DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Holographic Weapon Sights Grip the U.S. Military Market

9/1/2004
By Roxana Tiron

The U.S. Special Operations Command, Army and Marine Corps are buying holographic weapon sights and shipping them in large quantities to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The only company that makes the scopes currently has strengthened its hold on the market with multi-million dollar contracts for some 77,000 of the sights.

Eotech Inc., based in Ann Arbor, Mich., touts itself as the company that invented, designed and manufactured the first electro-optic sighting system to apply holographic technology to small and medium-sized weapons.

A hologram is a three-dimensional image formed by the interference of light beams.

The Eotech holographic weapon sight projects an illuminated reticle pattern directly on the target. A reticle is a network of fine threads or lines in the focal plane of a scope to help accurate observation.

However, no forward light is projected from the sight; it is just the appearance of light. The laser technology projects an image onto a hardened piece of glass, just as in heads-up displays in fighter jets and helicopters.

Together with Bushnell—a company known to many for its microscopes and binoculars—Eotech released a commercial version of the holographic sights in 1996. The combat version began trickling into the military at the end of 2001, said Patrick Gallagher, Eotech’s government representative.

The company first targeted SOCOM with its technology, said Van Donohue, Eotech’s vice president for marketing. In the past two years, the company has sold 5,500 sights to individual special operations units, which bought the technology with their own funds, said Donohue. A sight can cost between $300 and $350, he said.

Meanwhile, the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane, Ind., awarded Eotech a $16.6 million contract in May for 66,666 enhanced combat optical sights. This capability provides for lightweight, waterproof optical sighting devices for battle at close quarters, as well as out to 600 meters. The work is expected to be completed by 2009.

Eotech is presenting its holographic sights as an alternative to the “red dot” technology, already battle-tested and popular among U.S. troops. The M68 red dot sights are standard issue.

Red dot technology and the company that develops and markets it, Aimpoint AB of Sweden, are entrenched firmly in the market. The company staked its position when it was awarded the first multi-year contract for red dot sights by the U.S. Army in 1997.

The Aimpoint red dot sights are non-magnifying sights with unlimited eye relief, allowing fast target acquisition which speeds recovery in situations where follow-up shots may be necessary, according to the company. Aimpoint sights allow shooters to work in any light condition, from total darkness to full sunlight. They are also night-vision device compatible.

While red dot sights can only be used with small arms, the holographic weapon sights can be installed on machine guns, shoulder-launched and non-lethal weapons.

No matter how the shooter moves the head or eye, the reticle pattern will remain in the same place on the target. The operator can look at the target with both eyes open, while maintaining peripheral vision to potentially engage multiple targets, Gallagher said.

The HWS is compatible with night vision goggles, said Gallagher. The holographic sight functions with conventional AA batteries. It can use lithium, alkaline or rechargeable batteries, said Gallagher.

The HWS can operate at temperatures of minus 40 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. It is waterproof, and even can be used under water, said Gallagher.

The sights can survive drops from as high as 10 feet and have been tested on heavy resonance weaponry, such as the General Dynamics’ tri barrel .50 caliber Gatling gun, said Gallagher.

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