Defense Media Network

Steiner’s Hybrid Optic Revolution (Sponsored)

Steiner Optik was founded in 1947 for the production of day-optical systems, and for almost 75 years the Steiner brand has been synonymous with quality. The company has pioneered a number of industry firsts over the years and has been continuing to innovate with the concept of Hybrid Optics. Hybrid Optics marry the best features of conventional day optics with the rapid technological advancements available in the digital world, bringing substantial value to their Defense customers worldwide.


Courtesy image Beretta Defense Technologies


Steiner unveiled its first laser rangefinder (LRF) binocular in 2009. In hindsight, this was the first of many hybrid optical systems the company would produce. An LRF binocular consists of a standard optical train optimized for high light transmission, but also includes a pulsed laser emitter, a photodetector to receive the return beam, and a micro-display to project an aiming point and/or text (distance to target, for example). The micro-display is overlaid onto the user’s field of view (FOV) with a beamcombiner, giving him an unobstructed view of the area while simultaneously displaying key information like range.


Courtesy image Beretta Defense Technologies


Range data quickly transitioned to another of Steiner’s key products – sighting systems. In 2013, Steiner unveiled the Intelligent Combat Sight (ICS), which was the first MIL-grade combat sight with an integrated LRF. A user can highlight a target, press the range button, and immediately receive a new digital aiming point, with the ICS taking into account the bullet drop for the range to the selected target, as calculated by the included ballistic computer. This system is one of the first “disturbed reticle” scopes available for Defense customers, and again represents some of the best capabilities of a hybrid optical system. In this case, by reducing soldier load in bullet-trajectory-calculations during a battle.


While many customers appreciate the ease of use of a disturbed reticle solution, some customers desire an advanced ability to access information while retaining full situational awareness. To support these customers, Steiner introduced the Intelligent Firing Solution (IFS) series of scopes in 2018. To build this system, Steiner took advantage of cutting-edge micro-display technology to project a wide variety of information at the top of the user’s FOV, overlaid onto the scene. This means the user can retain eyes-on-target, while getting detailed information about range, wind direction, ballistics, and necessary etched-reticle adjustments to ensure an accurate shot the first time. Rotary encoders track turret position, spotters can communicate range and wind via wired interface or via Bluetooth, and an onboard ballistics calculator utilizes environmental sensors to display a real-time ballistic solution. Range can come from Steiner’s own LRF binoculars, and there is even a phone app to upload new ballistic profiles to the scope. This hybrid optical system represents the state-of-the-art for snipers and designated marksmen.


(Image courtesy of Beretta Defense Technologies)


In 2019, Steiner unveiled the Close Quarters Thermal sight. This industry-first hybrid-optical system overlays see-through thermal imagery directly on top of the real-world scene, giving the appearance of an augmented reality display. In effect, Steiner has brought the capabilities of a fighter jet’s heads-up-display to the dismounted soldier. The CQT includes not only a dedicated red dot aiming point but adds the profound target-detection capabilities of a thermal imager.


Close Quarters Thermal sight. (Image courtesy of Beretta Defense Technologies)


2019 also saw Steiner deliver a fire-control system to the US Army under the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) program. This highly integrated system packed a high-powered LRF, visible and near-infrared aiming lasers, onboard environmental sensors, a ballistic calculator, and a thermal camera together. The resulting system could range a target and immediately generate a disturbed reticle that would account for not only range, but windage as well as weapon orientation, all while simultaneously displaying see-through thermal imagery. This system was the culmination of work started in both the IFS and CQT, with some advanced laser optics from Steiner eOptics thrown in, as well.

Steiner continues to develop future hybrid optical systems. As the company pushes forward, users will see a greater ability to access data, advanced disturbed reticles for ease-of-use and reduced training loads, and an open architecture allowing integration with a wide array of industry partners.


(Image courtesy of Beretta Defense Technologies)


Alongside relentless innovation, during the last 75 years, Steiner has continued to grow their geographic reach and footprint. From a one-man-shop in 1947, the company now employs over 300 people at its multiple locations: Steiner Optik GmbH in Bayreuth, Germany; Steiner eOptics in Ohio and Vermont, USA; and Steiner USA in Colorado, USA. Together, the Steiner brand manufactures 25,000 riflescopes and over 150,000 binoculars a year at its multiple plants.

Steiner also saw substantial expansion after its acquisition by Beretta Holding, SA, in 2008, and subsequent integration into the Beretta Defense Technologies (BDT) alliance. BDT was founded by leading brands within the Beretta group: Beretta, Benelli, Sako, and Steiner, which together represent over 700 years of experience in the Defense sector.

Today the BDT alliance is composed of 15 Beretta Holding companies with R&D, Manufacturing, Sales and Marketing capabilities over 10 countries and 4 continents, making it the most international actor in the small arms and accessories sector. BDT supports armed forces and law enforcement agencies around the world with state-of-the-art production technology, R&D capabilities and long-standing global expertise.


(Image courtesy of Beretta Defense Technologies)