Clarity of vision: working with customers and end users to develop periscopes and advanced sighting systems for the modern battlefield

Armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) crews will tell you in no uncertain terms what they think of the periscopes and sighting systems they use. Kent Periscopes knows this because we pride ourselves as being – we believe – the company that is the most likely in the industry to actively seek these opinions. Our proactive approach extends beyond collecting sometimes-blistering user verdicts on existing systems to similarly working with AFV designers as early as possible to deliver optimal vision systems.

Working together, Kent Periscopes’ world class design and testing combines with the crucial AFV user and designer knowledge to produce the best sighting and imaging capabilities. We have shown this with the successful demonstration of our Embedded Image Periscope (EIP) system with shortwave infrared (SWIR) at the
Eurosatory show in Paris, France, in June. In September, Kent Periscopes will be taking this system to the International Defence Industry Exhibition MSPO in Kielce, Poland, and to IDEX in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in February 2019.

The EIP concept was developed with input from Kent Periscopes’ customers and users, whose help refined the concept before it went to market. Among the components that make up an AFV, periscopes are a small but very important part. One reason we emphasise the benefits of involvement with customers in early design stages is to avoid making compromises to fit in a space envelope in a nearly-finished AFV. Early involvement in design brings solutions best able to offer the situational awareness that each customer envisions.


Likewise, knowing the users’ opinions on current in-service equipment helps Kent Periscopes to ensure that we can eliminate any design weaknesses in new iterations. Situational awareness is all about giving occupants in an AFV as much relevant visibility of the outside world as possible. Their opinions help us to ensure Kent Periscopes doesn’t make the mistakes seen in other products. We find out from the user where the weaknesses are, design new versions without those weaknesses, add more capability, and then support the equipment throughout its life.

SWIR EIP is an example of how an older technology, in this case a drivers’ night vision system, can be further developed to eliminate some of the in-service problems. Passive Drivers’ Periscopes (PDP) are normally night-time systems that are exchanged during the day. In the daytime drivers usually use the traditional hard glass or acrylic ‘Unity Vision Periscope’ (UVP). If the driver doesn’t have a PDP, at night they might clip a separate digital screen on to the UVP to look at. EIP integrates the UVP with a built-in flat LCD panel display, hidden behind the unity vision mirror. Pressing a lever, the driver can fold the mirror away, and look at thermal images for driving at night. Once the EIP is installed, it doesn’t need to be removed. Kent Periscopes’ latest design includes a sensor suite with a day charge-coupled device (CCD), low light camera and a SWIR thermal camera.

This ability to adopt SWIR as an alternative to previous long-wave infrared (LWIR) systems comes thanks to a high-performance lens module. The SWIR based systems can overlay the images from the thermal camera onto the day CCD or low light camera images. That enables drivers to read road signs and drive in challenging weather conditions such as heat haze and fog, which they can’t always do with some conventional thermal cameras. The EIP system can also record footage, making it an ideal training aid.

A simple, compact control box allows drivers to operate the sensors, switching between them, adjusting gain and brightness, and changing polarity. The main EIP unit can also have heated internal and external windows and a built-in wash wipe system. This allows drivers to maintain excellent unity vision visibility, which will remain clear even in the coldest of environments.

Based on user feedback, Kent Periscopes supplied a recent development customer with a second EIP system for the vehicle commander, so that they can see what the driver sees. That also means that the commander can select different sensors without affecting what the driver sees.

Sometimes when we tell people that Kent Periscopes produces such advanced vision systems, they are surprised. We must state therefore our commitment to delivering the sighting systems drivers, gunners and commanders all need. Just as drivers need to see at night, gunners need to aim their armament, and commanders need to see out for many kilometres, to see at night, and overlay information onto their screens. As the EIP system shows, we seek to offer products for every possible situation. We also currently supply SABRE gunners’/commanders’ sights. Kent Periscopes has also recently enhanced these, with the SABRE TI using the same thermal sensors as fitted in the latest EIP sensor suite. SABRE sight developments also include a built-in laser rangefinder as an optional extra.

PDPs however, remain very much part of Kent Periscopes’ offering, with drivers often telling us they like to be able to see the world as it is, one to one. They tell us that the full digital alternative many people might expect, just viewing things on a screen while they sit in the metal box that is their AFV, can give them motion sickness.

Nevertheless, PDPs have gone through significant changes in recent times as in-service units have a problem with obsolete image intensified tubes (IITs). These PDPs need to be swapped in different situations, and when unused not only need storage space, they often get damaged by crew treading on them, for example. As legacy PDPs, IITs have become obsolete, there are no like-for-like replacement parts. As part of Kent Periscopes’ spares and repairs strategy, we are going through a programme in the UK and overseas where we are replacing the obsolete components with alternatives that are readily available. We can continuously support these components throughout the life of the AFV. Kent Periscopes also offers the ability to change components in legacy systems to offer more capability, such as thermal and low light cameras. A new enhanced drivers vision system (EDVS), based on the PDP, has recently been developed for an overseas customer that encompasses this improved capability.

 

Once again, Kent Periscopes sought user opinions and responded accordingly. If you have similar requirements, talk to us about your AFV sighting systems needs.

Kent Periscopes Limited

6 Ffordd Richard Davies, St. Asaph Business Park,

Denbighshire LL17 0LJ

T: +44 (0)1745 584480 

E: enquiries@kentperiscopes.co.uk

Part of the Gooch & Housego Group