June 3, 2006 “What you can’t see can’t hurt you,” might have been excellent advice from dad when you were fretful in your cot as a child, but it’s not true on the battlefield. Indeed, what you can’t see is the thing most likely to kill you and when it comes to keeping soldiers alive, enhanced situational awareness is the key. That’s why the U.S. Army has commissioned BAE Systems to develop vastly enhanced situational awareness capability for U combat vehicles. The resultant Distributed Aperture System (DAS) will enable the vehicle driver, crew members, and soldiers riding inside to “see” through the armour of the vehicle, providing enhanced situational awareness for driving and before dismounting. The DAS provides independent, simultaneous, closed-hatched hemispherical views of the area surrounding the vehicle. It can function day or night, and when the vehicle is moving or stationary.
DAS will be developed and demonstrated for the U.S. Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Night Vision & Electronic Sensors Directorate. The two-year program will culminate with BAE Systems’ installation of the DAS on an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle modified to simulate a notional vehicle crew station. “DAS answers a dire need for our mounted war fighters by giving them situational awareness they need right now — in both urban warfare settings and in open terrain,” said Jim Bob Bryant, Tactical Decision Systems Director for BAE Systems at Austin, Texas. Camera pods mounted around the vehicle will provide a combined field of view that covers 360 degrees and a view from the horizon to directly above the vehicle. The cameras operate in both visible and long-wave-length spectral bands. The real-time images from the vehicle’s exterior are seamlessly merged so war fighters inside can easily, safely, and effectively view the entire environment around them. BAE Systems will use the company’s uncooled long-wave infrared cameras for its imaging capability.