an agile technology disruptor, L3Harris has been responsible for a series of firsts in this market.

Examples include the introduction of quad-tubed panoramic night-vision goggles, fused night-vision technology, augmented reality and network-enabled night-vision goggles, as well as white phosphor Image Intensifier technology.

L3Harris is also working on a series of additional ground-breaking innovations to support its customers’ emerging needs.

L3Harris continues to support the Army’s Integrated Soldier and Special Operations Command’s Hyper Enabled Operator concepts. L3Harris‘ close relationship with the customer allows the company to uniquely understand the problems they are facing, Valli said.

“We were first to field fused goggles in 2004, and that was after listening to our customers as they were adapting to the ‘War on Terror,’” he said. “Considering what terrain and operational environments they needed to be effective in, we came up with this idea to combine low-light image intensification with long-wave infrared imaging. Those first units were fielded with special operations, and the solution has really grown into an entirely new product line.”

The Future of Night Vision – Today

The Army adopted fused technology in a monocular solution with the original Enhanced Night Vision Goggle (ENVG) program and followed with the ENVG-2 and ENVG-3 programs, all of which L3Harris supported, according to Valli.

L3Harris is also responsible for the first network-capable night-vision goggles after engaging with the Joint Terminal Attack Controller community regarding emerging needs.

“JTACs were trying to look at laptops that included information about incoming aircraft and other assets in theater, but they also needed to be wearing night vision. So, they asked us, ‘Could we just screen mirror?’” Valli said.

From there, the company considered additional capabilities that could be displayed in the goggle, which lead to the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle - Binocular (ENVG-B) solution.

Today, L3Harris’s ENVG-B is networked through the company’s own diverse range of software-defined radios, allowing the warfighter to share intelligence across the battlefield to maximize situational awareness and shorten targeting cycles.

L3Harris’ “muscle memory” to listen to customer problems allows the company to quickly respond to their most pressing requirements across the modern battlespace and provide complex, proven capability, according to Valli.

“Building on the customer relationships we have through program performance gives us these open doorways to speak to our customers about what they're facing in the future and what that next fight looks like.”

- Dario Valli, L3Harris Account Management director

Looking Toward Tomorrow

Emerging L3Harris capabilities include the Mission Augmented Vision Information System (MAVIS),  a clip-on, see through, heads-up display that allows the warfighter to benefit from the same ENVG-B capabilities during the day.

“We talk a lot about owning the night, but there are also missions and tasks to be done during the day,” Valli said, noting the concept is for the same interfaces and back-end processing to be used for both devices during the day and the night. “We're working on a see-through, color data display, which means you can take off your ENVG-B or advanced goggle but still benefit from the same data and communications you had in your nighttime set-up.”

L3Harris is working with data display specialist Vuzix to develop a customized waveguide-based optics engine to support helmet-mounted systems, including MAVIS.

At the same time, L3Harris continues to expand ENVG-B capabilities through collaboration with industry partners to help strengthen SaaS concepts and deliver new capabilities to the warfighter.

Areas of interest include machine learning, and artificial intelligence, which can be used to autonomously process, exploit and disseminate intelligence and support target acquisition and cueing, Valli said.

“These are all things that exist today, and it’s a matter of making them small and low-power enough so they work on a battery operated, dismounted system like Nett Warrior or ATAK,” he said. “We're starting some of those integrations and working on an app, which would allow the warfighter to view all networks available to them.”

L3Harris is also investigating ways to make complexity and power requirements as simple as possible so the warfighter can simply click through and decide how they want to configure information and what they want imported into their system.

“There’s also a lot of work going on in AR, so the opportunity space is large for us to utilize and partner with large and small organizations to create new capabilities that we bring into the system.”

- Matthew Renzi, L3Harris senior director of Engineering

Increased International Demand

L3Harris is also seeing a similar demand for next-generation solutions across the international market. Open and flexible design architectures help the company meet different requirements of customers around the world, according to Mike Gilroy, L3Harris director of International Business Development.

The company’s Binocular Night Vision Device – Fused (BNVD-F) solution can be adapted for international partners, including Five Eyes, NATO and other international allies, through the removal of U.S. Government proprietary capabilities.

Additional L3Harris products supporting SaaS concepts for the international market also include the Next Generation Aiming Laser; Laser Rangefinders with integrated ballistic calculators; and the Compact Multi-Node Module, which allows the warfighter to view data, text and video imagery in their goggle.

“We have seen a huge shift in the last 12 months. The Ukraine situation has been quite influential. Europe is playing a bit of catch up, and we are now receiving significant requests and seeing increasing demand coming in from the Baltics region.”

- Mike Gilroy, L3Harris director of International Business Development

Spectrum Magazine