PROTECTING THE PERIMETER
By David Maxwell
“Halt! Who goes there?” These words have become ingrained in the perceived image of a military sentry. Take the scenario further: It is 0407h on a cloudy, moonless night and a light drizzle is falling. Picture a lonely soldier pacing his beat along a perimeter, rifle cradled in his arms, blowing into his hands to generate some heat, thinking of a hot brew and hot woman (but not, necessarily, in that order). He can, perhaps, be forgiven for not giving the job in hand his full attention. Away behind some cover, an intruder waits his chance and slips quietly towards the guarded installation to do his worst.
That was so 1959 … 1859, 1759 or 1659 even. In 2009, things are vastly different. The protected installation has a variety of aides … although a soldier “on stag” will still be in the loop, somewhere. It is more likely that he will be in shirtsleeves, sat at a console, watching a screen that changes, as the various sensor locations relay an image from a thermal camera back to the command bunker (or vehicle). Perhaps a line of covert detectors are out there too, waiting for someone or something to cross their line-of-sight. If an alarm is raised, the intruder won’t even know but the nearest camera will slew in his direction to give the 21st Century sentinel a view of the threat.
Force Protection is now the name of the game – not just in the field but in the forward operating bases and the main logistic depots. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and intensification of the involvement in Afghanistan, technology has been applied to this long-ignored requirement, for this is the age of asymmetric guerrilla warfare or counter-insurgency. While no-one expects a raid in force on, say, Camp Bastion, the threat of an improvised explosive device (IED) being planted on the approaches to the base or the perimeter wall itself is a real threat. To plant the IED requires bodies. Bodies generate heat. Heat is detected by thermal imagers. Thermal surveillance is required. QED.
Today technology is available that can give the encamped force, large or small, measures of protection that the soldier of 1959 or earlier could only dream of. For a start, the soldier on stag could have his own helmet-mounted night-vision goggles (NVG) or hand-held thermal imager. Battlespace has covered such devices in past features. This one will address the systems available for fixed and mobile site protection. Not only will it look at the sensors themselves but also the means of mounting them so as to provide area surveillance. (Fixed site perimeter defence at the home base is approached in a different way although the technology is basically the same.)
While the suppliers of the many and varied electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) sensors, ranging from image-intensified cameras, working in the near infrared (NIR) spectrum, through to ‘conventional’ infrared detectors and thermal imagers, coming from all ‘the usual suspects’, it is often other companies (sometimes less well-known names) that bring the sensors into an integrated system.
Representing the lesser-known companies producing a remote surveillance system for use in harsh climates is Arkonia Systems of the UK. Its ARK9500 Spectre remote video surveillance system uses up to six ‘Scouts’ – small remotely deployable RF camera sensors, to which are connected Arkonia rigged passive infrared (PIR) detectors. Each Scout remains quiescent until activated by the PIR detector (with a 30 m range for personnel movement) upon the occurrence of an intrusion.
Once activated, the camera automatically transmits a video signal (including sensor ID) of some 15 sec duration to its base station. The video signal is automatically recorded and displayed at the base station with date, time and location. At the same time, the base station transmits an alarm signal, via a UHF radio link, to the miniature monitors (aka pagers) carried by the soldiers manning the guard force.