Origins of the Holographic Weapon Sight
In the late 50's ERIM researchers invented synthetic radar (SAR) to vastly improve imaging radar. Today, SAR is the primary sensor used by the US DoD to detect targets in darkness or under cloud cover. The basic concept of SAR is to record the reflected microwave field by beating it with a reference wave as the observation plane flies by the target scene-synthetically building a large radar aperture and thus increasing the image resolution. The ERIM researchers realized that the physics behind the synthetic aperture radar is identical to the holography concept published by Dennis Gabor in the late 1950's which won the Nobel prize.
Holography is an optical process of wavefront reconstruction of a 3 dimensional object by recording the interfering patterns of light. In the early 60's the availability of a coherent, stable light source in the form of a helium-neon gas laser allowed the principles of the SAR technology to be applied to the creation and fabrication of a hologram. Leith and Upatnieks used the laser to reconstruct a waveform of a 3 dimensional object and astounded the world.
Two events made the development of a compact holographic gun sight commercially feasible: the advent of low cost and compact solid state visible laser diodes (in the early 90's) and the development of production technology for fighter aircraft holographic head up displays.
The original product concept for the holographic sight began in the late 1970's under research contracts by the US Air Force and Army for use on the helicopter gunships and anti-aircraft batteries. These prototypes were too bulky for use on small arms platforms and the component costs were too prohibitive to enter into any rationale production.
In the early 80's, the perfection and implementation of holographic heads up displays in advance fighter aircraft was proved feasible and successfully deployed. These HUDs were very high quality, reflection holograms and were used for target acquisition, gauge reading, weapon system verification, etc. and ultimately improved the effectiveness of the fighter pilot. Further, the 90's have seen large and sustained volumes of laser pointers and other optical reading devices, which utilize visible diodes and the component costs plummeted.
In 1995, ERIM formed a subsidiary, EOTech, Inc., to re-assess the potential for the holographic sighting technology. EOTech miniaturized the sophisticated sighting system into a compact and rugged package for use on small arms. The first generation holographic sight was successfully launched into the commercial market in January 1996. In January 2000, the second generation Holosight was released into the consumer market