The whole history of human development is riddled with wars and conflicts. The paradox of the situation is that a peaceful life can be obtained only when the country has modern and effective weapons and is ready to defend its borders at any time. Even more paradoxical is the fact that war gives impetus to the development of technology and, as a result, moves progress. But nevertheless, it is so. All the revolutionary discoveries that changed the course of the war were eventually brought to perfection and expanded the scope of human capabilities. Night vision is no exception. In this article, we will trace the process of modernizing night vision optics through the prism of military conflicts and come to an understanding of the role of night vision in the modern army.
A brief history of NVT with accents
In 1934, in Holland, in the Philips laboratory, the first working prototype of a night vision device was assembled. The physicist Holst de Bourbon came up with a design that consisted of two glasses nested in each other. The bottoms were coated with a cathode and a phosphor. A current was passed through this optical system. The experiment was a success, and so, a pair of glasses became the prototype of all night vision devices.
In 1939 The Germans improved the Holst setup in their Sperber FG 1250 image converters, which they put on Panther tanks. The transducer was monstrously heavy and had a 30cm backlight. infrared illuminator, but showed exceptional efficiency. The Nazis did not forget about the infantry, and they received the Vampire night vision scope, which weighed 35 kg and required two service personnel. The USSR did not remain in debt and responded to the Germans with the invention of PAU-2. But, it was piece production, which did not affect the course of the war.
America drew the right conclusions from what they saw and quickly launched the production of a whole series of night vision optics. It included: PNV-57A tanker goggles, M1, M2, M3 sniper scopes. Sniper scopes came in very handy in the war with Japan. A batch of night vision scopes allowed American troops to destroy about a third of the Japanese army at the Battle of Okinawa. And although the nuclear bomb played the final point in surrender, night vision was recognized as a promising direction.
Therefore, in subsequent wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic and Cambodia, Gen1 sights were used as the standard for the US army.
The turning point is considered the birth of NV Gen2 optics. This happened in 1970, when American scientists used a microchannel plate with a cathode to amplify light by 20,000 times. Such a huge leap forward allowed for a better image with less noise and the ability to see, without the participation of infrared illumination. Of course, it was possible to do without a lantern, only on bright nights.
The modernization did not stop there, and with the advent of the SUPERGEN tube, Gen2 + was born. It reduced the noise level and, when magnified, gave a clearer picture.
In 1980 the scientists kept the Gen2 amplifier as the basis, but changed the cathode material to gallium arsenide. As a result, the next generation NV-Gen3 appeared. It amplified the light by 5,000 times and had a clearer image. The new auto-strobe feature kept the screen from damage and did not blind the shooter during exposure to a bright light source. During the Gulf War, US troops successfully tested 3rd generation night vision optics. As a result, it turned out that Gen3 sees through a sand and dust storm.
From 1980 to 2005 The U.S. Army received Gen3 and Gen3+ night vision goggles that use a thin-film microchannel plate with PINNACLE© technology. It minimized interference and increased productivity. These generations of devices have been combat tested in the Bosnian, Yugoslav, Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian wars.
Implementation of the NVT in the military sphere
The introduction of TNV in the military sphere has led to the emergence of a whole series of night vision devices. Night vision binoculars, night vision monocular and night vision rifle scope are in service with every army in the world. Over time, all these devices have been developed in new generations and continue to improve until now. And TNV itself experienced a transformation and split into a number of interesting related technologies.
Now, night vision technology includes not only classic NV, but also digital NV, color night vision, and thermal imaging.
Digital vision allows you to see not only at dusk, but also during the day. Recently, the quality of its image and the degree of light magnification have improved markedly. In addition, dimensions and weight tend to decrease. And wireless data transmission and Internet access provide a quick exchange of information. Of course, the military did not remain indifferent and took it into service.
Undoubtedly, color vision is one of the areas of interest for the army. With the help of additional filters, it gives an almost natural reproduction of colors. It is very useful in reading decals, maps, observation and medical assistance. It is used by intelligence and special operations forces.
Thermal imagers are a very valuable tool for target detection and acquisition. It is used by all types of troops in various types and devices. Since it is based on digital technologies, it is convenient to transfer data via Wi-Fi or wireless Internet. This allows you to instantly share information and quickly respond to events.
The availability of digitized data and a qualitative picture of the night terrain contributed to the creation of a multifunctional device for each type of troops. Such that in one design to collect all types of optics, means of communication and provide protection.
For pilots, this design was a helmet. In addition to head protection, it is equipped with night vision cameras, a thermal imager, a display for transmitting information, a target designator, light filters, a walkie-talkie and much more. It is quite natural that the infantry, tankers and drivers of the infantry fighting vehicle also needed such a device.
The ENVG-B night vision goggles were created for the army. They have night vision, a thermal imager, wireless communication with a sight and an army situational awareness system. They are able to receive photo and video materials from drones and all equipment that has access to the awareness system. And it can be anything, up to the satellite. It is worth adding that ENVG-B received augmented reality and GPS. Any commander sees all subordinates on the map online and manages the battle better.
Until ENVG-B becomes commonplace, it is being replaced by hybrid thermal and night vision systems. Although they amaze the imagination with their capabilities, they do not fully meet modern requirements. Now, as an alternative, a night vision device is being tested, in the amplifying tube of which a CMOS sensor is inserted, instead of a phosphor screen. This method allows you to display the image wirelessly to the command post or some kind of digital media. So far, such equipment is available only for special forces.
Modern usage of the NVT in the military sphere
Each soldier is regarded as a valuable combat unit, which is included in the general organism of the army and feeds it with information, serves the common cause. In order to collect intelligence and quickly exchange information, each soldier is armed with night vision optics. Thanks to the night vision monocular, the fighter retains night vision and simultaneously controls the conduct of operations. No sniper can do without a night vision scope. Gunners need night vision binoculars. There are a huge number of such examples, and not only night vision is used, but also thermal and hybrid systems in all possible combinations.
Night vision exists not only in the form of glasses, binoculars, monocular, sights and brackets, but also in the form of cameras. They can be found on tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and mobile multiple rocket launchers. Helicopters and planes also have several types of night vision. Ships and submarines carry night vision cameras with data output to the control panel. All of them use night vision for observation, acquisition and target identification.
In addition to the usual types of technology, night vision cameras use drones of all forms of factors. It can be a tiny Black Hornet that fits in the palm of your hand or a powerful Gray Eagle. UAVs can use either one type of night vision or several.
Marine drones and military robots are not far behind them. Almost all of them are equipped with night vision optics, both hybrid and conventional.
The night vision parade doesn’t end there. All reconnaissance and navigation satellites are equipped with high-resolution night vision cameras that allow you to take pictures in any weather, lighting, and even look a little deeper into the earth due to thermal imagers.
The modern use of night vision technology involves the integration of individual combat units with NV optics into a single control and data exchange system. So far, there are few such systems, but the future is undoubtedly with them. The general trend in the development of night vision optics is leaning towards the creation of universal platforms with augmented reality capable of communicating with each other and the general staff. Night vision is constantly improving and looking for new technologies to be able to see in other wavelengths, reduce energy costs and reduce the size of devices. In addition, progress is moving towards unmanned vehicles and thermal vision robots to save the lives of military personnel. It should be noted that the use of night vision technology allows you to strike accurately and save the lives of innocent people. Moreover, the destruction of the enemy is achieved by a smaller number of shells due to the accuracy of coordinates. It is worth recognizing that, thanks to its unique abilities, night vision technology occupies one of the most significant places both in history and in modern combat, and of course in the future.
Night vision optics in the army.