New IR illumination helps soldiers own the night


photo by U.S. Army

Artillery’s cool factor just shot higher than a 155mm Excalibur on steroids.

The Army is fielding three illumination rounds that let soldiers see at night while the enemy remains in the dark. This is because the rounds produce infrared light that is invisible to the eye but visible through NVGs. These rounds also illuminate twice as much area as traditional illumination, according to a press release issued this morning.

The cost of these artillery rounds is at or slightly higher than existing illumination rounds. Better still, the infrared technology has been honed down for use in 40mm weapons such as the M203 and M320. Mortars have had this technology since 2002, when the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal developed the world’s first IR illuminating munitions.

ARDEC now adds to that family these rounds:

  • The M1064 105mm Infrared Illuminating Cartridge. It can use infrared light or visible light without firing adjustments. The Army has 8,300 on hand, plans to procure 5,500 more by October and will buy an additional 3,000 rounds every other year, according to the release.
  • The M1066 155mm Infrared Illuminating Projectile. It provides approximately 120 seconds of IR illumination with a faint visible signature in the air. Like the M1064, it can omit infrared or visible light. The Army bought 7,000 rounds in fiscal 2010, and plans to buy 4,000 every other year. The Marine Corps will buy 8,000 rounds in fiscal 2011 and 4,000 every other year.
  • The M992 40mm Infrared Illuminant Cartridge. It provides an illumination/signaling capability via an infrared candle. The Army has about 90,000 on hand and plans to buy roughly 22,000 this year. The round costs about 50 percent more than visible light cartridges, but the cost gap is expected to decrease as the number purchased increases.

About Author

A Navy brat who spent eight years in the Marines (two years aboard the carrier Independence). Worked in journalism in Eastern North Carolina through the latter part of the 90s, then became editor of Air Force Times in 2000. Stayed there five years, then took a break to finish some school. Now back in the game with Navy Times.

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