Machbet - Eagle-Eye Optronic FCS and its implementation in War Thunder

Introduction

I would like to talk about the Eagle-Eye optronic fire control system found on the Machbet and how to improve the one present on the vehicle in War Thunder.

First I would like to go over the official information I managed to collect regarding the Machbet and the Eagle-Eye FCS from the manufacturer’s website, IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) and the IAF (Israeli Air Force).
I will also provide information regarding the optronic sight, made by Rafael Industries.
Then I will present an article from the magazine “Air Force Journal” no. 210 of June 1996 and its translation in English.
Lastly I will draw the conclusion from all the material presented in this thread in order to improve the Machbet in game.

The Machbet Platfrom

This what the IAI website says regarding the Machbet SPAA system.

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IAI website, 28/06/2008
Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd (IAI) Systems Missiles MBT Missiles Air Defense VSHORAD Super Vulcan


Machbet brochure from the mid 2000s
https://web.archive.org/web/20141212202242/http://www.iai.co.il/Sip_Storage/FILES/1/35261.pdf

Here also is the information taken from the IAF (Israeli Air Force) website regarding the Machbet.

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IAF website, 13/01/2012
אתר חיל-האוויר

The Eagle-Eye Fire Control System

This is what the IAI website says regarding the Eagle-Eye fire control system and its MK2 variant.

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IAI website, 04/03/2001
IAI Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd.




IAI website, 28/06/2013
Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) - Business

As the 2001 page shows, the Eagle-Eye MK2 shares the same characteristics of the MK1, only with the added feature of being a stad-alone turret system. Therefore the data provided by the MK2 pages is useful to understand the MK1 a bit more.

Eye MK II turret is an improved version with same battery control capacity and’ in addition its own firepower of 4 missiles.

The Optronic Sight “Stalker”

Cooperation between industries in Israel is not an uncommon event.
Rafael Industries provided IAI with one of their optronic systems, namely the “Stalker” FLIR and CCD sensor. This system is recognisable by the photos portraying it without its typical “pipe” housing.
The official Machbet brochure, already presented in one of the previous sections, also shows this sight together with the more common “pipe” one.

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The Rafael website provides a good amount of details, specifically that it has a high resolution day and night image acquisition, target location from 80m to 20km and automatic tracking of targets.

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Rafael website, 15/10/1997
Platforms & Launchers Directorate - Stalker

The specific details regarding FoV, zoom and sight generation come from a brother/cousin product of Rafael, called TOPAZ. The TOPAZ system was marketed for UAV, helicopters, boats and many other platforms, including land and army vehicles. This denotes the flexibility of the system.
The following image provides the details for the TOPAZ system.
The important details:

  • Spectrum bandwidth Long wave (LWIR)
  • NFOV: 1.7° x 1.3°
  • MFOV: 5.1° x 3.9°
  • WFOV: 24° x 18°
  • Sterling integral minicooler
  • Zoom optics 1:10
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Rafael website, 02/12/1998
RAFAEL Products

The fact of sharing the same sensor between these two platforms continued in the early 2000s and even to this day with the introduction of the Stalker 2 system, which incorporates the modernised version of the TOPAZ, colled Toplite.

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Rafael website, 12/04/2003
Stalker II Surveillance System

“Air Force Journal”: Testing Of The Machbet System

Now that the available official information has been presented, I will propose a series of paragraphs taken from an article regarding the first test of the Machbet system back in 1996.
The article comes from the magazine “Air Force Journal” no. 210 of June 1996 (דן פישל, ‏חבטת פתיחה, בטאון חיל האוויר 210, יוני 1996).
Source: http://files.iaflibrary.org.il/DigitalLibrary/BITEONIM/210.pdf#page=53
The translation has been kindly provided by @ofekk213 , whom I thank for the help.

(Original)Spoiler




(Translation) Spoiler

OPENING STROKE
11 PM at night, somewhere in the southern Negev. The radar screen is being filled with
aircraft, and the next minutes are spent by the fighting team on locking and launching
(FIM-92) Stinger missiles on two (AH-1) Cobras, an F-16 flying at great height, and a
(C-130) Hercules aircraft stumbling upon this remote place. The event: first night training of
the Machbet prototype, the future weapon of AA.
Night. The eyes of Lieutenant Yoav don’t move for a moment from the radar display screen.
Been a few minutes as he’s tracking a few targets approaching from the south, at great
speed. After a short while, it is possible to distinguish flickering lights from afar. The night
vision system discovered two (AH-1) Cobra helicopters, at 9 o’clock, above the ridgeline.
“ACTIVATE”, screams Lieutenant Yoav in the communications device, and a loud and shrill
buzz reverberates across the desert. There’s a lock. In the battlefield at the southern Negev,
in the heart of the wilderness, a distance of half an hour’s drive in an APC from the main
road, was located the prototype of the Machbet, for a first-of-a-kind night training. 4
heat-seeking (FIM-92) Stinger missiles, a 20mm cannon that fires at 100 rounds per second,
and an advanced night vision system turn the Machbet APC, the future tool of the AA array,
into the most lethal fighting vehicle that will enter service with the mobile AA unit. We
returned to the Machbet two months after it first came out of MABAT (IAI division) factories,
and joined the evaluation experiments that are being held for the Machbet by a selected
team of 8 AA fighters and two officers, from all the self-propelled weapon systems. Tonight,
will be held the first night-training of the Machbet against helicopters. Inside a valley,
camouflaged well in fabric sheets, the soldiers deployed the Machbet and the tactical radar,
which would later display the radar image. With the help of the GPS installed in the Machbet,
the soldiers will get an updated radar image of their exact location in the field. Captin
Tzvikka, the Machbet project officer and commander of the training, accompanying the
development of the Machbet in the last two years, is briefing us for the stay in the field. “We
are in a dangerous area, in proximity to a minefield. The whole area is littered with dropped
munitions from training of the IDF/AF here, so for your own good…”, he says and points to
remains of a training bomb painted in blue, “don’t pick up anything”. 10 dummy cannons are
positioned on the ground 50 meters from our location, where every once in a while, at
training, the cannons are bombarded by combat helicopters and combat aircraft of the
IDF/AF. Tonight, (AH-1) Cobra helicopters will attempt to attack those targets and other
targets in the area, without being hit by the Machbet’s fire. Will they succeed? Lieutenant
Yoav, commander of the firing unit, is convinced they will not. “Only tonight we successfully
‘shot down’ two (AH-64) Apache helicopters in a simulated firing of (FIM-92) Stinger
missiles”, he says. “They were not aware of our location, and the surprise was absolute.
Agility and camouflage are the name of the game, if you are well-hidden, no helicopter will
detect you, and if you act quickly, the shootdown will be certain”. 5 PM before evening. The
sun begins to set, and the soldiers pull out the control unit of the Machbet, a sort of small
suitcase with a monitor, a joystick, and a keyboard, and deploy it about 20 meters.
Lieutenant Yoav presses a button, and the radar image immediately appears on the small
monitor: three circles, one inside the other, which indicate the range from the targets up to
32km, and several triangles moving across them slowly, and indicate the aircraft currently
found in the air. The Machbet is now operating in combat training mode, which is why all of
the aircraft in the sky are marked as “predator”, ie, enemy aircraft. In normal conditions, the
same aircraft will be marked as “friendly”, and appear as circles on the radar display.
Lieutenant Yoav puts on a headset with a small microphone attached to it, and begins to give
instructions to Sergeant Amnon Gabriel, the gunner-operator, which is sat on the turret of the
Machbet. In a short while Gabriel will be needed to traverse the turret, lock the target and
pull the trigger, but he does not seem bothered by it. The Vulcan cannon is empty of shells,
and the (FIM-92) Stinger missiles are only training missiles. “In this configuration, the
Machbet is as dangerous as a toy”, he says, “but when this thing is armed, I’m not jealous of
the pilot that will pass above it”. 6 PM in the evening, what began in a mesmerizing sunset
ends in complete darkness, and the adrenaline begins to rise. Helicopters need to pass by
here at any moment, unaware of the trap laid to them by the Machbet. This is the big hour of
the Machbet’s night vision system, which is based on the FLIR principle. The system allows
for the gunner-operator and the commander to see through it at night the same as day, and
receive a clear image of humans, buildings and vehicles on the ground, and aircraft in the
sky. With a press of a button, Lieutenant Yoav receives the received image from the night
vision system of the Machbet on the control unit monitor. In an additional press, he combines
the radar display in the same screen and thus turns it into the operational configuration of
the screen. 6:15 PM, final preparations. Captin Tzvika aims the northern part of the Machbet
according to a disc for star recognition, so the turret will turn towards the correct azimuth at
launch. “You see this star?” he turns to us and points to one of the hundreds of stars in the
sky, “this is Venus”. Despite this star looking completely the same as the ones around it, no
one of the soldiers dares to debate him. “It’s not worth it to them”, he explains, “I’ve already
earned a few cola cans from bets like this”. This idyll is cut by Lieutenant Yoav. A target was
detected at 9 o’clock, above the ridgeline. “Receive allocation”, he screams in the
communications device to the gunner-operator, which sits in the Machbet’s turret. Lieutenant
Yoav marks the target on the screen with the small stick of the control unit. Sergeant Gabriel
presses now on the left pedal in the fighting compartment, and the Machbet’s turret
automatically moves towards the target, at once and at incredible speed. “Lower the
barrels”, commands Lieutenant Yoav, and Sergeant Amnon traverses the turret up and
down, and begins to search in his night optics for the target in the air. “Medium field”, calls in
the communications device Lieutenant Yoav, and Sergeant Gabriel changes the night vision
system from wide FoV to medium FoV, closer to the target. On the control unit screen
appear two black stains, which move towards us at rapid speed. “Narrow field” calls
Lieutenant Yoav, and the two unidentified stains are revealed all of a sudden as two (AH-1)
Cobra helicopters, still at a great distance from us. “ACTIVATE”, instructs Lieutenant Yoel to
Sergeant Gabriel, and a (FIM-92) Stinger missile acquires a lock on one of the helicopters, in
a loud and sharp beeping, which startles the silence the prevailed here just a few seconds
ago. Another circle which appears on the radar display screen, shows that the target is in
hitting range. The Machbet’s turret now begins automatically tracking the helicopter using the
seeker of the missile, which locks the heat of the helicopter. The turret begins to move slowly
on its axis, matching the helicopter’s flight path. In a few more seconds, when the target is
close enough, the missile will be launched. At the moment when the finger of Sergeant
Gabriel is ready to pull the trigger, the (AH-1) Cobras go down below the ridgeline, and
disappear from the line of sight. “Do DEACTIVATE”, calls in the communications device
Lieutenant Yoav, “Turn off the slaving”. The long and strident beeping is stopped.
Disappointment. “This is a deployment in harsh conditions, very much not optimal for the
Machbet”, explains Captin Tzvika. “The Nature and Parks authority prevents from us
climbing with the Machbet on the hills in this area, so the APC’s tracks won’t damage the
surface. If we were in a linear field, without mountains, the (AH-1) Cobras wouldn’t have a
chance to disappear from our sights”. The (AH-1) Cobras continue to appear on the radar
display, and Lieutenant Yoav continues to track them. All the eyes are now turning to look
beyond the ridges, and the fighters are waiting for the moment the (AH-1) Cobras will rise
from them. The (AH-1) Cobras appear all of a sudden between the ridges, and disappear
again, and cause everyone’s heart to beat. 5 minutes later, the (AH-1) Cobras are found
again, above the mountains, on their way east. “ACTIVATE”, calls again Lieutenant Yoav,
“ready”. Sergeant Gabriel raises the arming switch, and when he hears “fire!”, he pulls the
trigger. The Machbet’s turret moves quickly to the side, to the approximate location where
the helicopter will be when the missile hits it, shaking at the simulated launch, returns back
to its original location, and proceeds to automatically follow the second helicopter. A few
seconds later another missile was fired towards the second (AH-1) Cobra. One of the
soldiers fires a firework to the air, and paints the desert around us in a yellow-red-ish color
tone. The firework is meant to signify to the helicopters that they are being fired at from an
AA unit. “The rules of the game determine, that if a pilot detects the firework fired at him from
the ground, he has to fire flares or drop chaff, or break eye contact and disappear in 5
seconds”, explains Lieutenant Yoav. “If he could not succeed in performing one of those
actions in 5 seconds, we shot him down”. But the Machbet fighters had no reason to
celebrate just yet, on the control unit screen the far (AH-1) Cobras were seen as they
released flares against heat-seeking missiles, like the (FIM-92) Stinger, at a (fast) rate. The
tracking was long and nerve-racking, but no shootdown yet. One hour later the cold became
too overwhelming. Lieutenant Yoav and Captin Tzvika collected the control unit and installed
it in the Machbet APC. When the Machbet is on the move, the co-gunner-operator looks at
the screen of the control unit, and the firing unit commander gets out of the APC and
maintains eye contact with the environment. If there is an encounter with enemy forces he is
the first that needs to know, and he is the one that needs to navigate the APC in the field.
Sergeant Gabriel, the gunner-operator, is being replaced now with Corporal Illiya Plachek,
23 years old, a Russian newcomer. Corporal Plachek is one of the 8 fighters selected for the
evaluation experiments being held in these days for the Machbet. The point of the
experiments is to check if the Machbet matches the requirements of the soldiers on the field,
and if it matches its specified operational requirements and system characterization. After
the experiments end, the results will be passed to IAI, and they will be applied in the process
of serial production. After that, the soldiers will be re-positioned as instructors in the anti-air
school, and will guide the first soldiers that will operate the Machber, when it will be
operational. Sergeant Amnon Gabriel, Sergeant Arye Dak, Sergeant Moses Lichenshtein,
and Sergeant Li’or Mimon, came from the (M163 VADS) Vulcan regiments. Sergeant Yaniv
Hershkovitz, and Corporal Illiya Plachek came from the (MIM-72) Chapparals, and Sergeant
Hanan Yosef and Sergeant Hayeem Harush, came from the (FIM-92) Stinger array. Every
fighter group had a “specialization” area of its own: the (M163 VADS) Vulcan fighters are
familiar with the APC and cannon of the Machbet, which are identical to those of the (M163
VADS) Vulcan, the (MIM-72) Chaparral fighters have a similar control unit to the one of the
Machbet, and the (FIM-92) Stinger fighters are familiar with the operation of the missile.
“When I first entered the fighting compartment of the Machbet I experienced a cultural
shock”, tells Sergeant Hayeem Harush, from the stinger array. “After I served in Gaza and
opened passages in Lebanon as a (FIM-92) Stinger fighter, I’ve arrived at something I almost
didn’t recognize. The (FIM-92) Stinger missile is a simple and mobile shoulder missle, and it
can be launched in 5 simple operating steps. The ‘fighting compartment’ was until now over
my shoulder, and in the Machbet I was required to work on a complex job with the machine
and with sticks and with pedals that control the fighting compartment. For a week and a half,
I went through a conversion course for the (M163 VADS) Vulcan, on which the Machbet is
based upon. This course, in normal conditions, goes for a month and a few days, and the
studies were very difficult. After a short while I went through another course with the rest of
the soldiers about the device panel and the control unit of the Machbet, and we began the
series of experiments”. “The Machbet still does not have a combat doctrine”, says Illiya
Plachek, (MIM-72) Chaparral fighter, “and our job is to formulate this fighting tool and its
training. For me the comfort in the fighting compartment is important, and these days we
evaluate every system of the Machbet from an ease-of-use perspective. As a (MIM-72)
Chaparral fighter, the Machbet was not completely new to me. The allocation, target
aquieration, tracking, and control unit, are very similar to the ones of the (MIM-72) Chaparral.
I did not know the Stinger pod, the camera with the far zoom, and the technical systems of
the Machbet. (they) Did here a hybridization of all SPAA weapons, and we got a real beast”.
“The conclusions and decisions we get as part of the evaluation tests we pass to high
command, which come to us and listen to everything we have to say”, tells Sergeant Hanan
Yosef, a (FIM-92) Stinger soldier. “A simple soldier on the field doesn’t receive such
treatment and opportunity. We decided, for example, that the gunner chair needed to be
raised by 10cm, and several switches in the fighting compartment needed to be moved to a
more comfortable and convenient location, and the offers were received. We also found a
few ‘bugs’ in the computer software of the Machbet, that the programmers did not discover.
For the good of the gunner-operators with glasses that will operate the Machbet in the future,
we decided to improve the optic, through which the camera display and night vision system
are received, so it would be possible to be used even without glasses. 11 PM at night. The
radar screen again is filled (with) aircraft, and everyone looks up at the sky. The radar might
allow full coverage of aircraft and helicopters that fly at low heights, but the soldiers, who are
used to detecting targets with their eyes only, have a hard time getting used to (it).
Lieutenant Yoav detects on the radar screen that one of the targets is approaching towards
us, and everyone prepares. Corporal Plachek, at the fighting compartment, already stands
with a finger on the trigger. “As a gunner-operator, I have to keep on high alert all the time”,
he says, “and to know blindly where every button and switch is located on the control panel.
The specialty here is very important because you mustn’t, you just mustn’t, let your eyes go
off the optic even for one moment”. The target is already very close, but flies low, and no one
can see it across the hills. Obscure rotor noise is being heard from the south, and (it is)
increasing quickly from moment to moment. The radar screen shows now (that) the target is
already here, near us, and all of a sudden everyone is rubbing their eyes in disbelief: in front
of us, in a natural size, a few meters above the ground surface, hovers a (CH-53) Yasur.
Lieutenant Yoav is rubbing his hands in an undisguised pleasure. The (CH-53) Yasur is very
close, and at such a range he decides to open fire on it from the Vulcan turret. “Cannon” he
calls, “ready, fire!”. The six barrels of the cannon spin quickly and sound a loud, metallic
rattling noise. If we were firing real rounds right now, we’d tear him out of shape”, says
Lieutenant Yoav in great satisfaction. “We talk here about a fire rate of a hundred rounds per
second, which explode in contact with the target. Every shell has a similar explosive weight
to 2/3 of a hand grenade, and if you do a quick calculation you will realize, that in one
second I threw on that helicopter 60 grenades. (it’s) Scary to think what this does”. The next
minutes are spent by the fighter team locking and launching (FIM-92) Stingers on two
additional (AH-1) Cobras, An F-16 flying at a great height, and a (C-130) Hercules which
stumbled upon this remote location at such a late night time. At midnight, the fighters remove
the camouflage cover from the Machbet and the radar, and drive them to the encampment, a
distance of 2km from the deployment area. Tomorrow morning all of the soldiers are
gathering for a conclusion talk and a weekly review. This week, for the first time, the
Machbet’s capability to operate at night was tested, and it seems like everyone is happy. All
(of) the improvement offers are written, and will be checked later with greater focus and
detail. In the afternoon, the Machbet is raised on a tank carrier, which drives it to the anti-air
school, for an additional training session. After the evaluation experiments are concluded it
will be returned to the IAI factories and its serial production will begin, but Captin Tsvika, of
whom much of his service was spent in IAI’s factories developing the Machbet, won’t be in
service when the Machbet batteries will be operational. “Next week I am going to sign on for
half a year of additional career service. At that time I want to finish the experiments, prepare
results, and make sure (they) will find a replacement for me. After that, I will get out of the
military with a full heart. If (they) will need me, I will always come to help.”

In this next passage I am going to quote the parts of the article which present new information and details to better understand this FCS and its features.

Spoiler
    1. […] an advanced night vision system
    1. […] and the soldiers pull out the control unit of the Machbet, a sort of small suitcase with a monitor, a joystick, and a keyboard, and deploy it about 20 meters.
    1. […] and the radar image immediately appears on the small monitor: three circles, one inside the other, which indicate the range from the targets up to 32km
    1. This is the big hour of the Machbet’s night vision system, which is based on the FLIR principle. The system allows for the gunner-operator and the commander to see through it at night the same as day, and receive a clear image of humans, buildings and vehicles on the ground, and aircraft in the sky.
    1. With a press of a button, Lieutenant Yoav receives the received image from the night vision system of the Machbet on the control unit monitor. In an additional press, he combines the radar display in the same screen and thus turns it into the operational configuration of the screen.
    1. “Medium field”, calls in the communications device Lieutenant Yoav, and Sergeant Gabriel changes the night vision system from wide FoV to medium FoV, closer to the target. On the control unit screen appear two black stains, which move towards us at rapid speed. “Narrow field” calls Lieutenant Yoav, and the two unidentified stains are revealed all of a sudden as two (AH-1) Cobra helicopters, still at a great distance from us.
    1. Stinger missile acquires a lock on one of the helicopters, in a loud and sharp beeping […] Another circle which appears on the radar display screen, shows that the target is in hitting range. The Machbet’s turret now begins automatically tracking the helicopter using the seeker of the missile, which locks the heat of the helicopter. The turret begins to move slowly on its axis, matching the helicopter’s flight path. In a few more seconds, when the target is close enough, the missile will be launched.
    1. Lieutenant Yoav and Captin Tzvika collected the control unit and installed it in the Machbet APC.
    1. As a (MIM-72) Chaparral fighter, the Machbet was not completely new to me. The allocation, target aquieration, tracking, and control unit, are very similar to the ones of the (MIM-72) Chaparral. I did not know the Stinger pod, the camera with the far zoom, and the technical systems of the Machbet.

Much of the information introduced here by the testimony of first-hand experience operators confirms what had already been presented by the documentation from the websites of the official manufacturesrs.

The event recorded on page 51 (quotes no. 6 and 7) is an optimal source to understand the range of target location and acquisition and subsequent engagement.
I created a chart to visually represent what took place during that part of the test.

Spoiler

Conclusions

After having examined all the sources available, I have come to the following conclusions as to what should be changed to the in-game Machbet:

  • Model name of the FCS should be changed to “Eagle-Eye FCS”
  • Type of tracking should be changed to TV tracking
  • The “gunner optics” model should be moved to the big “pipe” sight on the right of the turret (opposite side of the Stinger launcher)
  • Two magnification levels should be implemented: 1x and 10x
  • Two levels of FoV should be implemented: wide FoV with 24° (for target location) and medium FoV with 5.1° (for target identification and engagement)
  • The generation of the thermal sight should be increased to at least Gen 2 (stirling cooled FLIR sensor)
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After taking a close look at some of the images of the Machbet, I found a small but interesting detail.

The Machbet FLIR camera is equipped with a blank plug, which seems to be made of either black plastic or rubber. It is secured to the sight assembly with a thin line, to recover it in case it should fall off.

Spoiler

blank plug

Also during normal operation, the blank plug is attached and held in place by strips of velcro, as you can see in this image.

Spoiler

This keeps the plug from moving even at steep elevation.

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machbet8

Just a tiny fix, ביטאון (read as: bita unn) translates to “Journal”. So the angllicized name should be “Air Force Journal”. The word ביטאון itself is a very high-class word, so Journal is usually translating to Hebrew as כתב עט (read as: Khtav et, literral translation: pen written) or just being called ‘Magazine’ in Hebrew.

Town in Hebrew is עיר (read as: eer).

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Fixed, thank you for the tip and the translation!

Thre report is online: Gaijin.net // Issues

Although it does not seem to be going anywhere. If anyone has relevant information and wants to add it, it would be welcome.