History of Defense Systems

  • How it all started

    How it all started

    Carl Zeiss started producing optronic systems for military and civil application during the 1890's. The first riflescopes and stereoscopic rangefinders were developed in 1895. Shortly afterwards, the military division was founded with the delivery of prism binoculars to the Prussian Army. Systems for the marines were developed at an early stage. The periscope for the Forelle, the experimental German submarine was delivered in 1903. During both the First and Second World Wars, Carl Zeiss focused almost exclusively on the production of military optics.

    Carl Zeiss made an impression during the 1960's and 1970's by producing numerous innovations, such as the high-resolution thermal imaging camera and the well-known Peri R12. This periscope was deployed on the Leopard I battle tank; due to its stabilization system, the first of its kind.

    The company originally founded to run the defense activities of Carl Zeiss fused with Eltron, a subsidiary of the Deutsche Aerospace Company (German: Deutsche Aerospace Aktiengesellschaft (DASA)) to form Zeiss Eltro Optronic GmbH, headquartered in Heidelberg. In 2004, this became Carl Zeiss Optronics GmbH.

    The company was taken over by Cassidian, a division of the EADS Group, in 2012. The optical and optronic activities of Carl Zeiss Optronics GmbH are being continued into the future under the name of Cassidian Optronics GmbH.

  • 1892 – 1895


    Building of the first riflescopes (based on Beaulieu-Marconnay design) for sniper rifles and machine guns.


    Stereoscopic rangefinder.


    Prism binoculars introduced to the army.

  • 1896 – 1945


    Submarine periscope, installed on the "Forelle" for the first time.


    Balloon chamber / aerial camera.


    Long-range heat-bearing and surveillance devices (WPG Donau).

  • 1946 – 1989


    Laser rangefinder with ruby laser.


    Peri R12, the world’s first stabilized panorama periscope for armored vehicles, used in the Leopard 1 battle tank.

    WBG-X – high-resolution thermal imager.


    WPX-G – high-resolution thermal imager, with a common module since 1979.


    Eye-safe laser rangefinder.

  • 1990 - 2012


    Optronic mast system for submarines.


    Third generation thermal imagers (without a scanner).


    Eyesafe laser rangefinder with OPO.


    Uncooled thermal imager with highly sensitive micro-bolometer detector.