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SCD.USA tailors shortwave infrared options for US armed forces

Date Posted: 04-Feb-2020
Author: Carlo Munoz, Washington, DC
Publication: Jane's International Defence Review

Israel-based infrared sensing and imaging company SCD has been working to tailor its shortwave infrared (SWIR) sensor and imagery offerings to meet standing and future US military requirements, particularly in the areas of persistent surveillance and unmanned applications. “We see more and more a demand for [infrared] applications coming from requirements for persistent surveillance, border security ... counter UAS [unmanned aircraft system] threat detection, and protection, all which require more and more infrared sensors across all platforms” from manportable systems to strategic, air-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, SCD’s vice-president for Marketing & Business development Kobi Zaushnizer said. SCD officials have seen increased demands from the Pentagon for SWIR cameras and sensors to produce high-definition imagery, coupled with “special requirements” such as see-spot capability, which enables ISR operators to see a laser designator marker through a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) or SWIR camera or sensor, Zaushnizer told Jane’s on 23 January. To meet those general requirements, SCD engineers developed the Cardinal 1280. The platform is SCD’s main high-resolution and high-sensitivity offering in the SWIR realm, a company fact sheet said. Equipped with a 10-micrometre indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) SWIR pixel detector, the platform enables electro-optic and infrared (EO/IR) systems to “utilise the SWIR wavelength” to conduct long-range ISR operations under low-light to no-light conditions and under most adverse weather conditions. The Cardinal 1280 “is a very, very sensitive [ISR] detector that enables very unique detection,
recognition, and identification [DRI] at range for airborne applications” at or beyond 100 km under various low-light and low-visibility conditions, producing HD-quality imagery, Zaushnizer said. “The basic [night-vision] capability comes from the basic physics that enable the SWIR, which has a working wavelength of 1.7 microns, to work with the night glow energy – the energy that is integrated into the atmosphere – which is between 1.4 to 2.1 [microns],” he added. Through a combination of the low dark count in the photodiode of the InGaAs detector on the Cardinal 1280’s SWIR sensor, and significant reductions in flow noise, company officials were able to develop a SWIR sensor and detector platform with double the light sensitivity compared with other InGaAs-based platforms currently on the market, Zaushnizer claimed. Company engineers built an enabling laser see-spot capability into the platform’s focal plane array, a key operational requirement for US armed forces’ ISR operations and programmes, he added.

As a result, the Cardinal 1280 “has been selected and integrated into at least three US [Department of Defense] programmes”, he said. He declined to comment on which specific US armed forces’ programmes the Cardinal 1280 has been integrated into. But Zaushnizer did note the system has been included as a subsystem aboard US rotary-wing and unmanned fixed-wing aircraft as well as into an EO/IR sensor package for airborne and maritime operations. Aside from the Cardinal 1280, SCD engineers have also transitioned a five-micron pitch, highoperating temperature (HOT) Mid-Wave Infrared (MWIR) sensor and detector platform into fullrate production, Zaushnizer said. “To go down to ... a five-micron pitch for MWIR, this is kind of a revolution,” he said, noting the smallest pitch for MWIR platforms is typically eight microns, and some prototype versions are as small as six microns. The standard pitch size for most MWIR HOT sensors in use ranges between 12 and 15 microns, according to Zaushnizer. He declined to comment on what level of interest there is from the Pentagon for the new five micron MWIR platform, but did note all work on that system and the Cardinal 1280 platforms
under contract to the US Department of Defense has been conducted by SCD subsidiary Quantum Imaging, based in Colorado Springs. “We provide the sensors and detectors and they do all the electronic testing, integration, and working with end users” in the United States, he added.



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