Army to boost Soldier optics through $4.5M dual-band imager awards

By Daniel Smoot, Office of Army Prize Competitions and Army Applied SBIR ProgramApril 25, 2023

Even with the Army’s advanced optics, extended-range imaging equipment weighs on Soldiers’ ability to maintain effectiveness in mission environments. (DVIDS) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON – Even with the Army’s advanced optics, extended-range imaging equipment weighs on Soldiers’ ability to maintain operational effectiveness in mission environments.

The Army Applied Small Business Innovation Research Program seeks small businesses to develop extended-range detectors that enhance Soldiers’ situational awareness beyond the current capabilities of complex optical filtering schemes. These solutions aim to better see and assess threats with advanced equipment that can detect across a variety of operating conditions.

“Current dismounted sensor configurations necessitate separate imaging devices for Soldiers to achieve specific mission objectives,” said Dr. Matt Willis, director of Army Prize Competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program. “Equipping Soldiers with dual-band imagers could reduce this equipment load and enhance their threat-detection capabilities.”

For the project, the Army will assess features such as size, weight and power — as well as the ability to provide simultaneous, high-quality short-wave and mid-wave infrared imaging.

An opportunity for nontraditional businesses

Following the Army Applied SBIR Program’s assessment and selection of small businesses, the Army streamlines Phase I and Phase II contracting processes under one centralized office, the Army SBIR Contracting Center of Excellence, or CCoE. This helps the Army respond to evolving needs while also rapidly funding nontraditional businesses developing technologies across the Army enterprise.

“We are tracking challenges directly voiced by our Army customers and transition partners with this dual-band detector solicitation,” Dr. Willis said. “With the responsive and fast execution of these Army SBIR contracts, the Soldiers will have access to the most innovative Army solutions for continued dominance across any operating environment.”

Contract awards over $4.5 million

Through the solicitation, up to three companies will receive Army SBIR Phase I contract awards of up to $250,000 each to develop the new dual-band imager technology.

Over the expected three-month period of performance, Phase I awardees will gain critical access to Soldier touchpoints that provide developmental and evaluation-based feedback on solutions in practical settings.

Furthermore, up to two of these small businesses have the potential to secure a Phase II contract, which will award up to $1.9 million over an anticipated 18-month period of performance for further research and development, as well as prototyping.

The solicitation enters pre-release on April 25 and runs through May 17. Qualified small businesses can submit proposals between May 18 and June 13, with submissions closing at noon Eastern Time. Applicants must submit full proposal packages through the Defense SBIR|STTR Innovation Portal.

The Army Applied SBIR Program awards Phase I contracts to small businesses and nontraditional vendors with solutions that offer technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential. It awards Phase II contracts to those that can address Army needs and gain further federal support. Direct to Phase II awards are for technologies already mature and ready for demonstration.

Small businesses can engage with technical, acquisition and operational subject-matter experts. These specialists offer information about the Army’s technological needs and guidance from the Army research and development ecosystem.

Companies capitalize on this by collaborating with technical points of contact that serve as resources for businesses as they mature their technologies for eventual insertion into Army acquisition programs.

The Army Applied SBIR Program releases contract opportunities on an ad hoc basis to respond to the current and anticipated warfighting technology needs. For eligibility information and a list of open topics, please visit

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology leverages technologies and capabilities to provide U.S. Soldiers a decisive advantage in any environment by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world’s finest equipment and services. For more information, visit and follow @ArmyASAALT.