L-3 Offers Miniature Infrared Camera

A division of L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. has developed a small infrared camera for drones, sniper rifles and ground vehicles.

L-3 Cincinnati Electronics, part of New York-based L-3, said its NightWarrior 640 is among the smallest, high-resolution, mid-wave infrared cooled cameras. About the size of a baseball, the device weighs less than a pound and offers far more imaging power than its predecessor, officials said.

The company unveiled the camera in a news release on April 29 to coincide with the start of a conference in Baltimore, Md., organized by the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers. Officials want to get word out about a new technology that they said is cheaper and more advanced than existing designs, and thus well-suited for an era of declining defense budgets.

“If you need to do more with less, you have to go to these,” said Stephen Schmidt, a business development manager with the company.

L-3 in 2012 had $13.1 billion in revenue, which was flat from the year-ago period, according to its annual report. About $1.7 billion, or 13 percent, of that came from infrared-related products, according to Don Gill, director of business development.

The device succeeds the NightConqueror 640 and takes advantage of new materials in so-called focal plane array technology that don’t need to be cooled as much to deliver high-quality images, the officials said. The result is a miniature camera that can capture thermal images anywhere from three to 15 kilometers, depending on the type of lens used, they said.

The product, which sells for slightly more than $20,000, is designed for a range of weapons with sensitive size, weight and power requirements, including unmanned systems such as the Aerosonde and ScanEagle, sniper rifles, binoculars, even combat vehicles such as blast-resistant trucks and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Gill said.

The company spent about $6 million developing the technology, he said. The process, which normally takes three to five years, took less than a year — possibly the fastest time ever for a unit product, he said.

“We’re pretty excited,” Gill said. “We’ve made a serious investment.”

Despite concern that automatic budget cuts will threaten spending on defense hardware, L-3 expects the market for such components to increase tenfold over the next five years, to about 4,000 units a year in 2017, up from about 400 units a year today, Gill said.

In a downturn, the thinking in the military goes, “you typically upgrade what you got instead of buying new,” he said.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • USS ENTERPRISE
  • T=)

    kool

    • Heyplooha

      man, I know what be happening homebiscuit. kool to the k-max

  • BlackOwl18E

    I want one.

    • queen

      You is to poor!

    • tee

      I just tried to post and was instantly deleted , Hmmm

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Yeah, just copy your comment, in case that happens.

    • tee

      I was at ISC in Vegas, and there were many venders pushing their IR Imaging Solutions. One was a 320X240 DPI 4 power unit for $3600.00, their 640X480 Unit varied in price from $6,800-9000.00. They were 5″ by 3.5″ , Let see if this one passes the censors?

      • Heyplooha

        I ain’t been to some odd Vegas, but I been to Las Vegas. Like Las to the Veegggas, homey. I also got that 5″ by 3.5″ by 5828373′ tv, plasma style getty up!

    • Heyplooha

      TO BAD! I GOTS ME ONE, AND I BE ABOUT TO LAUNCH THAT INTO…….(continue this story)

  • Restore Palestine

    Really crappy image. But for only 6 million on R&D, can’t expect much. Why not commercialize it and sell to amateurs / wannabe defense enthusiasts. Price it under $100.

    • William_C1

      Crappy image? I wouldn’t be surprised if the image quality is better than the 1st generation thermal sights fielded on the M1 Abrams, M60A3, and M2/M3 Bradley back in the ’80s. Being able to fit that sort of thing into a system able to be fitted to a sniper rifle is quite an accomplishment.

    • oblatt1

      That has already been done the challenge that L3 has met is how to package it for the military and charge a 900% premium

    • Lol

      Nice try, Restore Palestine

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      This isn’t a toy we are talking about here. Also, who is to say that this is an actual picture.

      • queen

        I agree one hundred percent, but I really like toys!

    • juan

      There was never a Palestine. Just a dream dude.

      • blight_

        Back to Ottoman rule and olive farming!

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          Bring back the horses.

    • queen

      really? bro do you even INFARED

    • jumper297

      $100 for a high-res, cryo-cooled IR engine? Even at $20k it’s priced well below it’s competition at less than half the size. But of course… I live in reality. Oh.. and that false color image is NOT from an L-3 imager… but again, reality.

    • Heyplooha

      Man, you are be wrong fo’ that, homey

    • wpnexp

      OK moron, how far away was the helicopter in the image, before you start talking about resolution. If the image was made from seventy miles it would be an incredible image, but since you have no idea, your just talking out of your ass as usual.

  • USS ENTERPRISE

    Are they compatible with the F-35? (Saves us money).

    • Heyplooha

      Maen nah man, I don’t know about no 35-F.

  • Lance

    All cool but for the price YEOW!!!!

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Development cost.

    • Joey_C83

      the CLU for the javelin was about $150,000

      • Heyplooha

        Javelin, like the carrrrrrrr?

  • queen

    Maybe it can find all the blood rushing to my………..

    • mr immature

      penis

      • mr immature

        balls

        • mr immature

          testacles

          • mr immature

            scrotum

          • mr immature

            crotch

          • mr immature

            bootay

    • Heyplooha

      You be queening? Eh bro, sing me the world is on fire yesterday featuring chinese cracker (fortune cookie) and 75 cent taken?

  • Hoopla

    Sweet It glows in the dark I want a miniature one for a nightllight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Hoopla

      Because you know I’m afraid of the dark.

      • Heyplooha

        I am afraid of daylight. Is that normal.

  • blight_

    Waiting for the day an IR/NV camera can be combined with a heads-up display like Google Glass.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Well, it can’t be that difficult. Just put a HUD display in front of the IR/NV lenses, and there you go. Its a little more condensed, but that all there really is to it.

      • blight_

        It’s a form factor question (glasses) rather than a technical one. HUD overlays will be along shortly. It won’t be long before scopes come with an overlay that uses rangefinders to guess the optimal aimpoint, and infer windspeed from sensors to compensate for drift. There are already systems like it, but they’re not compact…yet.

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          Its only a matter of time. Where is Apple at?

          • Heyplooha

            Like a Granny Smith?

        • tee

          Bushnell makes them now

  • majr0d

    The An-PVS20 has light intensification and thermal tech with the ability to push info for a heads up display into the optic.

    Minus the thermal capability the AN-PVS21 has the same capability.

    Neither is as small as and wearable as Google Glass.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Well its, a step forward. But once again, not there yet. Though, I would imagine, it won’t be too long.

  • blight_

    Oh, how the Vietnam War would’ve been different with good IR cameras.

    Well, not really. They’d just hide out in Laos.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      The heat out there would’ve made the entire battle field light up. /sarc

    • Heyplooha

      You know, my dear sir, my British folklore people be telling me about their language, English. They beee sayin that blight be meaning rundown and di-la-pid-ated you know be happening?

  • CDR Juan Hander

    Gouging. Go for high volume and low(er) margin. No need to recoup your R&D costs on the first 500 units.

  • SFP

    Really crappy image. But for only 6 million on R&D, can’t expect much. Why not commercialize it and sell to amateurs / wannabe defense enthusiasts. Price it under $100.