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Military Sensors trends and technologies promise complete situational awareness under all weather, day/night, through natural and man-made obstructions

A Sensor is an electronic device that is used to measure some sort of physical parameters (e.g. temperature, pressure, light intensity, etc). The output of an electronic sensor is an electrical signal that is either analog or digital. Processing the sensor’s output can be done in hardware (using discrete electronic elements) or in software (using some sort of microcontrollers or MPUs).


Sensors are being employed in a wide range of applications. Some of the applications include Automation, Robotics, Embedded Systems, Computers, Smart Cars, Avionics, Satellites, Smart Homes, Smartphones, Smart Watches, Energy plants, Remote Sensing, and Communications.


Electronic sensors are essential for various military surveillance, intelligence, ordinance, and combat technologies. Information is critical to military success, and the data is gathered through sensors on a range of platforms, including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, weapon systems, ground vehicles and even from soldiers in the field through smart wearable devices.


By monitoring strategic defence as well as civilian installations such as parliament, airports, metro etc. and will provide much greater protection to our armed forces as well as civilian population.


Sensors have become an integral part of military systems and the performance needs of all military vehicles, equipment and related systems. Sensors are used in flight controls, propulsion, environmental monitoring, weaponry controls, indicators, communications and so on.


Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities enable Militaries to be aware of developments related to adversaries worldwide and to conduct a wide variety of critical missions, both in peacetime and in conflict.  ISR is carried through a  networked sensors operating in space, cyberspace, air, land, and maritime domains. The vision of sensors is to enable complete situational awareness under all weather, day/night, and beyond-line-of-sight and through natural and man-made obstructions.


Military and defence systems include drones, spacecrafts, missiles, military vehicles, ships, marine systems, satellites and rockets. These systems work in the harshest of environments during normal as well as combat operations.


Sensors are also used in battlefield surveillance systems for the conduct of modern warfare. These are deployed on land, aerial platforms, in space and underwater, to keep a 24×7 watch over a particular targeted zone. Radars /SAR /GMTI have emerged as most effective sensors for long range detection and tracking of military targets under all weather, day/night conditions.


Military Sensors

Types of sensors for military use include: Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), Active sensors, Wearable sensors, Smart sensors, Nanosensors, Camera sensors, and Infrared sensors.


Electronic sensors play a dominant role in modern battlefield. Radars, RF communications, Navigational aids are extensively used to achieve accurate ‘kill’ of enemy targets through guided weapons. These sensors cover a wide electromagnetic (EM) spectrum from high frequency (HF) to microware (MW) band. Use of Milli Metric Wave (MMW) and Infra Red/Laser bands has also become popular with a view to scoring precision attacks on enemy installations/platforms.


Battlefield Surveillance Radars and Weapon Locating Radars are being used to detect vehicles and personnel. SAR & GMTI have emerged as most effective sensors for long range detection and tracking of military targets under all weather, day/night conditions and achieving an accurate ‘kill’ of enemy targets through guided weapons. Radars now cover a wide electromagnetic (EM) spectrum from High frequency (HF) to Milli Metric Wave (MMW) and Infra Red/Laser bands has also become popular with a view to scoring precision attacks on enemy installations/platforms.


Some of the important sensors include advanced earth observation (EO) and infrared (IR) sensors, target and weapon seekers, laser sensors for detection and imaging of targets, radar sensors for synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and inverse SAR (ISAR), sensors for manned and unmanned aerial platforms, and electro-optical sensors to detect fog, smog and dust.


Electronic sensors have played a dominant role in a modern battlefield with a wide range of military applications: Sensors / seekers for smart weapon; Position Navigation and Timing sensors like MEMS Accelerometer & Gyro, FOG, RLG; Acoustic Sensors like Fiber Optic Acoustic Sensor, Hydrophone, Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW)  and CBRNE Sensors.


GPS aids in all aspects of military combat operations, from the designation of precise target coordinates to delivery of conventional munitions, with extreme accuracy under any conditions of target visibility (e.g., night, clouds, smoke, and dust). Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT), High stability reference sources are playing essential role in military applications like network synchronization, spectrum efficiency e.t.c.. Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) versions of an inertial measurement unit (IMU) integrated into a GPS receiver are commercially available.


Sensors used in military applications need to be reliable, dependability, durable, and efficient. They must not only be reliable but be able to withstand the harsh conditions that come with extreme environmental conditions and warfare. This requires the sensors to have quality electrical connectors that are resilient and can produce powerful signals.


Sensor trends

Sensor technology is evolving in many directions because of advancement in the threats, the counter measures and the technological developments.


Sensors are becoming miniaturized, low power; adding new modalities like seeing through the Wall, multifunctional through sensing of multiple parameters, on chip and on package Integration, autonomous and smart and increasingly networked which allow the extraction of more detailed target information.


The first key trend is miniaturization. Sensors are proliferating across countless applications as we move to an increasingly connected world. Many of those applications require multiple sensors in a small footprint with no degradation of performance – and often with very low power requirements.


Nanotechnology has improved  the sensitivity and selectivity of Sensors. Carbon nanotube / graphene based sensors are being employed for detecting chemical signatures that can lead to early warning of chemical warfare. Nanotechnology based devices  substantially improve the range, accuracy and efficiency of Inertial navigation sensors by integration of different nanotechnologies such as NEMS and nanophotonics like in  Optomechanical accelerometer and nano-sized optical gyroscopes and thus lead to vastly improved Inertial navigation systems of aircrafts, missiles and ships.


The miniaturized, driftless, power-efficient, board mountable Chip scale atomic Clock (CSAC) with GPS-quality inertial navigator and clock combination are now available commercially. The Chip-scale atomic clock (CSAC) although are not as accurate and stable as normal size and commercially available cesium-based atomic clocks, are expected to have a wide range of applications in military systems including spectrum efficiency and network synchronisation.


Smart Dust

Autonomous dust sized swarm of Nanosensors having collective data collection and processing abilities shall be used to monitor the battlefield environment.  Self-Organizing and Self-healing Nanosensor Networks shall be widely employed in battlefield


Smart Dust are tiny computers that are designed to function together as a wireless sensor network. Currently, Smart Dust particles are quite small – about the size of a grain of rice. But, in the near future, it’s expected that the technology will advance so that each sensor is as small as a dust particle or a grain of sand.


The basic idea behind Smart Dust is that you could drop thousands of tiny sensors over a landscape and create an ad hoc wireless sensor network where there isn’t one already. Moreover, you can do it in a way that has almost no perceivable footprint (so you can imagine that most of the funding toward this work is coming from military folks, right?).


Sensor Fusion

Sensor fusion represents the third major trend. A single sensor hasn’t the ability to direct the application of precision weapons, therefore data must be integrated from a number of sensors and databases. Multi-spectral data fusion increases battlespace awareness by increasing the probability of object detection and object identification.


Sensor networks enable detection of low-signature targets. Low signature targets are difficult to detect, classify, and engage, because of low radar cross-sections, low radiated noise, low radiated infrared or heat, etc. Combining sensors and sources in numbers, types, and locations to sense and illuminate low signature targets. In addition, sensor fusion which combines the output of multiple sensors can increase awareness of moving targets in the battlespace by increasing the probability of track initiation as well as decreasing the time required to develop engagement quality tracks of moving targets.



IoT Networks

The second is digitization. Military operations are relying less on humans and more on interconnected technology for situational awareness and communication.


With so many applications playing in the IoT space, the shift to digital is required for intelligent sensors that not only capture sensing data, but also interpret that data for a variety of applications. For its implementation the Internet of Things relies heavily on sensor technology. In the grand world of the “internet of things” (IoT), there are vast numbers of spatially distributed wireless sensors predominately based on electronics.


Military internet of things (MIOT) shall comprise of multitude of sensors on soldiers, systems, weapons and platforms ranging from ships to aircraft to ground vehicles. These military things shall be connected with secure networks to create an informational advantage and battlefield dominance.


A network of connected sensors utilising cloud technology embedded within biometric wearables, combat gear, and vehicles will provide soldiers with improved capabilities for identifying a neutralising the enemy.


IOT can also be valuable for Security forces, who can employ digital sensors and security cameras combined with sophisticated image analysis and pattern-recognition software to enable more effective facility monitoring for security threats. Ambient sensors can be used to monitor the existence of chemical and biological threats. Sensors monitoring human behavior may be used to assess the presence of people acting in a suspicious way.


IoT can enable a vital role by collecting, analyzing, and delivering the synthesized information in real time for expeditious decision making. This shall promote real-time information sharing and collaboration that enhance information quality and situational awareness, shorten the decision-making and command time, and increase joint operation efficiency. The combination of all of these elements enhances mission effectiveness.



Photonics sensors

Photonic sensor is a device that senses light and converts to electricity. Optics & Electro-Optics areas through areas like Day vision, Night Vision, Thermal Imaging are playing vital role in warfare due to their high resolution and covert passive operation.


Photonic technologies provide incomparable advantages such as high sensitivity, possibility of integration with electronic devices, compactness, metal-free operation, low-cost and electromagnetic immunity.  It provides cheaper, smaller, faster and lighter components and devices with superior functionality and less energy consumption.


For example Fibre optic sensors – manufactured using photonics technology – are not only more sensitive than existing electromagnetic sensors, but also faster operating, better able to withstand harsh conditions and immune to electromagnetic interference.


Wearable sensors

Soldiers operating in battlefield are affected by injuries, extreme weather conditions like avalanches, desert storms, landslides etc. Soldier wearable’s like band wrists containing vital sign monitors (temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol levels and blood glucose) and heat, radiation, and helmet impact sensors will allow the health of the soldier to be monitored in real time.


Biosensors are invaluable in defence for detection of biological hazards, health monitoring of soldier in battlefield and pilot/crew in aircrafts, tanks, ships, submarines, etc. Biosensors use different principles for detection of target analytes. Different nanotechnology based approaches shall be employed for biosensing such as ion-channels, nano-optics, DNA platform, nanowires, nanoholes, nanodisks, etc.


Smart and intelligent sensors.

These sensors have rich features including user-friendly, easily accessible, flexible, multifunctional, good processing power, self-testing, self-diagnosis, self-compensation and more. High reliability is one of the key aspects of military specifications. Many manufacturers qualify for such specifications, having reliability to a degree that consumer markets generally do not demand, and the conditions that are unique to military applications.


Quantum Sensors

Quantum sensors by exploiting quantum correlations, such as quantum entanglement, shall achieve sensitivity or resolution beyond the current limits. For example gravimeter is a very sensitive sensor which can detect change in the gravitational field – sensing things that cannot be detected via any current sensory system. It is a passive system that probes, not sending out a signal, just receiving the field that is observed by the gravity everywhere around it.


Under a principle known as quantum entanglement, two particles can be linked together regardless of distance, forming what scientists call a quantum entangled pair. When something happens to one particle it can be noticed in the other particle. This in turn leads to a process called quantum illumination, where information about one particle’s environment can be inferred by studying the other particle.



Market growth

The military sensors market is projected to grow from USD 9.9 Billion in 2021 to USD 13.2 Billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 5.9% from 2021 to 2026. Some of the factors that are expected to fuel the growth of the military sensors market are increasing procurement of defense systems by military forces and ongoing military modernization programs in different countries. Increasing demand for battlespace awareness among defense forces, ongoing advancements in MEMS technology, increasing use of UAVs in modern warfare, and increasing focus on weapon system reliability are fueling the growth of the military sensors market.


Based on application, the electronic warfare segment of the market is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. Countries such as the US, China, and India are procuring military aircraft. This is expected to lead to increased demand for military sensors in these countries.


Based on platform, the military sensors market has been segmented into airborne, land, naval, space, and munition. The growth of the land segment can be attributed to increased demand for unmanned ground vehicles from defense forces of different countries.


Four main growth markets for sensors are seen,  One is in pressure sensing. The need to sense pressure is growing strongly in most markets. Target applications include wearables and medical devices, as well as drones, home appliances, industrial applications and transportation. Many of these applications also call for temperature sensing. Condition monitoring for industrial and automotive machinery, as well as the high-power batteries that are now being used to supply power, represent important growth markets for temperature sensing. Temperature sensing in wearables for healthcare is another important sector. The third key area is force sensing, with applications in aerospace, medical instruments, appliances, elevators and a new generation of high-power electric motors. Finally, we see a growing need for position sensing in applications as diverse as money-handling systems, industrial equipment, automotive systems and medical devices.


Military wearable sensors are wearable technologies that are worn on the body as accessories, which incorporate various features and functions, such as communication and health monitoring. The increased need for IoT platforms and technology innovation in sensor technology will enable manufacturers to offer new growth opportunities to the market players. However, there are some shortcomings, such as the risk of cyber intrusion, low consumer awareness, and safety concerns for security data, which are expected to restrain the growth of this market. The Military Wearable Sensors Market is estimated to witness a CAGR of 11% from 2018 to 2023.


Based on components, the military sensors market has been segmented into hardware, software, and cybersecurity solutions. Increasing demand for real-time processing and analyzing of data through artificial intelligence and machine learning is expected to drive the growth of the software segment of the military sensors market during the forecast period. With the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the software used in military sensors can distinguish between two objects.



The North American region is projected to lead the military sensors market during the forecast period. Significant investments in R&D activities for the development of advanced military power solutions by key players and increased demand for lightweight and energy-efficient sensors are some of the factors expected to fuel the growth of the military sensors market in this region. The US is expected to drive the growth of the North American military sensors market during the forecast period, owing to easy access to various innovative technologies and significant investments being made by manufacturers in the country for the development of improved health monitoring and warfare sensors. Several developments have taken place in the field of military sensors in the region.


The market in the Asia Pacific region is projected to grow at the highest CAGR from 2019 to 2025. The growth of the Asia Pacific military sensors market can be attributed to the increased procurement of defense systems by countries such as China and India. The ongoing military modernization programs in countries such as Japan and Australia are also fueling the growth of the market in the Asia Pacific region. The countries in this region are continuously increasing their defense capabilities by procuring advanced systems.


Industry Developments

The introduction of MEMS-based gyroscopes has been a major point of innovation in the gyroscope technology. An increase in demand for high-performance inertial navigation systems (INS) has fueled the growth of gyroscopes in military sensors market. The military aviation industry, which is one of the key consumers of inertial navigation systems, has been a major reason for the market growth and is expected to be a key driver for the global market. The increased adoption of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the defense sector will also play a major role in market growth.


In June 2019, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awarded a USD 4.4 million three-year contract to Vector Atomic (US) for the MDA Hypersonic Defense Component Technology program to design a micro-flatpack accelerometer-gyroscope sensor that will use hybrid integrated photonics. The company will develop and test a low size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) navigation-grade gyroscope-accelerometer capable of navigating under severe acceleration, shock, and vibration characteristics of a hypersonic missile interceptor.


Significant technological advancements and integration of sensors and electronics in military equipment are resulting in a shift towards multilayered defense systems, which is expected to drive the electronic warfare segment in military sensors market during the forecast period. Adding to these factors, the increase in the use of UAV systems and the need for ground surveillance and communication jamming serve as opportunities for the electronic warfare segment.


In March 2021, BAE Systems secured a USD 58 million contract to begin low-rate initial production of an electronic warfare system for F-15s to protect pilots from advanced threats coming over the electromagnetic spectrum. The contract scope includes multispectral sensors and countermeasures, signal processing, microelectronics and algorithms to deliver radar warning, situational awareness, geolocation, and self-protection capabilities.


Key players are General Electric Company, Raytheon, BAE Systems PLC, Kongsberg Gruppen, Thales Group, Honeywell International Inc., Viooa Imaging Technology Inc., Esterline Technologies Corporation, Ultra Electronics, Vectornav Technologies, LLC, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Rockwest Solutions


Companies such as Honeywell International Inc. (US), TE Connectivity Ltd. (US), Thales Group (France), Curtiss-Wright Corporation (US), Raytheon Company (US), Esterline Technologies Corporation (US), Kongsberg Gruppen ASA (Norway), and BAE Systems plc (UK) are focusing on the development of new Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS).


References and Resources also include:




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