Technological superiority over an enemy is a sure way to gain an advantage in war. Whether that advantage is capitalized upon to bring victory is another matter.

The Eastern Romans (Byzantines) had the Greek fire — an early form of napalm — that they used to great effect for centuries in repelling the invading hordes from the east and north. The Europeans had the Maxim gun that they used to devasting effect in conquering Africa. And the list goes on.

The U.S. military might be the most technologically advanced force on the planet, but the competition isn’t far behind. Perpetual vigilance in upholding this advantage, regardless of the branch or platform, is key. And when it comes to the equipment used by close-combat troops — arguably the ones who win or lose wars — then that vigilance must be that much higher.

Recently, the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team (SL CFT), which aims to improve the lethality of close-combat troops, tested a prototype of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). The testing included both conventional and Special Operations units. The Microsoft-designed product is looking to ensure tactical superiority over current and future adversaries.

The finished product is expected to be operational by the fall of 2021. It will include a number of revolutionizing features to include:

  • A see-through digital display (colored) that will provide warfighters with important information (for example, air assets in the area, friendly units’ status, enemy squirters, etc.) without them taking their eyes off the battlefield.
  • Thermal and low-light sensors that would enable warfighters to fight in low-visibility or darkness conditions without night-vision-goggles (NVGs).
  • Rapid target acquisition and target identification.

Despite the promising developments coming from the IVAS front, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) continues to search for vision-enhancing opportunities that would improve the lethality of its operators.

In the coming February, SOCOM is going to host a Technical Experimentation (TE) event at Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida. The aim of the TE is to explore emerging technologies and industry progress in the Night Vision Electro-Optics (NVEO) field. More specifically, the event will focus on True Color Night Vision and Fused Imagery Sensors, True Color Night Vision for the, Tactical Video System (TVS), Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target Acquisition (RSTA) and Technical Surveillance Equipment (TSE).

“When terms like ‘situational awareness’ get thrown around time after time, it’s easy to lose sight of what it really means,” said Major Brad Winn, the CFT’s lead action officer for IVAS. “In this case, one of the greatest capabilities of IVAS is Aided Target Recognition, a feature that gives users the ability to quickly identify anything or anyone in sight, which means they can tell the difference between a threat and a civilian non-combatant.”