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Why Situational Awareness (SA) Is A Problem for Armored Vehicle (AV) Crews, & What You Can Do About It


3 mins


Opgal staff writers

published published

August 15, 2017




In its simplest form, the principle behind situational awareness is knowing what is going on around you. Limited SA due to poor visibility has always been an issue for AV crews because of the nature of armor. The need for more protection means less and smaller windows, which almost completely shields the crew from critical knowledge of what is happening outside the vehicle.

Inadequate situational awareness has been identified as one of the primary factors in accidents attributed to human error. Because of this, SA is especially important in mission environments where the information flow can be high and fast, compromising the ability to effectively function as a soldier, where poor decision making may lead to serious consequences.


Situational awareness is not about technologies themselves, but about the capabilities they provide to the user. The interaction between the operator and the system needs to be carefully considered during the design process, in order to reduce a crew members cognitive load. Another important factor is finding the right balance between the amount of information the systems will provide, and which information is useful for the combatant in a high stress situation.


Currently, the primary method of managing potential threats or direct attacks for many fleets is through reactive response protocols, but this is a dangerous approach that puts valuable assets at unnecessary risk. SA protection systems with thermal channels can offer up to 360° of long range and local situational awareness capabilities, that give crews crucial information long before they physically encounter a potential threat. This means that they can increase lethality and survivability, while increasing on and off-road mobility.


Until now, most solution providers have taken a 2D approach to designing SA protection systems. This approach is outdated and lacking in crucial information. Today, with advanced 3D design software, system providers can customize views, coverage, dead zones, and horizontal and vertical fields of view (HFOV & VFOV). While building the model, engineers can take elements like height of the vehicle, slope of the surfaces, and tilt and placement of the cameras into account, to provide the best viewing experience possible with the fewest cameras.

While the standard 360° AV retrofit package usually includes six or more camera installations around the vehicle, there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing the system orientation. In many cases, the same 360° coverage can be achieved with as much as 30% less cameras at 30% less cost. For example, four units can potentially achieve full 360° coverage in place of six units on an armored personnel carrier (APC) or tank.

There is widespread agreement now across the defense industry that 24/7, 360° visibility has become a critical asset for AV crews. While they may all seem similar at first glance, (a matrix of rugged stabilized cameras that provide 360° day visibility and thermal night vision) there are key differences between system providers, based on performance and systems design, that can have real consequences or benefits on the battlefield.