Optical Components for Military & Defence Equipment8th May 2022
Several all-important necessities are considered when providing optics for high-spec military and defence applications. Here at Knight Optical, we’ve been working with these discerning industries for over 30 years and understand the critical distinguishing features demanded from these integral components to facilitate optimum performance. In this three-part blog, we examine some of the equipment required by today’s armed forces and uncover the optics integrated into their designs.
When specifying any component for military use, the standard is of utmost importance, and several characteristics give an optic a sought-after high-quality ranking. Namely, for army- and navy-specific optical components, these factors include elements such as durability – for example, resistance to shock and rapid movements like vibration and temperature – as well as precision and longevity.
As well as the prominent large-scale weaponry, vehicles, small arms and other light weapons, there is a whole host of additional behind-the-scenes gear required by today’s armed forces that use optical components.
This equipment includes:
It’s not the first component of a military operation that springs to mind, but lighting is imperative for military airbases and barracks and naval bases. Several manufacturers worldwide supply top-of-the-range, bespoke lighting solutions for land, air, and sea applications, such as navigation and refuelling lighting for aircraft and headlights on vehicle fleets such as tanks and headlamps for on-foot combat.
Due to their renowned energy-saving and cost-effective attributes, many lighting solutions rely on LED technology. They are more economical and boast other benefits, such as a clearer vision for soldiers who need to see what’s in front of them and reliability for vehicles that previously used short-lived incandescent lightbulbs. What’s more, ultraviolet (UV) lighting applications, such as torches or ‘flashlights’, are used in the military and law enforcement industries to detect counterfeit documents, identify blood, and help find hidden explosives.
Here at Knight Optical, we work with a wide range of LED lighting manufacturers from multiple sectors – supplying components like Light Pipe Homogenizing Rods for UV LED lighting applications to Colour Glass Filters for more entertainment-based applications.
Numerous technological innovations have come to the aid of combat medics over the years, and, of course, robotics have made their debut. Undertaking tasks that previously were a matter of life or death, autonomy has stepped in to help emergency first aid missions proceed with faster responses, resulting in a higher chance of survival on the battlefield. For example, Milrem Robotics’ autonomous vehicles can transport a wounded individual on a stretcher three times faster than two soldiers manually carrying a patient1. Instead, the THeMIS Combat Support unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) can transport three wounded people at any one time1, meaning military medics can apply their much-needed expertise elsewhere.
As well as autonomy, there’s medical technology to thank for newfound life-saving methods. Many of these behind-the-scenes medicines and treatments are investigated, prototyped, and tested in research centres and laboratory environments, using various apparatus, such as microscopes and high-tech imaging systems. Without these optics-based systems, military medical technology wouldn’t be where it is today. Demonstrating the vital importance of medical research is a product called StatBond, a portable, syringe-based solution that treats uncontrolled bleeding from noncompressible areas of the body. As described on the US Army’s website: “A hemostatic gel formulation, StatBond flows into wounds and seals against fluid loss, thereby allowing the natural blood-clotting cascade to happen against the surface of the gel2.”
Of course, both robotic and medical research sectors make full use of high-precision optical components in their operation. To find out more about our work and the typical optics employed in these divisions, click here.
Navy Diving Equipment
We’ve covered unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) coming to the army’s aid; however, comparable assistance is also required for navies worldwide. In these instances, unmanned water vehicles (UUVs) fit the bill with their deep-diving capabilities, improved operation time benefits and, significantly, safety advantages. These UUVs are employed for mission-specific purposes, such as mine hunting and retrieving and delivering intelligence. While these underwater vehicles have come on leaps and bounds since their implementation for navy use, there are challenges still being overcome in their operation. One such issue is GPS signal performance when submerged under ice. General Dynamics partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to combat this issue by developing ‘Macrura’, a Bluefin-21 UUV model with an integrated acoustic communication system deployed under a 6ft-thick sheet of ice3.
Domes, Windows, and Lenses are just some of the optics we regularly supply for underwater devices. To find out more about optical component use, substrates, and custom-made and readily available optics in this field, please click here.
Tactical Helmet Cameras
Designed to withstand the harshest environments, tactical helmet cameras are utilised by the military to capture high-quality footage in the most challenging circumstances. Far from your mere video recorder, these instruments need to survive actions such as parachuting from aircraft, off-roading through desert-like conditions and being able to identify enemies in the dead of night. Companies such as MOHOC offer cameras in visible and IR models, which enable soldiers to live stream videos and process real-time data in day or night-time conditions.
With a comprehensive portfolio of both visible and IR optical components, the team at Knight Optical are accustomed to working on classified, high-specification camera projects for a range of military organisations. Whether it’s a custom-made batch of Germanium Lenses or a one-off Sapphire Window, our optics meet the most stringent requirements. In fact, we work to MIL-SPEC standards to ensure our optics are satisfactory for discerning military specifiers. Find out more about our quality process here.
Like IR tactical helmet cameras, night vision goggles (NVGs) must enable a clear line of sight for the end-user in challenging situations. Not only must these devices provide soldiers with a clear sightline of what’s in front of them, but they must also be light in weight and easy to use for swift action. Many troops are training with high-tech versions of these goggles to foster further optimal vision. For example, the US Army’s NVGs use augmented reality (AR). Imaging from these goggles appears in a game-like manner with soldiers and objects outlined in a glowing white light4. Meanwhile, over in the UK, Thermoteknix was awarded a supply contract in 2021 by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for its clip-on IR thermal imagers intended for attachment to NVGs. As well as thermal imaging benefits, the thermal imager, named the ClipIR XD Thermal Clip-on system, is also equipped with ultra-low latency AR technology, providing end-users with situational awareness and intensified identification of threats.
With a wide-ranging catalogue of IR optical components available in custom-made and stock options, Knight Optical understands that material matters when specifying for applications such as NVGs and other thermal imaging devices. That’s why we offer our optics in a range of optimal substrates such as Germanium, Silicon and Zinc Selenide, for example.
Our work with militaries spans over 30 years, and we continue to work closely with manufacturers and procurement specialists on ground-breaking technology that helps enhance the performance and safety of troops. We’ve witnessed pioneering concepts over the past three decades and eagerly await what the 30 years of innovations will deliver.
Why Choose Knight Optical for your Application?
Discerning customers rely on Knight Optical not only for the premium quality of our output and in-house state-of-the-art Metrology Laboratory and QA Department’s capabilities but because – as well as a range of Stock Optics (available for next-day dispatch) – we also offer our optics as Custom-Made Components.
Last year, we celebrated 30 years in business. With over three decades’ experience under our belt and a whole host of long-standing world-renowned customers on our books, we are proud to have worked on some of the most ground-breaking innovations.
If you are looking for premium-quality, bespoke optical components, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Technical Sales Team today.
Europe, UK, Asia & RoW:
+44 (0)1622 859444
USA & Canada: