24. October 2013
The AUSA 2013 Annual Meeting and Exposition gathered warfighters from across the U.S. armed forces and the many manufacturers who supply them, forming a maze of aircraft, vehicles, missiles, turrets, scopes, and other defense equipment in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Many of the products on display focused on weight, power consumption, and optical applications such as lasers or fiber optics. The armed forces are continually pushing to reduce weight and lighten the logistical footprints of vehicles and other equipment, but equally important is power management. As military technology advances, so does power usage, and the ability to control power consumption can make the difference for soldiers who rely on night-vision goggles and laser range finders. Lasers and fiber optics are finding their way into more military applications, from ejection seats to communication systems.
Here are seven ways glass helps soldiers complete their missions, as seen at AUSA.
1. Transparent Armor windows. While protection is a top priority, situational awareness in vehicles must be maintained. RESISTAN transparent armor increases visibility and guards against projectiles with multi-layer glass and glass-ceramic laminates that can withstand extreme temperatures and the most severe environmental conditions.
2. Fiber optic controlled viewing angle faceplate. Pilots flying at night often see their instrumentation reflected in the aircraft canopy, distracting them from their surroundings. Using fiber optics, instrumentation can more precisely display altitude, airspeed, and other indicators by directing the information to the pilot’s eyes while reducing errant light.
3. Turret apertures. Most turrets feature a number of EO/IR subsystems requiring different wavelengths of light — for visual and infrared imaging, and laser designation and range finding, for example. Attendees of AUSA have approached SCHOTT Defense inquiring about new solutions that can cut down on the weight of turrets and eliminate discrepancies in line of sight by using a single aperture that works across all spectrums.
4. Thermal batteries for missiles. A missile traveling at mach 2 needs significant power to stay on course. As such, every missile is limited not just by its propellant, but by its battery. Thermal batteries can be reliably encapsulated over long periods of time with highly corrosive- and chemically-resistant glass-to-metal sealed feedthroughs, ensuring that the batteries are hermetically sealed and that power is conducted efficiently.
5. Free space optical (FSO) communication. Communication is key to mission success, but sometimes fiber optic cables aren’t realistic in an environment, systems can be jammed by the enemy, or soldiers are operating in RF-denied environments. Using a low-power infrared laser, FSO systems communicate covertly using a beam that’s nearly impossible to detect or intercept.
6. Datacom fiber. Missiles, communication systems, and soldier-worn data systems all rely on data fibers to remain operational. The thermal stability, small bending radius, and high strand count of a datacom fiber make it an ideal redundancy in critical systems.
7. Laser range finders. Novel electronic packaging solutions, as well as technologies that reduce effects of humidity and impurities, increase the reliability and performance of laser range finding systems that help soldiers more precisely measure the distance to a target.
As military requirements for weight and power management grow stricter, glass components help lighten loads and trigger battery systems. At the same time, growing use of lasers and fiber optics offer new ways to cut down weight while increasing accuracy and efficiency. And while glass wasn’t always front and center in the defense equipment displayed at AUSA, often it was just behind the scenes, playing a crucial role in getting the mission accomplished.