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Rising Military Electro-Optical /infrared (EO/IR) systems on airborne, land-based, and naval platforms systems

Electro-optical or EO systems refer to devices that make use of a mix of optics and electronics for generating, detecting and measuring radiation in the optical spectrum. The systems can measure electromagnetic spectrum with wavelengths in the 0.1-1000 micrometers range, which comprises visible light, infrared radiation and ultraviolet radiation.

 

An electro-optical sensor is capable of changing light into electric signal, while the infrared sensor can identify any structure in its vicinity through the detection or emission of infrared radiation. Common applications of EO/IR systems include airborne homeland security, combat, patrol, surveillance, reconnaissance, and search and rescue programs.

 

EO/IR (Electro-Optical/Infra-Red) systems are imaging systems used for military or law enforcement applications which include both visible and infrared sensors. Because they span both visible and infrared wavelengths, EO/IR systems provide total situational awareness both day and night and in low light conditions.

 

The increasing focus on information superiority by militaries and situational awareness is leading to the procurement of military electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) systems worldwide. Additionally, the increased demand for battlespace reconnaissance and greater adoption on airborne platforms such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), fighter aircrafts, helicopters, among others are the major factors driving the military electro-optics/infrared systems market, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

 

Major features of the systems include image stabilization and long-range imaging capabilities.  Critical features of EO/IR systems are long-range imaging abilities and image stabilization. EO/IR sensors are usually mounted on aircraft or vehicles, used at sea, or are hand-carried, and must be able to identify targets, track moving targets, and assess threats from a distance and in challenging environmental conditions.

 

Electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) systems are largely used for military applications in airborne, land-based, and naval platforms. Airborne EO/IR systems comprise optic sights, night vision systems inspection systems, and helmet-mounted displays. Land-based systems include weapon mounted sights, optronic devices, night vision devices, thermal imagers, designators, and laser range finders. Naval based systems consist of infrared imagers and detectors, thermal imagery systems, surveillance & tracking systems, and photonics mast systems.

 

Nowadays, long-wave infrared (LWIR) systems are most commonly integrated with military systems to provide advanced thermal imaging capacities and improved target detection and recognition. In low light conditions, night vision cameras are used for better performance with less power consumption and optimum output. Moreover, laser range finders are also used in both day or night conditions and in nearly all weather conditions, including haze, smoke, and rain.

 

Developments in electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) systems are key to providing the enhanced capability needed by military forces to meet the current and emerging challenges created through an increasingly difficult and complex range of operational conditions. Such enhanced operational capability must often be delivered against commercial demands for lower costs and reduced timescales together with operational requirements for size weight, and power (SWaP) reductions.

 

Moreover, defense agencies across the globe are strengthening their position with huge investments in the development of new technology and systems. For example, the development of indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) detector system allows imaging in short-wave infrared (SWIR) without the necessity of an external cooling system. In addition, it also consumes less power and delivers images at high frame rates. It also offers real-time detection during the day or low light conditions. Thus, such technological advancements are driving the growth of the military EO/IR systems market.

 

Furthermore, the adoption of new technologies such as LWIR system by the military forces provide armored vehicles with advanced thermal imaging capacities and improved target detection, recognition, and identification of the range. In addition, the imaging capability provides actionable information and crew protection in the war conditions. Likewise, the usage of EO laser guidance systems has been increasing for special military missions. This system has an imaging camera, which acts as a sight and target seeker for small weapons and missile systems. Also, it is a cost-effective and lightweight with highly accurate solutions for target acquisition and weapon guidance.

 

Low C-SWaP EO/IR ISR Sensor Technology

The goal is to develop low-cost, size, weight, and power (C-SWaP) Electro-Optical Infra-Red (EO/IR) sensor technology to support distributed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) in contested environments (CEs). Future engagements may necessitate operations in CEs, putting high-value platforms and associated sensors at risk. As such, future missions may utilize lower-cost, attributable platforms to support operations in CEs. Associated ISR sensor technology is required for such platforms where C-SWaP constraints are more significant than for traditional platforms. Technology advancement is required in many sensor modalities, including, but not limited to broadband EO/IR, multispectral, hyperspectral, polarimetric, and LIDAR. Research and development can include full system-level designs or advancement of component technology, such as detector materials, telescopes, transmitters, receivers, real-time data processing hardware, etc

 

EO and IR systems are likely to benefit from recent advances in material research, for example new carbon-based materials, nano-materials and metamaterials. These new materials promise new EO properties that could significantly change the way EO and IR systems are designed and built, e.g. new detector systems with enhanced properties or negative refractive index materials which could radically change the way optics are designed.

 

The performance challenges faced by future military systems will continue to evolve and grow. To address these challenges, EO/IR system designers will need to draw upon the ongoing developments in underpinning technologies such as new materials, focal plane arrays, image processing, data fusion, and emergent sensor concepts such as spectral processing, computational imaging, and polarimetry. Modelling and simulation is increasingly becoming an enabler for maximizing performance and optimizing operational adaptability and its interaction with trials and validation is a subject of topical concern.

 

Advanced technology by itself is not sufficient to give new and/or advanced capabilities. Systems have to be designed and developed in a way that will enable their reliable and cost-effective manufacture. This will involve adopting rigorous development and system engineering techniques. These are as crucial for the successful exploitation of sensor technology as the detector, optics and electronics. The performance and required characteristics of sensor systems are critically dependent on the platform and the application. Many sensor payloads are now being fitted to autonomous vehicles and drones which present new challenges in design and integration. Applications areas that are currently receiving interest include target detection and tracking, area monitoring, mine and IED detection, environmental monitoring, and border security. There is also growing interest in wearable imaging devices which have their own unique challenges at the sensor designlevel, the exploitation of the sensor data, and the interconnection of multiple sensors.

 

SpaceX to explore ways to provide weather data to U.S. military

Charlotte Gerhart, chief of the Space and Missile Systems Center Production Corps Low Earth Orbit Division, said in a statement to SpaceNews that SpaceX received the contract in July 2020 from SMC’s Space Enterprise Consortium. The contract is to “assess the feasibility and long term viability of a ‘weather data as a service business model,’” said Gerhart.

 

The contract awarded to SpaceX is part of a Space Force program called Electro Optical/Infrared Weather System (EO/IR EWS). The consortium in June awarded $309 million in contracts to Raytheon Technologies, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, and Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates to develop weather satellite prototypes and payloads. SpaceX won the portion of the EO/IR EWS program that is looking at how weather data could be purchased as a service from a commercial company. “The EWS program goal remains to provide a more resilient and higher refresh capability, enhancing global terrestrial weather capability,” said Gerhart.

 

“The Air Force is pursuing a space-based environmental monitoring EO/IR system in a multi phased approach,” the SpEC said in an email to members. The EO/IR EWS program is looking at a future proliferated low-Earth orbit constellation to focus on cloud characterization and theater weather imagery that could be supplemented by commercial services. SpaceX’s contract is for the “weather data as a service system architecture exploration phase,” said SpEC. Industry sources speculated that SpaceX could provide weather data collected by sensors hosted on its own Starlink satellites, or it could team with a weather data services company and use Starlink to distribute the data to customers.

 

 

Future Trends

Computational Imaging, e.g. Pupil Plane Encoding, Coded Aperture Imaging, Compressive Imaging, etc, is another family of emerging technologies that will radically alter the way sensor systems are designed. These techniques combine optics and processing to provide a useable output from the sensor and can provide functionality not possible or practical with conventional system designs. Computational Imaging will require developments in specialist sub-components, non-standard optics design and algorithm development to reconstruct the image.

 

Quantum techniques are also being investigated to assess their potential for sensing systems. Quantum Imaging and Ghost Imaging are examples of quantum techniques being investigated by different teams. Any Quantum system will require specialist components e.g. sources, optics, detectors, electronics and processing as well as providing scope for unconventional system design. Processing of sensor information has become a vital component of EO/IR sensor systems for display-driven, semi-autonomous, and autonomous applications. The timely extraction and presentation of pertinent information in a usable format is the ultimate goal in most developments, although the design flexibility to support hardware upgrades and meet emergent operational needs must be considered. Dual and multi-sensor system designs provide additional information, and offer increased performance under a wider variety of conditions. The combination of such sensor information to provide both increased performance and robustness continues to present many design challenges despite the ongoing research into data fusion technology.

 

 

Military EO/IR Market

GlobalData’s latest report, ‘The Global Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) Systems Market 2020-2030’, reveals that the market is valued at US$12.3bn in 2020. The global market for military EO/IR systems market will witness an overall compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.32% to reach US$15.5bn by 2030.

The demand for electro-optics/infrared (EO/IR) systems is expected to grow at a rapid pace in the future, owing to the increasing demand for battlespace awareness by defense forces, growth in demand for electro-optics/infrared (EO/IR) systems for unmanned vehicles for surveillance applications, and technological advancements resulting in improved performance efficiency.

 

In the networked digital battlespace, the need for better sensors that can enhance situational awareness of the military personnel on the battlespace is increasing. This is anticipated to act as a major driving factor for the military electro-optical and infrared systems market. The increasing miniaturization and improving accuracy, along with high reliability and availability at low costs is propelling EO/IR systems utilization across all platforms. The significant investment on R&D and necessary certifications to meet military-grade requirements can act as challenges for the entry of new players in the market.

 

The military electro-optical and infrared systems market has been segmented based on type, sensor technology, platform, and region. Based on type, the market has been segmented into image intensification, laser, and infrared. The image intensification segment is the largest segment of the military electro-optical and infrared systems market. The segment is also expected to register a high CAGR during the forecast period. This is due to the increasing use of EO/IR by the military forces for image intensification.

 

On the basis of sensor technology, the market has been segmented into scanning, starring, multispectral, and hyperspectral. The hyperspectral segment is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. This is due to increasing security threats have forced the defense industry to modernize and upgrade their existing technologies used in aircraft, combat vehicles, and ships. It has added pressure on the market to evolve with new and compatible systems and technologies.

 

The sea-based segment of the market is anticipated to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. The growth of territorial conflicts and border issues have led to increasing emphasis on surveillance, target detection, and target identification at sea. This is generating a need for better sensor systems that are highly reliable and are available at low costs for maritime patrol and improve situational awareness. In addition, as the naval vessels are isolated from the terrain, it becomes important for them to possess advanced threat detection and countermeasure systems for their long-time survival from impending threats

 

Since 2014, the US Navy has been looking for persistent multispectral 360-degree electro-optical systems for its naval vessels. As of 2018, this need has not yet been fulfilled, and lots of systems are being tested on-board US ships working in cooperation with usual RADARs and surveillance systems. This system is expected to be the future of warfare and will be a very crucial deciding factor for victory and for keeping friendly casualties minimum.

 

In January 2020, US Navy placed its first production order for 40 WESCAM MX-10MS electro-optical, infrared (EOIR) sensor suites from L3Harris Technologies in support of their Military Sealift Command Electro-Optical System (MSC-EOS) program. The MSC-EOS System’s primary mission is to provide enhanced visual imagery to augment existing electronic sensors. Likewise, in August 2019, the US Department of Defense announced the agreement with FLIR Surveillance Inc. for the supply, repair, and upgradation of Sea Star SAFIRE III Electro-optics Sensor Systems. The project is expected to be completed by August 2024. Such developments are expected to bolster the prospects for the sea-based segment in the years to come.

 

Similarly, the Safran Electronics & Defense Australasia was selected by Saab Australia, to provide the latest version of its Vigy Engage electro-optic sensor, as part of the situational awareness system, for the Royal Australian Navy’s SEA 1180 Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) project. The contract is expected to run over the 12-year OPV shipbuilding program, which is expected to include the delivery of 12 new ships to the Royal Australian Navy. Such on-going projects by navies of different countries are contributing to the growth of the segment during the forecast period.

 

Based on system, the military electro-optics/infrared (EO/IR) systems market has been segmented into targeting system, electronic support measure, and imaging system. The imaging system segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. Multispectral sensors are broadly used in military applications for terrain classification, camouflage detection, change detection, among others. Many electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) multi­spectral systems for intelligence, and surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) applications are a combination of, at least, one thermal-band infrared sensor and one reflective-band electro-optic sensor.

 

Based on technology, the military electro-optics/infrared (EO/IR) systems market has been segmented into uncooled and cooled. The cooled segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period.

 

Tejaswi Singh, Aerospace, Defense and Security Analyst at GlobalData, says: “The demand for military EO/IR systems will continue to rise across the globe. This can be attributed to the increasing dependence of warfare platforms on EO/IR systems for situational awareness, threat detection & countermeasure, target acquisition, surveillance & reconnaissance, among others.

 

“In line with this trend, militaries are procuring warfare platforms added with high-resolution electro-optical payloads, targeting systems, infrared-countermeasures, advanced display systems, among others. Moreover, the adoption of various EO/IR products by dismounted soldier such as sights, scopes, spotters, night vision attachments, light intensifiers and fire control sights along with weapon sights & scopes is one of the major drivers for the market.”

 

Regional Segmentation

Based on the region, the market has been segmented into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East & Africa, and Latin America. North America is the largest market in 2018. This is due to the rising demand for EO/IR systems across different sectors, such as military, commercial, and public safety. Moreover, due to the high investments in the development and procurement of EO/IR system in the region.

 

According to GlobalData’s analysis, the US will continue to hold a major market share in the military EO/IR systems market primarily due to continuous procurement of airborne platforms, soldier modernization programs and funding towards large-scale EO/IR projects such as Common Infrared Countermeasure (CIRCM) system. The US military EO/IR systems market in 2020 is valued at US$3.3bn to reach US$2.8bn in 2030, with a cumulative expenditure of US$33.0bn during 2020-2030.

 

The increasing funding from the US government for R&D activities, modernization and up-gradation of warfare platforms and procurement of new warfare platforms with advanced EO/IR systems are major drivers for sustained demand of military EO/IR systems in the US. The country will account for 21.2% share in the global military EO/IR systems market by 2030.

 

Europe is the second-largest region in the global market. Germany, the UK, France, and Russia are the leading country-level markets due to high investments in the development and procurement of EO/IR systems. Most of the R&D for EO/IR technologies is directed towards the development of robust, lightweight, and cost-effective systems significant for critical missions.

 

Europe today stands testimony to the massive human and economic losses suffered due to an unprepared healthcare system and political underestimation of COVID-19 in terms of the propensity of the disease to spread and cause harm and its ability to bring businesses and whole economies to a halt. Germany which is already in recession is looking towards defense as the first government areas to be wrung for savings. The downsizing will mean delays in defense capabilities improvements. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chains causing massive damage for manufacturing companies reliant on China for supplies. These supply chain disruptions will step up the pressure to decouple from China.

 

Rethinking supply chains will spur the movement of production out of China, including defense products and raw materials for producing these products. Currently, China is the low cost producer and thousands of defense related equipment and products used by the U.S. comes from this country. Production shifts away from China means DoD procurement and sustainment costs will rise in the coming years. Under this scenario, even without budgetary cuts, the ability to purchase defense products and technologies will fall, and with spending cutbacks being inevitable its hard times ahead for all players in the defense supply chain.

 

Asia-Pacific region is expected to generate the highest demand for military electro-optical and infrared systems market during the forecast period. With the hike in military spending of some of the countries in the region along with increasing territorial issues, the armed forces in this region are now investing heavily in soldier modernization and equipment modernization programs. Soldier modernization programs are a major driver for the military electro-optics/infrared (EO/IR) systems market in Asia-Pacific. Asia-Pacific is estimated to lead the military electro-optics/infrared (EO/IR) systems market. China, India, Japan, and Australia are the major countries that offer growth potential for EO/IR systems in the Asia-Pacific region. This market has huge growth potential given the increasing demand for updated and technologically advanced optronics systems. The growth of electro-optics/infrared (EO/IR) systems market is also driven by the rising demand for systems equipped with laser technology.

 

For instance, in late 2018, Electro-Optics Industries (Elop) was selected by the Korean Air Force to supply real-time electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) long-range oblique imagery systems for its F-16 aircraft. The increasing procurement of aircraft, UAVs, rotorcraft, etc., for surveillance missions and maritime patrol, are anticipated to generate demand for better sensors systems like EO/IR sensors embedded in them. Recently, on February 2019, the Singapore Navy displayed one of its two newest Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk helicopters at the Singapore Airshow. The new aircraft has updated avionics software and features that allow tactical coordination officers to operate electro-optical turret mounted on the nose. Such developments in the defense industry of Asia-Pacific are expected to boost the growth of the market in the coming future.

 

Stagnant product life cycle is a major restraint for growth of military electro-optics/infrared (EO/IR) systems. The life cycle for electro-optics/infrared (EO/IR) systems is 15-20 years; these systems are upgraded post the mentioned timeframe. Therefore, the market is prone to remain stagnant in terms of technology for a long time. The military electro-optics/infrared (EO/IR) systems market is also broadly dependent on the new line of aircraft and armored vehicles as well as ships and submarines that are yet to be manufactured.

 

Key Players  are Airbus, L-3 Communications Corporation, Textron Inc, Finmeccanica SpA, Lockheed Martin Corporation, FLIR Systems Inc, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Northrop Grumman Corporation, Thales Group, Rockwell Collins, Elbit Systems Ltd, BAE Systems, Raytheon Company,  Thales Group,  Unmanned Systems Source, UAV Propulsion Tech,  UST, L-3 Communications, General Dynamics, UTC Aerospace, Electro Optical Industries, ASELSAN A.Ş., DRS Technologies, Safran Electronics & Defense,

 

References and resources also include:

https://www.globaldata.com/battlespace-reconnaissance-and-information-superiority-major-drivers-for-global-military-eo-ir-systems-market-says-globaldata/

 

About Rajesh Uppal

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