September 14, 2009:
The British Army has ordered 11,000 thermal rifle sights, which include a red dot reflex aiming system. The red dot is similar to the point-and-shoot viewfinder found in cameras for many years. In the 1970s, it first became popular with hunters and paint ball gun users. The red dot sight was more accurate than iron sights, could be used with both eyes open and was generally more effective at typical combat ranges (under a hundred meters). The sight was particularly effective at night, and in the 1970s, that was its big advantage. But now, thermal imaging (seeing differences in heat) also provides the ultimate night sight capability as well.
For over a decade, thermal imaging equipment was large and bulky and only available in vehicles (M-1 tanks and M-2 Bradleys). But in the last few years, smaller and lighter thermal imagers have come on to the market. The portable thermals began reaching troops three years ago, and now every infantryman wants them.
The British thermal sights will cost about $21,000 each, and will include a laser dot system (which projects a red laser dot on nearby targets) to insure that the first shot takes the enemy down. While expensive, the new generation of sights has been found to make well trained troops even more effective. The 95 infantry companies in the British Army that are getting the new sights, are all composed of intensively trained volunteers, which means the sights will be well worth the high price.