<XMP><BODY></xmp> Enhanced Vision Systems

Enhanced Vision Systems

        Before we look at this idea, it is necessary to inject a note of caution. There is a tendency with many people to put a lot of faith into something just because it is new, expensive or high-tech. The vision system I propose will offer great advantages but it is still fallible. Just because the system does not indicate a threat in an area does not mean that there isn't one and a target labelled as hostile may not be. No matter how good the system being used the Soldier should never take what he sees as gospel. Judgement and experience will be just as important in the future as they always have been.
         Likewise, the sighting systems that I propose are used with the Soldier's existing marksmanship skills and are not a substitute for them. Should the system fail the Soldier will have to have such skills to use non-electronic sighting systems anyway. This point is very clearly made by respected veteran and best selling author Ralph Zumbro:-
        "If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times. There ain't no substitute for marksmanship experience. You are only ONE short circuit from having to be able to do things the old fashioned way. REPEAT; ONE short circuit!!!!
        Also, marksmanship skills ain't calibre sensitive. You can burn a couple or three thousand boxes of .22s for the cost of one electronic gadget. Note, in this country, $15 will get you a "brick" of 500 .22s.
        The reason I didn't get wiped in RVN is that what I see, I can hit, usually, even with a pickup battlefield AK or old pipe-musket or longbow. I have hip shot a .45, a greasegun, all the way up to a tank turret, to lethal result. Those skills didn't come easy, or quick but they are burned into the gray chip, not added to a backpack. In effect, I am carrying thousands of rounds in my memory and reflexes.
        Get the helmet and the goodies, sure, BUT BURN THE BASICS INTO THE WET CHIP."

        When I started writing this article it was going to be part of a longer discussion on future/powered armour systems. I've decided to place this on a page of its own, partially because it is long enough already, and also because the system described could be used by any Soldier and could also be applied to vehicles. On another page I discuss the idea of Virtual Transparent Armour for fighting vehicles. Many of the ideas described below could be incorporated into such a system

        Key component of this system is a computer that processes information and generates the image that the Soldier sees. We'll call this machine a Battlefield Information Processor or BIP. In science fiction and some of the experimental future Soldier systems the computer is placed in the helmet. There is no real reason why this should be done and some good reasons not to. We'll assume that the BIP is carried on the body, where the weight is less noticeable.

        One of the most interesting Sci-fi vision systems was the EV (Enhanced Vision?) helmet used in "A Matter for Men" by David Gerrold. This wasn't actually part of an armour system but is of interest anyway.
        The system had sensors that between them scanned a large section of the electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from the Ultra-violet to Mid-infra red at least. Possibly passive millimetric capability could be included on vehicle based variants. Information from all of these sensors was combined to create a composite image. Camouflaging against such a system would be very difficult since a foe would have to reflect/emit exactly the same as his background at every wavelength at which the sensors could detect. Using a white sheet on a snowfield would be of no use since the cloth or plastic would reflect or absorb UV differently to the surrounding snow. It might also be warmer. The result would be that the camouflage screen would appear a different colour on the EV display than the snow.

        Useful though such a system would be, it still has its limitations. The sensors can only see what the Soldier sees, so he can't see what is on the far side of a building, for example. There may be a way around this, however. Other members of his squad, platoon or company might have different angles of view. The various Battle Information Processors (BIPs) could compare notes and if there is sufficient information use this to synthesise a view of what may be on the other side. Other sources could also provide information :- recon drones, high altitude spy planes, satellites, Warbots and static sensors could all contribute. On the Soldier's HUD the building would appear to become transparent.
        We can expand further on this networking system. A satellite has observed a suspected terrorist entering a clump of bushes, but has not seen him leave. He may have entered a tunnel, given the observers the slip or may still be there heavily camouflaged. When the Soldier enters this area the clump of bushes will be marked on his display as a point of interest (POI) or caution. He can ask his BIP why it is so marked.

        Cursors will be generated on the display for various other purposes. Having cursors that mark where your comrades are will be useful. The cursor will flicker if that individual is talking/broadcasting. A different cursor will be generated if a comrade is wounded or needs help. Having a cursor that shows the enemy would be useful although these will be less reliable since he will doubtless be taking countermeasures to avoid detection. When an enemy is positively identified the shape and colour of the cursor will denote information such as whether he is in range, or if he is armoured or a man, machine or vehicle. A coloured halo around a POI as well as the cursor above might also be used. Red would be used for a hostile, blue for a friendly, yellow for a civilian or someone of unknown affliation and pink for a suspected but unconfirmed enemy position.

        The Soldier's helmet will probably have stereo acoustic pickups. This will filter out harmful or disorientating sounds and enhance others. Some information gained this way will be represented visually. Certain distinctive sounds such as twigs breaking, gunfire or the working of a safety catch or rifle bolt will be marked on the HUD with a cursor showing the direction.

        The HUD will also incorporate navigation data. Most basic but possibly most useful will be a display showing the compass bearing that the Soldier is facing. Current GPS position may also be displayed. A option that can be switched on or off will display the range to and grid reference of various visible features. This will be useful when calling in support fires. If the Soldier is supposed to follow a certain route, this can be programmed into the BIP and will appear on the Soldier's HUD as a "shining path" or "yellow brick road" to walk along. Should the Soldier be forced off this path by enemy action, the BIP will generate a cursor showing the direction and distance back to the path. Maps or Floor-plans can be displayed as "pop-up windows" that only take up part of the visual field. Too much visual information such as a map might not be desireable displayed on the HUD since this would effectively obscure the Soldier's view of his surroundings. An alternative may be other forms of HMDs (Head-Mounted Devices). Some of these sit above or below the eye and you only see an image if you look directly at them. When viewed the display creates the illusion of a 15" screen several feet away. The Army has played with such HMDs but in terms of bulk and performance I suspect these are way behind some of the commercially available models.


        A nice feature of the "data monocle" type HMD is that you don't have to turn them off to disengage the display, you just stop looking at them. This means if you come under attack the map automatically disappears from your view as you look to see what is attacking you.
        In their current form such devices may see applications for SWAT/HRT, displaying building layout maps and a gallery of hostages and known hostage takers.

        Weapon targeting with an Enhanced Vision system needs some consideration. Many experimental Future Soldier programs have tried the idea of a camera mounted on a rifle, linked to the shooter's HUD. Such a system means that the Soldier no longer has to shoulder his weapon. He can fire from the hip or the chest-level "high assault" position. He can also hold his weapon around a corner and fire accurately without exposing himself. All this sounded very promising but British experiments with such systems found the system wasn't as effective as "traditional" shooting. The camera on the gun system may have applications for corner shooting, but for more general use another answer may be needed.
        One of the reasons for Gerrold's EV helmet was to allow the user to use a high-tech laser sighting system. A dozen times every second the laser would randomly hop frequency, always staying out of the visible spectrum. To the naked eye the laser was invisible while to an unsynchronised EV helmet all you'd see was the occasional sub-second flash. With a properly synchronised EV the laser appeared as a shimmering bar of light which you'd direct onto your target like a searchlight then open fire.
        A frequency hopping laser of this form would be quite a sophisticated machine –and is actually quite unnecessary since the BIP can synthesise the same effect. If a bore-sighted sensor is fitted to the Soldier's weapon the BIP can generate a set of cursors that indicate what the weapon is pointed at at any given moment. The Soldier just intersects this line with his target and fires.
        This system will work fine for hand-held and shoulder fired weapons. Other weapon systems may work better with a different system. Helicopter crews already use a system where a set of crosshairs is generated on their HUDs. The pilot or gunner moves his head to place the sight on the target and the aircraft's turret moves accordingly. With a more advanced system you may not need to be that accurate. If you move the sight close to the cursor of an identified enemy the system could be set to assume that is your desired target and lock onto it until it is destroyed or new instructions are issued. Systems that track the movement of the eyes also already exist – I've seen them used for a sociology experiment. This may offer too much responsiveness, however.
        What weapons would use such a sight? A favourite of the future warrior theorists is backpack mounted weapon systems such a vertically launched ATGMs. Such weapons could not be aimed conventionally. This system might also be used for shoulder-fired guided weapons allowing the Soldier to track and acquire the target without needing to move the heavy weapon around so much.
        Crew served weapons are another possibility. Suppose that in the future the tripods of such weapons included small motors that could move the weapon. The crewman would just point the weapon in the general direction, lock his HUD sight onto the target and the weapon would adjust and fire. The same system could be used on sniping rifles/AMRs by replacing the bipod with a small motorised tripod. An advantage of this system is that the crewman wouldn't need to be that close to the weapon. In fact the weapons might be aimed by whatever Soldier has the best view of the enemy and there is no reason why the Soldier directing fire can't control all of the weapons that have a clear shot. Such a control capability would also extend to the weapons mounted on the unit's vehicles or HWbots.

        I've already mentioned the idea of cameras mounted on weapons. One place where this would prove useful is in situations where the Soldier needed to fire over or around cover. In the past some clever Soldiers have achieved a similar effect by mounting mirrors on their weapons. Ironically, this simple expedient may not work with the EV visor since the mirror will only reflect a small part of the spectrum. This problem could be solved by the system having a "visible light only" setting, which would be useful in other contexts. If a camera is used, the best way to display the image is as a "pop-up" window over the main display. This allows the Soldier to maintain some local situational awareness. The other application for cameras is on long range sniping and crew served weapons. The Soldier can sit in the protection of his trench or vehicle and aim a weapon that may be a hundred metres away.

        One of the objections to many proposed Future Soldier systems is that the man can become swamped by the amount of information he receives. The visual cursor based system that I've suggested above attempts to remedy this. It is easily understood and meets the Soldier's main information priorities :-
        Where am I? Where are my buddies? Where is the enemy?

By the Author of the Scrapboard :

Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence

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