Russian Thermal Development and History

(Work in Progress)
This topic is mainly to discuss USSR/Russian development of thermal sight and imported thermal that is in use mainly on their ground vehicle such as MBT, IFV and APC.

Russian Naming Abbreviation

Im just gonna put it here for future references.

PN - Ночной прицел (night sight)Its a GRAU index
TKN - комбинированный прибор наблюдения(Combined Observation Device) sight for commander
TVN - прибор наблюдения (ночной) механика-водителя(Night Sight for Driver)
TPN - ночной танковый прицел (Tank night sight) used by the gunner
TNP - прибор наблюдения призменный(Prismatic Observation Device)
Periscope for all the crew member, sometime A or O is added to note its either emergency or heated.
TPD - танковый прицел-дальномер(rangefinder sight or main sight)

Introduction to Thermal Sight

To understand the specification of the sight and its technology, you first need to know the basic of thermals sight,how it work and how do we know its capability.

IR wave can be separate into 3, SWIR, MWIR, LWIR. Short,medium and long wave IR, each of these can be categorized by its wavelength and we be looking at LWIR and MWIR today which is between 8-14 micron and 5-7 micron. How can these wavelength be detected? It used similar technology like a normal camera which is CMOS Sensor(complementary metal oxide semiconductor) the main different is the wavelength it detect and the material used. CMOS that is compatible with microbolometer IRFPA(IR Focal Plane Array) is the most common thermal imager sensor but there other technology such as QWIP which i will not talk about.

To explain further, microbolometer is the big part of how it work, microbolometer changes it electrical resistance when an IR light in this case 8-14um hit it.To create an image you need a ROIC which turn this electric resistance into an image we can see. Most thermal sight use scanning mirror to substitute for the lack of sensing elements.

roic
(ROIC or Readout Integrated Circuit, the brain of the whole things)

Gen 0,1,2 uses a mechanical scanning method, basically its just mirror that is moving either in the azimuth or elevation very fast to scan the surrounding, these light will hit the sensing element and the resistance will be register to the ROIC to a zero position and the next light coming in will also register to the ROIC on the next position, this process will go on until a full picture is generated for example, the 1PN59 has 50 element arranged horizontally while the vertical resolution is provided by a moving mirror a resolution of 50/64 line.

image
(image above show how the scanning works to generate full image of 576x768 based on 4x288 element unit of a modern catherine FC)

microbolometer are created using material such as PbSe(Lead Selenide) or MCT(Mercury Cadmium Telluride), these material are sought after because of their small bandgap(eV) which i will not explain as it will get too complicated.

Early thermal sensor need to be cooled to make it sensitive enough to detect anything other than itself, this is usually done with liquid nitrogen and take time up to 10 minute to cool down before operational. It usually what made it expensive and bulky. Latter thermal sensor is uncooled as it introduce new vacuum packaging and germanium lenses which are invisible to IR like normal lenses we have to visible light is, but this are the driving cost of why thermal sensor are so expensive.

vacuum

In thermal imagery there something call pixel pitch which just mean the distance between the center of two pixel, larger pixel pitch does mean more sensitivity but does mean less detail picture, think of it such as large pixel, smaller pixel pitch does generally mean it is higher resolution but there a limit to how small it can be due to physical limit.

To measure the sensitivity of a sensor, it usually is done using NETD (Noice Equivalent Temperature Different) it is measure in miliKelvin(mK) and the lower the value the better it is at distinguishing smaller temperature different.

Untitled

GEN 0

I will classify generation 0 thermal as having 1 dimension detecting element, poor resolution and mechanical scanner to output 2D image.

1PN59 - MANUAL 1

1PN59 was the result of research from project Lena in 1975 by Tochpribor Central Design Bureau (now JSC Shvabe) to study the possibility of creating a thermal imaging system, the experimental product of it was tested for 2 years before being able to create the 1PN59 based on Lena FN technology.

image image
(1.Detector 2.Control Unit 3.Switching Unit 4.Monitor Display)
(what appear to be a BTR or BRDM can be seen? in the far distance my guess less than 1000m)

the sight was mounted on vehicle such as PRP-4(1984), the detector itself can pitch up and down,from what i’ve been finding this sight might have different name posobiye-1 and benefit.

Specification
Element Count : 1x50
Element Type : MCT (Mercury Cadmium Telluride)
Element Size : 100x100 micron
Resolution : 50 line at 16hz
Pixel Pitch : 130 micron
Wavelength : 3-5 micron
FOV : (3.3x4.3)/(1.0x1.3)
Magnification : N/A
Target Recognition : 2000m
Tank Recognition : N/A
Power Requirement : 600w
Weight : 80kg
Cooling : Cooled (10 min Readiness)

1PN79 - MANUAL 2

1PN79 is a product of further research and development of thermal sight to find more sensitive element and to have longer detection range. In 1982 based on the project Nevesomost-64 the (Research Institute of PF, GOI and “Sapphire” factory) has mastered using the MCT and changed their spectral range to 8-14 micron. They also developed a new method of interlacing which double the relative output resolution, this was managed using a new ROIC.

image 1pn71

(The detector can be seen, along with 2 Monitor display for gunner and commander, switching unit and the control unit)
(The image output is a simulation i did in ps with similar resolution just to give an idea, the tank is T-72 abit closer of a distance)

the sight was mounted on vehicle such as PRP-4M(1988), both of these sights were produced until 1987 and 1990 respectively. They had few problem during production, some of them being problem with the mirror scanning, production of the mirror it self to ensure it work in the specified wavelength.

Specification
Element Count : 1x64
Element Type : MCT (Mercury Cadmium Telluride)
Element Size : 50x50 micron
Resolution : 128 line interlacing at 33hz
Pixel Pitch : 100 micron
Wavelength : 8-14 micron
FOV : (3.3x4.3)/(1.0x1.3)
Magnification : 3x
Target Recognition : 3000m
Tank Recognition : 2000m?
Power Requirement : N/A
Weight : N/A
Cooling : Cooled (10 min Readiness)

T01-P01 AGAVA 1

Agava thermal sight was developed and made by different company, namely (Kranogorsk Factory named after S.A Zverev) it was based on the same technology of the previous sight. From my source it was based on Lena FN but latter in 1982 they changed the spectral range to LWIR the element remain small at only 50 element but it uses interlacing method to double the resolution. The display output has also change from being more of a vertical to horizontal, the mirror now scan in the azimuth direction.

image image
New Project

(Shows the Thermal sight and the duplicate commander monitor)
(Tried my best in ps to give an idea on how it look, T-72 in the distance.pic upscaled 2x to see better.)

Due to the lack of funding,performance and interest only 17* unit was produced between 1984 - 1986, one or very few T-80B did see use of this sight. The sight was comparable to 1PN59, having the same number of element.

Specification
Element Count : 1x50
Element Type : MCT (Mercury Cadmium Telluride)
Element Size : 100x100? micron
Resolution : 100x50 interlacing at ?hz
Pixel Pitch : 130? micron
Wavelength : 8-12 micron
FOV : (1.3x1.9)
Magnification : N/A
Target Recognition : 2000m
Tank Recognition : N/A
Power Requirement : N/A
Weight : N/A
Cooling : Cooled (5 min Readiness)

GEN 1

Generation 1 i would classify as having 1 Dimensional element matrix but increased count and more advance interlace and scanning technique.

T01-P02 AGAVA 2

This sight would mark a great achievement for the soviet as it were produced in significant number and would classify as a true first generation. The Development started in 1986-87 after lesson learned from Agava 1 as they wanted to increase the resolution and detection range. Kranogorsk the same company offered the MOD to put this sight on serial tank production but they refused saying tanks should be built without these sight and only latter be fitted. The sight were first fitted on a T-80UM in Q3 of 1987.

1523714548_agava2 T-80UM1_015
(Show the sight complexes and duplicate monitor for the commander)

agava-2 sight
(The display output during the swedish trials of T-80U in 1993, noted that the resolution would be higher irl as this was recorded with another camera)

This sight were only mounted on selected T-80U series of tanks. Advanced interpolation and interlacing was used to generate 384x288 resolution, this was done i believe by scanning horizontally 3 time and vertically 2.25 time, the element itself is in the horizontal position.

Specification
Element Count : 1x128
Element Type : MCT (Mercury Cadmium Telluride)
Element Size : 50x50? micron
Resolution : 384x288 interlacing at ?hz
Pixel Pitch : 100? micron
Wavelength : 8-12 micron
FOV : (7.5x12)/(2.5x4)
Magnification : 1.2x,4.5x,(18x digital)
Target Recognition : 3300m?
Tank Recognition : 2300-2600m
Power Requirement : N/A
Weight : 65kg
Cooling : Cooled (5 min Readiness)

T01-P06 NOCTURNE

This sight was developed and produced as a direct successor to Agava 2 and its a bit of weird ones, it featured a widescreen matrix that is usually seen in 3rd generation thermals as it does not use any mechanical scanning method.The sight was produced by a russian company Zenit in early 1990s( cant find specific date). The lack of mechanical scanning gave it an advantage of being impact resistant up to 500G and vibration resistant up to 500hz.

NOCTURNE-07 NOCTURNE-08_tm
(the sighting complex and commander duplicate monitor)
(noted that the small rectangle on the screen represent the narrow fov, so it would not be confusing when switching between modes)
Strichbild-Thermal-Nocturne_001
(I honestly have no idea what it is, it seem like it has 7 roadwheels which indicate its not a T series tank)

This sight was mounted on some T-72 and T-80UM tanks in little numbers. As said, the side use a widescreen matrix element of 512x256, in essence it should bolster a very good resolution and picture clarity but i believed it has big pixel pitch.

Specification
Element Count : 512x256 element
Element Type : MCT (Mercury Cadmium Telluride)
Element Size : N/A
Resolution : 512x256 interlacing at ?hz
Pixel Pitch : N/A
Wavelength : 8-14 micron
FOV : (7×11.2)/(2.1x3.4)
Magnification : 1.2x,4.5x,(18x digital)
Target Recognition : 5000m (claimed 7.8km)
Tank Recognition : 2800m
Power Requirement : 320w
Weight : 55kg
Cooling : Cooled ( < 5 min Readiness)

GEN 2

ESSA / ESSA-72

Essa was a sighting complex developed by the belarusian company JSC Peleng using the catherine FC from France. It was developed i believed in early 2000s and being fielded starting in 2004. This sight marked the first 2nd Gen thermals for the russians. It also has a new feature being linked with the main sight mainly the 1G46 which was common in T-72 and T-90. This meant the data could be fed into the FCS to calculate the shot.

ESSA - 2T-90S_059-A
(Can be seen the sight complex and what it look like in the gunner position)
(The sight consist of switch box,CRT monitor or LCD on newer models (>2007) and the sight itself)
rsz_fepvft4xkaa8urwrsz_fepvfdvxkae07eb
(newer LCD monitor view inside of T-90A vs 1G46 sight)

This sight was mounted on T-90A and T-90S.

ESSA-72

Essa-72 was a further development of Essa, it featured a Ballistic Computer of its own or FCS which made the gunner being able to fire using the sight. It was made to be put inside a T-72 instead of T-90.
est-li-nedostatki-u-modernizirovannogo-belorusskogo-tanka-t-72bme-6kuox25v-1634597461.t
(View of the gunner position inside of T-72BME)

Specification
Element Count : :754x576 element
Element Type : MCT (Mercury Cadmium Telluride)
Element Size : N/A
Resolution :754x576 at 50hz or (625 line)
Pixel Pitch : <25 micron
Wavelength : 8-12 micron
FOV : (6.75×9)/(2.35x3)/(1.12x1.5)
Magnification : 3x,12x,24x
Target Recognition : 11km
Tank Recognition : 4000m(4.5km for - 72 model)
Power Requirement : 150w
Weight : N/A
Cooling : Cooled ( 7-11 min Readiness)

PLISSA

Not much is known about the development of these sight and when it was fielded. My best guesses around the same time as Essa as it was developed of T-80 series tank replacing the age old Agava-2
with modern 2nd Gen Thermals. Specification wise it exactly the same as Essa using the Catherine FC.

PLisa.PNG En5CVnyW8AAhoMS_50
(Inside gunner compartment, the monitor is essentially the same as the old CRT monitor used for Essa, there ones for the commander too)

Plisa was fitted to T-80UE-1,T-80U and T-80BV. Mind you not all T-80 received Plisa some never did some received the 1PN96MT.

Specification
Element Count : :754x576 element
Element Type : MCT (Mercury Cadmium Telluride)
Element Size : N/A
Resolution :754x576 at 50hz or (625 line)
Pixel Pitch : <25 micron
Wavelength : 8-12 micron
FOV : (6.75×9)/(2.35x3)/(1.12x1.5)
Magnification : 3x,12x,24x
Target Recognition : 11km
Tank Recognition : 4000m
Power Requirement : 150w
Weight : N/A
Cooling : Cooled ( 7-11 min Readiness)

GEN 3

to be written

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And the Russians still get gen 3 thermals. Jokes aside, pretty cool thread