The incident where a Hamas detachment was eliminated on the border fence of the Gaza Strip last Saturday by an IDF tank and an IAF attack helicopter has raised the need for precision optics for tanks. In this case, the IDF surveillance operators had identified the targets and promptly allocated them to the tank crew, which identified them using the tank's own sights. Using those sights, the crew "incriminated" the targets and engaged them.
Each Merkava tank has a gunner's sight and a commander's sight. The gunner's sight, through which the tank fires its gun, is different from the commander's sight, designed to provide the commander with situational awareness. The gunner's sight provides direct imaging, including thermal imaging. These sights operate in the range between 8 and 12 microns to provide the gunner with a clear and uninterrupted image, even when the tank raises dust and produces flashes around itself.
Additionally, the sight includes a laser rangefinder and stabilizing technologies used when the tank is on the move. These technologies provide biaxial stabilization of mirrors, which maintain the gunner's line of sight to the target. The commander's sight enables him to perform a 360-degree scan of the tank's surroundings and assign targets to the gunner.
The next generation of sights, which is currently under development, will include Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based analytics capabilities. The objective is to provide intelligent imaging for a variety of spectral ranges. These systems will also feature the ability to produce an accurate map reference of the target.
According to the commander of the tank platoon from the 82nd Battalion, Lieutenant O., during the incident last Saturday their tank was alerted to a firing position at the border, where the crew identified a detachment of armed terrorists. The ability to positively identify a human target carrying a weapon is essential to the preliminary "incrimination" of the target prior to the kill. Future AI mechanisms will help the commander reach a positive "incrimination" faster. It is not yet known when the next generation sights will be fitted to IDF tanks.