Target Acquisition Systems

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Overview


As with other electro-optical systems, Israel is a global leader in the manufacturing and deployment of advanced Target Acquisition Systems (TAS). TAS are used by special and conventional forces for forward observation, reconnaissance, target interdiction, and laser designation for ground, airborne or maritime platforms.

 

History


1985-2000

The history of modern TAS in the IDF began in the mid 1980's, when RAFAEL introduced MTIS (known as "Midron Adom"), a long-range thermal observation device with ground breaking capabilities for its time. Midron Adom was a major leap forward from the U.S. made AN/TAS-4 and its successor the AN/TAS-6 used by the IDF at the time and was issued exclusively to SF units.

Another key milestone in late 1980's was the introduction of the Azimuth Atals, a stabilized tripod that served as a mounting platform for a variety interchangeable devices. The first generation of the Atlas allowed for mounting of two devices, with the most common configuration being either a daytime observation device (typically a high-powered 15X80 binoculars) or a nighttime observation device, coupled with a laser range finder. Over the years Azimuth introduced new generations of the Atlas, with support of up to three devices as well as additional modules such as GPS, compass, and radios. The latest generation of the system features a tactical computer which is linked to the various mounted devices and modules to quickly provide highly accurate firing solution.

Throughout the 1990's Israeli defense industries introduced a wide-range of TAS devices. Most of these devices included a thermal imaging sensor, which was designed mainly for nighttime deployment, and were relatively bulky and heavy. Additional modules which are required to provide target acquisition such as daytime observation devices, laser designators, laser range finders, compasses and GPS, were not integrated into the primary device and had to be carried separately, adding additional weight and logistical challenges such as higher risk of failure and relying of various power sources. The heavy weight and large form factor of these TAS also required heavy-duty tripod which could handle and stabilize the payload, adding further weight to be carried by the team.

2000-Today

The evolvement of technology enabled a dramatic leap forward in TAS capabilities with modern devices now offer compact all-in-one design featuring daytime and nighttime capabilities, with fully integrated built-in GPS, compass, laser range finder modules. The Elbit Opal (IDF nickname "Yuval"), which was introduced in 2000, offered both day and night capabilities and bridged the gap between the first generation systems, and the current all-in-one generation.

Today, modern TAS include most of the following modules:

  • Day channel

  • Night channel (primarily thermal)

  • GPS

  • Laser rangefinder

  • Compass

  • Interfaces to other systems and optional modules, including to radios for transmitting video and data feeds

  • Laser pointer (usually an optional clip-on module)

  • Laser designator (in long-range systems)

In 2008 Elbit introduced a new family of TAS, which is currently gradually entering service with the IDF, replacing a wide variety of systems and modules from different manufacturers, and bringing long due TAS standardization to the IDF and forming the its TAS backbone for years to come. This new family of TAS comprises of several models, which are all highly compact, lightweight, fully integrated target acquisition solutions:

  • Mars (known as Armon, short range system)

  • Coral (known as Amit, medium range system)

  • Lotus CR (know as Matan, long range system)

In the future, high-end long-range systems, like the Matan, which feature integrated laser designators, will likely cause a more limited usage of stand-alone laser designators, since a single integrated system could be carried instead of a TAS and a laser designator.

Another major change in the IDF in regards to TAS, is its issuing policy. While in the past TAS were issued almost exclusively to SF and specialized forward observation units, in recent years TAS issue was significantly expanded to include conventional infantry units. In addition, while in the past snipers were issued with basic laser range finders, today they are now often issued with TAS, which increase their effective range, nighttime and low-visibility capabilities, as well as first-hit ratio.

 

Manufactures


Over the years the IDF has bought TAS from a variety of Israeli and American makers. However, from the mid-1980's the focus have shifted almost exclusively to Israeli defense contractors, primarily RAFAEL, El-Op, ITL and Azimuth. In recent years, Elbit has acquired El-Op, ITL and Azimuth, forming the largest electro-optics company in Israel and one of the largest of its kind in the world. Elbit is now the primary and almost exclusive provider of TAS to the IDF, and with the recent introduction of Armon, Amit and Matan, it will likely stay so for years to come.

In addition to Elbit, there are several other electro-optical Israeli companies such as IAI, RAFAEL, ESC Baz and Controp which focuses on stationary observation systems for border protection and on stabilized mounted payloads for ground, airborne and maritime platforms, rather then on man portable TAS. In recent years Israeli manufactures, such as IAI and New Noga Light, have introduced new man portable TAS systems. However, with Elbit family of Armon, Amit and Matan becoming the IDF standard issue TAS, the likelihood of the IDF adopting other systems in the near future is probably low.

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