12 July 2017
Electro-optical and infrared sensors (EO/IR) have been in service with European navies for many years. Newer systems combine better sensors with primary tracking and fire control on small ships. But the US Navy was late getting into the market (aside from submarine systems), and only ramped up buys after September 11, 2001. The market for systems for smaller ships and boats was initially cornered by FLIR Systems, Inc. (FSI), and these systems are treated in a separate report (see FLIR Systems, Inc. Naval EO/IR Sensors – also updated this month).
But EO/IR sensors are needed to fill an important gap in naval surveillance coverage, especially for larger ships. Situations such as the attack on the USS Cole demand a shorter-range, nimbler sensor system than the AN/SPY-1 AEGIS radar. Most new ship programs have EO/IR sensor requirements, even if systems have not yet been procured.
For larger ships, Kollmorgen’s Mk 46 Optical Sight System (OSS) had been the US Navy and Coast Guard’s early system of choice, primarily for AEGIS ships (also for Japan and South Korea). The Mk 46 has now been replaced for many applications by Kollmorgen’s Mk 20Electro-Optical Sensor System (EOSS). Parallel to FSI, Kollmorgen (now L-3 KEO) has so far largely cornered the market for EO/IR systems for bigger US Navy ships.
But despite L-3 KEO and FSI’s lock on the market so far, our forecast for Future Naval Ship EO/IR Sensor Systems is speculative and not tied to one manufacturer (L-3 KEO), at least beyond the next couple of years. There are no definite long-term production contracts in place today. In July 2015, the US Navy awarded L-3 KEO the final contract option from a sole-source contract awarded to Kollmorgen in 2011, to provide the Mk 20 Mod 0 EOSS for the Ticonderoga Cruiser Modernization Program.
In January 2017, L-3 KEO announced the successful completion of initial integration and performance testing of its new Mk 20 Mod 1 EOSS. The improved Mk 20 Mod 1 is currently planned to be installed aboard US Navy cruisers and destroyers (DDG-51 Flight III and upgraded Flight I) and US Coast Guard Cutters, but the company-funded Mod 1 design is not locked in for long-term production, in part because the Navy does not have definite EO/IR replacement funding in place.