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US: DoD awards nearly $250 million in contracts for pilot laser eye protection

The U.S. Department of Defense on September 28 2018 announced two contracts, each worth $98.3 million, for the development, manufacture and delivery of visors and other devices to protect pilots from blinding lasers.

The contracts went to Gentex and to Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, and will be completed by September 2024.

Earlier, on August 10 2018, DoD announced a $49 million contract for the Flash and Laser Airborne Protection System, which provides for research, development and manufacturing of photonic resistant material to protect air crews from flash blindness. Photonic shielding is used on high-value military aircraft such as Air Force One, but is not in widespread use.

The contract went to UES Inc. of Dayton Ohio, and will be completed by November 2024.

According to an October 1 UPI story, "the Pentagon started moving on improved eye protection for pilots after the Chinese military reportedly used lasers against pilots from a base in Djibouti, as well as in the South China Sea."

From UPI (Oct 1 story about Gentex and Teledyne) and UPI (Aug 13 story about UES)

US: Air Force wants 38,000 more laser eye protection glasses and visors

The U.S. Air Force on May 2 2018 issued a revised draft request for proposal (RFP), for 38,000 laser eye protection glasses and visors for aircrews.

While the original draft RFP was published for comments on March 27 2018, the revised request takes on additional urgency after the Pentagon on May 3 2018 accused China of aiming lasers at aircraft flying from a U.S. airbase in Djibouti. According to the Pentagon, two pilots had minor, short-term injuries as a result. The next day, China denied using lasers against aircraft in Dijibouti, calling them “groundless accusations.”

The current provider of the Air Force’s laser protection is Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, which was awarded a $30.1 million contract in July 2016 for 11.805 Aircrew Laser Eye Protection (ALEP) Block 2 glasses. The May 2 2018 RFP is for Block 3 glasses and visors. and will provide protection both during the day and at night from laser light.

The RFP’s Requirements Matrix does not specify the exact wavelengths to be blocked. It does say that the night version must have at least 50% visibility (Photopic Luminous Transmittance) and at least 14% for day versions. The document also states:

The ALEP Block 3 will not impair visual performance to the extent that it interferes with safety of flight or mission completion. The device will be visually compatible with the following devices/activities:
  • All USAF aircraft
  • Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS); Night Vision Goggles (NVG); Panoramic Night Vision Goggles (PNVG), Helmet Mounted Integrated Targeting (HMIT/HoBiT), and fielded/post- Milestone B visors and aircrew chemical warfare masks
  • Canopies/windscreens, HUD, and color cockpit displays
  • Detection, recognition, identification, and tracking of targets
  • Ability to distinguish terrain colors and geographical features
  • Cockpit interior lighting, external aircraft lights, and airfield lights
  • Ability to read charts, maps, and other printed materials in the cockpit
  • Ability to perform normal aircraft duties in cockpit

From Jane’s 360 and the Air Force Aircrew Laser Eye Protection Block 3 IDIQ Draft RFP. When navigating the FRP webpage, note that there is the Original Synopsis dated March 27 2018 and the “Changed” version dated May 2 2018. There may be subsequent versions as well. The Statement of Work and the Requirements Matrix are the primary documents in the RFP.