Defense Optics: Applications of Optical Manufacturing

Posted by Steve Rowe on

A Blackhawk helicopter pilot racing into a hostile situation receives an onboard alert of an inbound missile threat. A small group of elite soldiers makes their way through an urban landscape in a pre-dawn mission undetected by enemy combatants. A lone UAV high above a foreign land provides high-resolution reconnaissance for surveillance. Each of these are examples of our tools to help keep our dedicated and highly-trained servicemen and women safe using precision optics within defense and military applications.  

miltary and defense optics, fused silica optics for defense, missile detection optics, The AN/AAR-57 Common Missile Warning System (CMWS) is an integrated system of sensors in rotary and fixed-wing aircraft that detects inbound threats. The system consists of 4 Optical Sensor Converters (OSC), a Computer Processor and a Control Indicator. The technology integrates hostile fire indication, missile warning, and data recording capabilities into one system, allowing detection of small arms fire to infrared-homing and short-range surface-to-air missiles. Multiple sensor units use optical lenses that operate in the ultra-violet wavelength affixed to the aircraft to provide a 360º field of detection. The system's algorithms identify temporal variations in a signal's strength, such as the brightening of an incoming missile. It also evaluates the spectral bandpass of the threat to reduce false alarms and has software for detecting events, such as the launch of a surface-to-air missile. Over 3000 CMWS systems have been deployed with more than 4 million combat theatre flight hours.  

Today's soldier interfaces with a lot of technology both through training and in the field. Specialty optics play a role in several areas for troops on the ground from night vision goggles, helmet recording camera systems, and sighting equipment such as thermal imaging sights, and spotting scopes. The optics in these units are tested for maximum durability and are made of materials for required conditions. Our sales representative, Mike Vergo understands first hand having the right tools in the field during his time as a Bravo Troop 9th Cavalry. In working with clients on optical systems, he offers some insight into where design meets fabrication. Mike explains, "As designers and engineers work to reduce the size and weight of systems, they don't always have manufacturing in mind. A good practice in the design phase on aspheres is to try and have the Aspheric surface on the “convex” side vs. having it on the “concave” side. You can limit yourself to the types of tools that can be used, and if the lenses are under ~1.0” diameter, it can start getting pretty pricey to manufacture. A good counter is to flip the asphere to the convex surface and switch the material to a higher index to somewhat compensate. Again, not a huge driver on these lens designs, but something to keep in mind in the future as it can sometimes cut your costs by 50%."  

Aspherical lens, asphere design, aspherical lens fabrication, how are aspheres made

Reconnaissance is vital to the success of any mission and the U.S. drone program continues to progress with sophisticated imaging in the unmanned flight arena. The RQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle uses advanced optics to give real-time imagery of the hostile environment well before the first troops or vehicles arrive. The RQ-1 is outfitted with an optical system on a gimbal equipped with two-color video cameras, an infrared camera, and a synthetic aperture radar (SAR). The infrared camera is used in low-light and night viewing situations. The SAR can provide images by seeing through clouds, haze and smoke. To create a SAR image, successive pulses of radio waves are transmitted to "illuminate" a target scene and the echo of each pulse is received and recorded. The pulses are transmitted and the echoes are received using a single beam-forming antenna with wavelengths of a meter down to several millimeters. This form of radar allows for two-dimensional images and three-dimensional reconstructions of objects to be displayed. Even though it takes a full team to operate an unmanned drone, the greatest advantage is never exposing a pilot or ground forces to a hostile environment.  

precision optics for defense and aerospace, aerospace optics, IR optics, optics for defense applicationsThese are just a few examples of precision optics in the defense realm. Esco Optics has over 65 years of experience with military, aerospace and defense program success. Esco is ITAR registered and able to accommodate small and large optical fabrication from visible to UV to IR spectrums. If you have an application need, reach out to your Esco Optics contacts. 



Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Quality Optics from a Trusted Supplier

American Owned & Operated

Esco Optics is a leading manufacturer of custom and catalog optics, precision optical components, and ITAR optics in the United States.

Military & Defense Supplier

As the leader for military and defense optics in the United States, Esco Optics adheres to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

ITAR Registered & Compliant

ITAR registered and compliant, Esco manufactures ITAR optics for all of its customers with the strictest confidentiality.