Military Usage of Night Vision Devices

The history of the creation and military use of night vision aids is characterized by a wide variety of principles of construction and design solutions for night sights and observation devices.

But according to the principle of operation, they are all divided into two classes: devices that use the light of the moon, stars, or artificial sources reflected from targets and local objects – infrared illuminators, and devices that use mainly their own thermal radiation of targets and local objects.

A brief history of NVT

Vision is the most important way of perceiving the surrounding reality. Visually, we get most of the information about the outside world. Our eyes are an amazingly complex and perfect mechanism, gifted to us by nature.

Unfortunately, their capabilities are somewhat limited, and we become almost blind in the dark. Man has always admired representatives of the animal kingdom, for whom the darkness of the night is not an obstacle: cats, owls, wolves, and bats.

The military especially did not like this limited human vision. But the situation was radically changed only in the middle of the last century, when, thanks to the achievements of physics, night vision devices appeared, allowing you to see at night almost as clearly as during the day.

A prerequisite for the creation of night vision devices was the discovery in the nineteenth century of infrared (thermal) radiation. However, a device capable of “seeing” objects not in the optical (visible), but in the infrared (thermal) range of the spectrum was created only in 1934.

This moment is considered the beginning of the era of the development of night vision technologies. The development of night vision devices can be divided into a number of stages, which are associated with the appearance of certain generations of them.

Each subsequent generation differed from the previous one in a greater range of vision, better image quality, reduced weight and dimensions, increased operating time, increased resistance to light interference, and a number of other advantages.

The main feature that distinguishes the generations of night vision devices (NVD) is their main element – an image intensifier tube, designed to convert an infrared image invisible to the eye into a visible one and enhance it in brightness.

Scientists improved their devices, so each new device became better: its range increased, the image became clearer, and the size and weight of the device tended to a minimum. Now night vision devices easily fit in the hands, they are convenient to take with you, and their use does not cause difficulties.

Using NVT

Initially, first-class devices were created, which were called night vision devices (NVD). The devices of the second class that appeared then, strictly speaking, are also night vision devices, but since they convert thermal radiation into a visible image, they are usually called thermal imaging devices (TVD). Using NVD, of course, is only possible at night.

The night vision device works on the principle of multiple amplification (from 500 in devices of the 1st generation to tens of thousands of times in devices of the 2+ and 3rd generation) of the light reflected from the object of observation.

Thus, the minimum illumination for the operation of a night vision device is necessary – the moon, stars, the light of settlements reflected from clouds, or … a portable infrared (IR) searchlight.

In addition to traditional analog night vision devices of various generations, there is also a variety of them digital night vision devices. It is not difficult to guess that they use a microprocessor to build an image.

Thanks to it, digital night vision devices are insensitive to excessive light power and can be used even during the day. However, the main advantage of digital night vision devices is their low price.

At the same time, digital devices are still noticeably inferior to ordinary ones in terms of image quality (resolution and color reproduction), and most importantly, they require illumination approximately the same as obsolete 1+ generation night vision devices.

In other words, if there is not at least a quarter of the lunar disk in a clear sky, then infrared illumination will be required for observation.

Most likely, in the future, digital methods for constructing and processing images will certainly bypass and replace analog image intensifier tubes, and this prospect is not so distant.

Along with night vision devices, such surveillance devices as thermal imagers are more and more confidently entering the hunter’s arsenal.

Recall that the principle of its operation is fundamentally different from optical devices and night vision devices – a thermal imager builds an image by measuring and displaying on the screen the temperature of each micro-region of a part of the space that enters the lens.

At the same time, that part of the spectrum in which thermal imagers operate lies in the so-called “atmospheric transparency window” – that is, it is not absorbed by fog, rain, clouds, or snow. In other words, the thermal imager allows you to observe both in heavy rain and in the fog of “milky” density when optics or night vision devices are simply blind. The thermal imager is not sensitive to light – it does not care if it is day or night outside.

However, like everything in the world, he also has his “but”, and more than one. Firstly, on the screen of a thermal imager, it is impossible to accurately convey all shades of temperature without compromising the contrast of the picture.

Therefore, objects of one certain temperature will always be more contrast and objects of another – less. A thermal imager for hunting, of course, must, first of all, reliably detect hunting objects, i.e. warm-blooded animals (or birds) – therefore, in good devices, the brightness of objects with a temperature suitable for a warm-blooded creature is specially enhanced.

At the same time, the luminosity of the object is usually uniform over the entire silhouette, which makes it difficult to determine the angle. Although this feature is more important for thermal imaging sights than for observation devices. Before purchasing this device, it is worth understanding what devices are in general. Most popular models: Monocular.

Reminds me of an advanced spyglass. Compact and therefore easy to transport. Usually, the quality matches the price. Binoculars. Equipped with stereo vision, which increases the viewing angle, multiple zoom, used in low light conditions.

There are 2 types: military and civilian Night vision goggles. The device is mounted on the head, equipped with one transducer and one lens, but the same picture is displayed before the eyes due to the parallelization of the signal. Aim.

The design resembles a monocular, but it has the function of a limit grid, a range estimation system, and a tail for attaching to a weapon.

The specific type of device is selected based on the needs of the buyer, therefore, the characteristics and description – that is what becomes the guiding stars in the range of night vision devices. It is also worth noting that all types of night vision devices can be used to save lives.

How NVT Saves Lives?

Of course, first, night vision devices are present in the arsenal of people who work as rescuers or serve in the army. For these people, such electronics are essential devices for daily work.

Rescuers use a device with a thermal imager to search for people from under the rubble; soldiers control the area in conditions of poor visibility.

A night vision device or night vision device is suitable for a car if you have to drive at night and want to avoid dangerous collisions.

The future of the NVT in the army

The modern army to improve the efficiency of combat missions actively uses the technologies of the future.

Therefore, the future of night vision in the army is already predetermined. The US Army has tested a new modified night vision system. The device, called ENVG-B, creates a higher-resolution image and will allow the military to use augmented reality when firing through wireless sights.

A video showing the capabilities of the Enhanced Night Visions Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B) system was published on the Internet in 2019.

The military received equipment that dismantles the night world in high definition. At the same time, the contours of objects are “outlined” by luminescent lines, and the blurry “green glow” familiar to outdated devices is absent.

As a result, the fighters get a high-resolution and contrasting image, reminiscent of a computer game. It is noteworthy that the new ENVG-B devices, in addition to testing at night, have been successfully tested when working in various combat conditions, such as dust and smoke.

Another advantage of the device is the presence of an augmented reality compass in the upper part of the picture, which allows the soldier to navigate in space without taking off his glasses. The first ENVG-B devices began to enter the US combat units in 2019.

Going forward, the US military is looking to get night vision goggles in the form of sunglasses. A competition for this development has already been announced and a search is underway for those who wish. However, even ENVG-B is a significant step forward.

Microsoft is also developing something similar based on HoloLens glasses and even successfully selling it to the Pentagon. I hope that all this will eventually appear in consumer products. Looks tempting, and can come in handy in many cases.


Specialists associate the further development of night vision technology with the following main directions: increasing the range of action to values corresponding to the visibility range during the day.

Expanding the boundaries of the used range of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation and reducing, due to this, the influence of the external environment on the operation of devices; integration of devices based on different physical principles to improve the reliability of detection and identification of targets.

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