Electronic Weapons: January 16, 2005


New developments in manufacturing technology for infrared (heat sensing) equipment have made it possible to produce a new generation of lighter, cheaper and more powerful thermal imaging devices.  Infantry now have infrared devices that can see through sand storms, and larger devices, used in armored vehicles or standalone for guarding bases, have  longer ranges. These new infrared scopes and radars (FLIR) make bases more secure, and troops more effective when operating at night, or in the middle of sand storms. For thousands of years, Iraqis could use sand storms as cover to sneak up on victims. No longer. Thousands of the new devices are already in Iraq, and more are on the way. The lightweight, uncooled, devices have a shorter range and show less detail, but they can be mounted on rifles or used as hand held night vision equipment. Larger devices give high definition, almost TV like, views of what is out in the night, or behind blowing sand. American troops have been using various night vision devices since the 1960s, but in the last decade lighter, cheaper and more reliable equipment has reached the point where even infantry carry them as standard equipment. Smaller, more powerful computers make the new devices easier to use and more flexible. Software can be used, for example, to detect a moving object, and alert operators of infrared cameras being used to guard a base. Troops traveling in vehicles at night can also use the new cameras to spot roadside bombs.


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