This article first appeared in Defense Technology International.
Thales U.K. has been awarded a �150-million ($245-million) supply and in-service support contract for the Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) suite of FIST, the U.K. Defense Ministry's Future Integrated Soldier Technology program.
The STA suite will, Thales says, comprise weapon sights, observation equipment and target-location systems from various suppliers that are designed primarily for close-quarters battle (CQB).
FIST will improve the capabilities of dismounted infantry in all environments, day and night. The program follows a requirements-driven approach to equipping teams of soldiers with an integrated fighting system that can be networked. Other parts of the program include command-and-control software, communication systems, situational awareness devices and body armor. Some 35,000 FIST systems will be deployed with the British Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force.
Thales is a prime contractor. Details of the STA award were disclosed on Sept. 8, during the Defense Systems and Equipment International show in London.
The STA package consists of almost 11,000 suites of equipment. Initial deliveries are planned for November 2010, in time for training infantry units prior to their deployment to Afghanistan in early 2011. Full contract deliveries are due to be completed in June 2014.
The first package includes thermal sights supplied by Qioptiq of the U.K. Thermal imaging systems are reportedly the best choice for Afghanistan, where the level of starlight or ambient light from manmade sources is too low to support image-intensifying systems. Thermal imaging also has benefits in improving the ability to see through camouflage and aiding soldiers in identifying concealed weapons and improvised explosive devices. While concealed manmade objects can be invisible to the naked eye, they stand out in stark contrast against their background on infrared (IR) spectral bands.
In the next five years, Qioptiq is scheduled to deliver more than 4,000 weapon sights, designated FIST Thermal Sight. The sight is equipped with an uncooled thermal core and a 640 X 480-pixel format. It offers an enhanced man-machine interface, integrated IR laser aimer for improved target identification and an integrated red-dot CQB sight.
Qioptiq will additionally convert more than 4,000 Common Weapon Sights from Pilkington Optronics and its own Maxikite2 night-vision sights for operation with the red-dot CQB sight.