The Rapid Equipping Force (REF) of the United States Army has purchased wearable sniper detector systems from QinetiQ Systems for soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Deployment of the SWATS Soldier-Wearable Acoustic Targeting Systems will begin immediately and should be complete later in 2009. QinetiQ will also provide training and field support for these new systems.
The SWATS systems are part of a larger Ears Gunshot Localization product family and are designed to operate either as wearable systems attached to a soldier’s shoulder or in fixed locations (including inside moving vehicles). The core SWATS system is 3 inches by 3 inches by 0.75 inches and weighs a mere 6.4 ounces, a negligible addition to the equipment already carried by field soldiers. It uses less than one watt of power and still weighs less than a pound when directly attached to a power system. Units specifically designed for vehicle mounting come in a larger hemisphere that’s six inches in diameter but still only use one watt of power and weigh less than five pounds.
The system identifies the distance and direction of any shots fired within a tenth of a second. It is able to ignore ambient noise and detects targets at 360 degrees. It can even manage all of this in when mounted on vehicles moving up to 50 miles per hour. Once a bullet is detected, the unit audibly alerts its operator and specifies the direction and distance of the shooter. Visual and digital alerts are also available out of the box. If selected, digital alerts use a standard XML format compatible with many other military systems.
Prior to this new purchase, QinetiQ worked closely with the army to field test SWATS both in stateside demonstrations and in actual theater of battle. These tests resulted in several adjustments and additions to the original system design including more ruggedization and better sensors. The requested improvements have been incorporated into the newly purchased SWATS systems.
There is speculation that some urban police forces are also considering purchase and deployment of Ears wearable anti-sniper systems. Several large urban police forces have already begun deploying larger and heavier anti-sniper systems with some success; the Qinetic systems may be an even better choice for them than their current equipment. Lighter and smaller systems would increase mobility and make for more effective patrolmen.
TFOT has reported on other new military technology including the TRON infrared detection system that helps identify friendly forces, a highly sensitive handheld explosives detector, a portable detector capable of detecting non-volatile explosives such as plastic explosives, and a pen-like device capable of detecting biowarfare agents on the battlefield.
You can read the QinetiQ press release about the purchase here or the Ears product page from QinetiQ subsidiary Planning Systems, Incorporated here. The Ears product data sheet can also be downloaded here (PDF).