Carl Zeiss began producing optronic instruments for military and civilian applications in the 1890s. The first telescopic sights and stereoscopic rangefinders were developed in 1895. The military department was founded with the delivery of prism binoculars to the Prussian Army a short time later. The department also made considerable achievements in marine instruments in the early days of its existence. The periscope for the experimental German submarine Forelle was delivered in 1903.
During World War I and II, Carl Zeiss focused almost entirely on the production of military optics. In the 1960s and 1970s, Carl Zeiss impressed with numerous innovations such as high-resolution thermal imagers and the well-known Peri R12. This periscope is deployed on the widely used Leopard I battle tank because of its stabilization system, the first of its kind. The company originally founded to run the defense activities of Carl Zeiss merged with DASA subsidiary Eltron to become Zeiss Eltro Optronic GmbH headquartered in Heidelberg. A few years later in 2004, the company became Carl Zeiss Optronics GmbH, the name it still bears today. One of the most recent inventions is the uncooled thermal imager introduced in 2008. The highly sensitive micro-bolometer detector on this system was the true innovation.
Carl Zeiss builds the first telescopic sight (based on Beaulieu-Marconnay design) for sniper rifles and machine guns.
Prism binoculars introduced to the army.
Submarine periscope, installed on the Forelle for the first time.
Balloon chamber/ aerial camera.
Long-range heat sensors and tracking devices (WPG Donau).
Laser rangefinder with ruby laser.
Peri R12, world's first stabilized panorama periscope for armored vehicles, for Leopard I battle tank.
WBG-X - high-resolution thermal imager, since 1979 with common module.
Eyesafe, laser rangefinder.
Optronic mast system for submarines.
3rd generation thermal imagers (without scanner).
Eyesafe laser rangefinder with OPO.
Uncooled thermal imager with highly sensitive micro-bolometer detector.