BAE Systems and the UK's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency are targeting the end of this year for having what they believe is the world's first flight-cleared, uncooled fast jet Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) ready for production.
Early versions of the new system have been flying for the past two years under the codename of Project Leoni (Low-cost, Electro-Optical Navigation Imaging) in a Hawker Hunter testbed.
The new sensor is 20% of the weight and size, and 25% of the cost of existing FLIRs, says Chris Crendon, BAE Systems' head of airborne targeting sales.
Unlike previous generations its detector head material, lead scandium titanate, does not require cooling. This means that the expensive cryogenic engines used for cooling earlier FLIRs, and which typically wear out after 3-4,000h, are not needed, says Crendon.
Eliminating the cryogenic engines also frees a considerable amount of space, he adds. At present, a FLIR typically requires two line replaceable units, each 610mm long and weighing a total of around 21kg. The new FLIR takes up a fraction of the space and weighs just under 4.5kg.
The newly-available space can be used for additional equipment, such as a digital terrain overlay which can superimpose such information as landscape contours and power pylons on the FLIR picture, or a laser spot designator.
The original research work on the detector technology was undertaken by DERA; BAE 'productionised' it.
Project Leoni is now almost at pre-production stage and BAE Systems hopes its advantages will find a ready market: "As far as I'm aware, there is nobody else who has an uncooled, flight-cleared FLIR for fast jets application," says Crendon.
Source: Flight Daily News