Electronic Weapons: April 17, 2004


High tech electronic equipment is now, literally, in the hands of the infantry. A recent example is the U.S. Marines buying 31 thermal imaging binoculars from the French firm Thales. Thermal imaging forms a picture based on the heat it detects. Thus it can see through dust storms and fog, and spot warm bodies, and vehicle engines. Previously, only aircraft and tanks could carry the bulky thermal imaging equipment. But in the past few years, new technology has made it possible to build three pound thermal imaging rifle scopes, or, the thermal binoculars the marines are using. The "Sophie" thermal imaging binoculars are not only heavy (5.3 pounds), but expensive ($56,000 each). Battery life is three hours (with rechargeable batteries) and they are fragile (mean time between failure is 2500 hours.) But Sophie works. The binoculars can detect large vehicles up to 9,000 meters away (and individuals at about half that distance.) In a place like Iraq or Afghanistan, you can keep an eye on a large area, as enemy troops cannot hide the heat their bodies produce. Afghanistan has a lot of fog and mist that normally hides a lot of activity, and in Iraq you have frequent dust storms. Over 30 nations have bought a total of nearly 4,000 Sophie binoculars for their troops and police. Commandos are particularly fond of this device.




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