Leonardo DRS wins $579M U.S. Army contract for thermal weapon sights as Lockheed Martin and Ayar Labs collaborate to develop sensory platforms for military, based on optical I/O chips.

Defense technology systems developer Leonardo DRS (“DRS”) has announced a contract to produce its “next-generation” thermal weapon sights for the U.S. Army. The firm-fixed-price contract from the U.S. Army Contracting Command is valued at $579 million over five years.

DRS’s Electro-Optical Infrared Systems business will produce Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I) systems for the U.S. Army customer.

Based on DRS’s uncooled thermal imaging technology, FWS-I is a stand-alone, clip-on weapon sight that connects wirelessly to a soldier’s helmet-mounted vision systems including enhanced night vision goggle binoculars and the integrated visual augmentation system.

The combination provides rapid target acquisition capabilities. It gives users the ability to acquire targets day or night and in smoke or fog, which provides strategic and tactical advantages to the soldier. The contract was originally awarded on April 28, 2022.

Jerry Hathaway, senior VP and general manager of the DRS EOIS business, commented, “We have a long history of supplying the Army with advanced electro-optic and infrared technologies, and this award will help to keep soldiers safe and better ensure their mission is accomplished.”

At the core of the technology is DRS’s experience in the uncooled thermal weapon systems field. The FWS-I employs a proprietary vanadium oxide micro-electromechanical focal plane array that requires no visible light to operate.

The DRS EOIS business is part of the advanced sensing and computing segment, which has an extensive installed base across the U.S. military. Advanced sensing technology is a key strategic focus for Leonardo DRS as the company integrates its sensing and computing technologies for the U.S. armed forces. Production of the FWS-I sights will be in the company’s Electro-Optical Infrared Systems facility Melbourne, Florida.

Lockheed Martin, Ayar Labs partner on future military sensors

Military and aerospace technologies giant Lockheed Martin and Ayar Labs, a developer of chip-to-chip optical connectivity, have announced a strategic collaboration to develop future sensory platforms based on Ayar’s optical I/O microchips. They say that the new platforms could be used across U.S. Department of Defense applications.

Steve Walker, CTO and VP, Engineering & Technology at Lockheed Martin, commented, “New innovative system architectures, coupled with AI and machine learning techniques, are needed for our customers’ mission success. Ayar Labs’ optical interconnect solution provides the necessary technology to process spectral information with greater speed and lower latency for next-generation system designs.”

Lockheed Martin and Ayar are developing multi-chip package solutions, which place high-density, high-efficiency optical I/O chiplets in the same microelectronics package as the RF processing devices. The development and integration of Ayar’s TeraPHY™ optical I/O chiplets and SuperNova™ light source represent a faster, more efficient, and more reliable transfer of data throughout the platform, the company says.

Charles Wuischpard, CEO of Ayar Labs, said, “Our advances in interconnect density, latency, reach and power efficiency represent a significant advantage for extreme-edge sensing applications. For example, our optical I/O solution will provide a 5x power reduction and 12x size reduction versus a representative mid-board optical solution.”

The co-authored a paper entitled ‘Converged RF Phased Arrays enabled by Silicon Photonics’ that will be presented at the IEEE International Symposium on Phased Array Systems and Technology, this week in Boston, Ma.