A NEW GENERATION OF THERMAL SIGHTS FOR THE ARMY
By Scott R. Gourley
U.S. military planners have clearly grasped the tactical advantages of thermal weapon sight (TWS) technology. Their appreciation of the contributions of thermal sight technology on the battlefield was most recently evident in the 30 March 2004 award of dual contracts for the “TWS II” program.
The “TWS II” program is a follow-on to the current family of AN/PAS-13
Thermal Weapon Sights produced by Raytheon Company. The AN/PAS-13 family includes Light, Medium and Heavy variants with respective ranges and weights of 550 meters/3.0 lbs; 1100 meters/5.0 lbs; and 2200 meters/5.3 lbs. The sights allow individual and crew-served weapon gunners to see deep into the battlefield; increasing their surveillance, target acquisition, and lethal engagement ranges.
Both Medium (MTWS) and Heavy (HTWS) variants of the sight were fielded in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom with the first unit equipped with the Light (LTWS) early this fiscal year. As of this writing the Army has fielded close to 10,000 AN/PAS-13 models with plans to build an additional 4,000 – 5,000 systems in all three configurations.
Under a United States Army Communications and Electronics Command (CECOM) solicitation notice posted late last year, military planners announced their intention “to procure, through unrestricted competitive negotiation, the AN/PAS-13 Thermal Weapon Sight (TWS) and spare parts for these devices. This procurement will include the light, medium, and heavy TWS systems. A single, Firm Fixed Price multiyear contract will be awarded. The contract shall be for five (5) basic program years with option quantities available in each year. Total quantities, including options, over the five (5) year period are as follows: Light Weapon Thermal Sight, 8690; Medium Weapon Thermal Sight, 8512; Heavy Weapon Thermal Sight, 11,246. Delivery of initial quantities to begin 10 months after contract award.”
As described by representatives from the U.S. Army Program Executive Office – Soldier (PEO-Soldier), describe the award – dubbed, “TWS II” – as “a follow on for an existing production contract.”
Standing behind examples of all three current (TWS I) AN/PAS-13 sights at the recent AUSA Winter Symposium, LTC Cynthia Bedell, Product Manager, Soldier Sensors, explained that the TWS II program was still in source selection at that time with a projected award announcement in “late March or early April.”
“The TWS IIs will be smaller, lighter, and will all run on Double-A batteries,” Bedell explained. “They will use one mil technology and be completely uncooled.”
Pointing to the array of TWS I sights on display, she added, “These are thermally stabilized, which means that I have to have a thermoelectric cooler and a heat sink in them to keep them in the zone of operations, so they can ‘sense’ thermal differences.”
“Because we’ve gone to a smaller pixel format, which means higher resolution on an array, we’re able to cut the size and weight of this in about half. So the next sight with the same range will be about half the weight. The heavy [HTWS] will be about 25 percent lighter and the medium [MTWS] will be about 45 percent lighter.”
On 30 March 2004, the U.S. Army awarded TWS II contracts to BAE Systems Inc. and DRS Optronics. The companies reflected two out of a total of three bids received for the program.
In describing the five year multi-year contract, BAE Systems representatives identified a base contract is worth $111 million with total value of more than $250 million if all options are exercised. The systems will be produced at BAE Systems facility in Lexington, Massachusetts.
“BAE Systems leads the world in the manufacture of these advanced microbolometer engines/cameras, having delivered more than 20,000 units since 1999,” said Steve Jamison, BAE Systems vice president and general manager at Lexington. “BAE Systems is proud to part