April 12, 2010:
The U.S. Army has bought 25 more day/night video systems for MedEvac (medical evacuation) helicopters. These UH-60 helicopters operate in all weather and at night to transport wounded troops from the battlefield. These SAFIRE II systems (they look like a little turret under the nose of the chopper) cost $500,000 each, and contain day and night cameras, as well as laser designators. The video can be magnified and the system has a range of about twenty kilometers. The army already has 200 MedEvac helicopters equipped with the 43 kg (93 pound) SAFIRE II system (which equips over a thousand other helicopters worldwide).
SAFIRE II uses FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Radar) to see clearly at night. FLIR has been around since the 1980s, and as the heat (infrared) sensing technology became more powerful, it was possible to spot and identify targets at longer ranges. This was accomplished through the development of more sensitive heat sensors, and more powerful computer hardware and software for putting the images together.