Elbit Systems Says It Will Use Harris Night Vision Technology to Enhance F-35 HMDS

The F-35 Helmet Mounted Display System is manufactured by a partnership between Elbit Systems of America and Rockwell Collins. Photo courtesy of Elbit Systems of America.

Elbit Systems of America will use cutting-edge image amplification technology, acquired through its purchase of Roanoke,Va.-based Harris Night Vision, to develop new capabilities for the F-35 Helmet Mounted Display System, the company said Sept. 16.

“We are working with our partners, Rockwell Collins, to enhance the capabilities of the HMDS,” said Ranaan Horowitz, president and CEO of Elbit Systems of America, on a press call announcing the Harris Night Vision acquisition. Elbit was testing several technologies for improved night vision for the high-tech helmet, he added, including the image amplification tubes made at the Harris production facility in Roanoke. “We are open to other technologies. We will choose the one that offers the best capabilities for the warfighter,” Horowitz added, “But we have great hopes” for the Harris technology.

The HMDS currently has two night vision cameras: one mounted on the helmet and the other on the aircraft itself. “We want to bring that night vision capability to the most advanced level possible” with newly emerging technologies like those developed by Harris, Horowitz said. He added the company hopes to offer the new capabilities to F-35 customers in “a couple, three years,” following extensive testing, including in-flight trials.

Harris Night Vision became Elbit Systems of America Night Vision on Sept. 16, said Elbit Vice President Erik Fox, previously the general manager of Harris Night Vision.

“We have been there for 60 years,” he said of the facility in Roanoke, “Our 500-plus employees”—60 percent of whom work directly on production—“are eager to start this new chapter in our story.”

Horowitz said Elbit will leave the existing management team in charge of the new business unit. “Erik has a very strong executive team, very respected by their customers,” he said, “My focus is on keeping them happy.”

The $350 million acquisition was one of a series that Elbit is engaged in, Horowitz added, explaining that Harris had been required by the US government—as a condition of its merger with L3 Technologies—to divest its night vision business.

“There are only two companies in the US that make this technology and L3 was the other one,” he said, adding that the sale had been an auction, “limited to select candidates Harris identified several possibilities and vetted them ahead of time with the Department of Justice and DOD, then invited them to submit bids.”