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27 Sep 04. An estimated $9.518 billion will be spent on the development and production of key land and sea-based EO systems over the next 10 years, according to a new study by Forecast International. The next few years will be characterized by the rapid production of systems to meet the demands of deployed military forces.

According to the report’s author, Andrew Dardine, night vision technology continues to be a major force in this market segment. “It is those systems that help military personnel conduct surveillance and targeting missions in otherwise blind sectors of the battlefield that have been placed on a fast track for production and procurement,” said Dardine. The study, entitled, “The Market for Land and Sea-Based Electro-Optical Systems,” projects that over the next 10 years, R&D funding for four of the major U.S. night vision development programs alone will total $674 million.

Other nations engaged in the war on terrorism are also getting in on the action. Canada recently ordered ITT’s PVS-7 night vision system for its army under a $19 million contract. More than 5,000 units will ultimately be provided, and the first 1,000 have already been shipped to Canadian forces deployed in Afghanistan. The nations of Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – engaged in their own round-the-clock surveillance operations aimed at disrupting terrorist cells – have also ordered the systems, for trial and evaluation.

The Raytheon-produced PAS-13 Thermal Weapon Sight (TWS) continues to rack up impressive sales, and in May 2004 the company was awarded what may perhaps be the largest contract yet for the system: The U.S. Army has earmarked $165 million toward doubling the system’s monthly production rates over the next two years. An estimated 38,000 PAS-13 sights are expected to be produced through 2013.

While larger and vastly more expensive laser programs such as the Space-Based Laser have taken a heavy, possibly fatal, hit from military planners, more practical and relatively more affordable laser systems are poised for a resurgence in funding. The Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL) in particular is almost ready for production and deployment. Almost US$1 billion in combined U.S./Israeli funding will be directed at the system over the period 2004-2013.

In terms of sea-based EO systems, the need for Lockheed Martin’s Shipboard Infrared Search and Track (SIRST) system has only grown more immediate. Being an integral part of a ship’s self-defense suite, SIRST is expected to be installed aboard a large number and variety of U.S. naval vessels over the next several years. Aircraft carriers, Wasp class and Tarawa class amphibious craft, and AEGIS cruisers and destroyers are all expected to benefit from its installation.

Besides Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and ITT, the leading land- and sea-based EO system producers include Northrop Grumman and France’s Thales.

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