The first tanks in today’s sense were used by the British army during the First World War. Looking back, they made a decisive contribution to the outcome of the war.
A fixed part of every army worldwide, today they are used for a wide variety of tasks. From the outset, however, the effort to ensure that the armour was as complete as possible meant that the crew was only able to see its surroundings to a limited extent.
Even if the sight slits, which can be closed when under fire, are now partly supplemented or replaced by optical and sensory systems, opening the hatch and looking out is still part of everyday life for many tank crews today.
Opening the hatch for orientation and coordination should no longer be necessary in future. For, with the latest HENSOLDT innovation, the soldiers in the tank can virtually see through the armour for the first time – with a 360-degree panoramic view into every corner, day and night.
The threat to tank crews has increased many times in recent years. Improvised explosive devices or drones can lurk anywhere any time and make any opening of the hatch or a viewing slit life-threatening.
This prompted HENSOLDT employees to develop a solution for this problem. At the Eurosatory 2018 trade fair in Paris, we presented a working prototype of the Local Situational Awareness System (LSAS), now renamed to Setas, the see trough armour system, to the public for the first time. The transparent tank is becoming reality.
“The battlefield has changed in recent decades, and many operations now take place in ‘urban canyons’. Threats can arise for the crew and the vehicle from almost any side or angle. It is vital to be able to observe the surroundings in which the crew and their vehicle move.”
SETAS project lead, HENSOLDT
SETAS is a system consisting of several high-resolution HENSOLDT daylight cameras that can be supplemented with thermal imaging modules. The latter also come from the HENSOLDT portfolio. The image data provided by these sensors is merged with extremely little delay and is prepared for output to the user.
Up to six camera modules can be combined in one overall system, each one offering a horizontal field of view of over 90 degrees. Thanks to ample overlaps, the crew can thus see the entire surroundings of their armoured vehicle. However, there is one major challenge here. The high- performance cameras provide extremely high resolution and show the very smallest details. Enormous quantities of data result from this.
As a comparison, a data rate of 15 to 20 megabits per second is sufficient to stream a film in the currently highest available UHD resolution. With SETAS, this amounts to about 20 gigabits per second, which means that the computer has to process an enormous quantity of data originating from the daylight and infrared cameras. But HENSOLDT has also mastered this challenge.
SETAS provides the crew with an all-around view from their vehicle day and night. Persons can be recognised, for example, at a range of 300 metres. Additional sensors which can be integrated, such as those to detect shots or lasers, offer even more security.
And because all external interfaces comply with the new NATO standardization agreement, LSAS can easily communicate with other systems and components, enabling the crew to use their own monitors, tablets or even head-mounted displays.
It is even possible to display external data from the vehicle’s network, such as vehicle data or object / position marks from the battle management system (BMS). This is how augmented reality is produced, which omits no detail.
The final product development is currently in progress at HENSOLDT. First prototypes should already be available by the end of 2019, before series production will start in 2021.