Air Force SPECOPS Pilots Get Panoramic Night-Vision Goggles for Night Combat Ops

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by David Crane
defrev at

May 18, 2005

Insight Technology, Inc. (Londonderry, NH), along with the U.S. Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC), has developed panoramic night-vision goggles (PNVGs) for U.S. Airforce Special Operations (SPECOPS) aviators. The new NVGs are designed to enhance combat capability for pilots engaged in night operations (night flying). At least 20 sets of goggles have been delivered to the field already (as of April 25th), and about 20 more per month will be delivered until the contract is satisfied at 400 units.

The panoramic NVGs offer a 95-degree field of vision for combat aviators, a vast improvement over the…

40-degree field of view offered by traditional night observation devices/night vision goggles (NODs/NVGs). The PNVGs utilize four 16mm image intensifier (I2) tubes, rather than the two 18mm tubes of traditional NODs/NVGs. Lt. Col. Terrence Leary calls the PNVGs "an evolutionary growth in night combat capability". According to Leary, "they improve the aircrew’s overall situational awareness and safety by more than doubling the current field of view. This will allow the aircrew to perform near-daytime tactics at night, reducing their time in the threat envelope and improving their targeting and tracking capabilities.” Sounds pretty good. AC-130 Specter gunship and MC-130 Combat Talon aircrews are the first SPECOPS airmen to receive the PNVGs. Air Combat Command A-10 Thunderbolt II and Air Mobility Command C-17 Globemaster III crews are next on the list of recipients for the new tech.

A unique feature of the new PNVGs is something called auto-gating (also spelled "autogating"), which protects the wearer from temporary visual impairment that can be caused by sudden flashes of bright light (like flares, for instance). Each tube contains this auto-gating feature, so if/when one of the tubes is exposed to a "high light source", it will automatically reduce the gain, blocking out the light. Since each tube can accomplish this independently, when one of the tubes goes into auto-gate mode, the other three tubes will still operate normally, unless they too are exposed to the bright light source. This allows the pilot to "retain visual acuity and situational awareness".

As if all that’s not enough the PNVGs give the pilot a kind of spooky insect-like appearance–and when it comes to the U.S. military and combat operations, spooky is usually good (although scary is preferable).

Upgrades for the PNVG system are already in the works. Hopefully, the upgrades will included sensor-fusion technology, which combines night vision/image-intensification (I2) tech with infrared (IR) sensor tech. NODs/NVGs that utilize sensor-fusion are known as ENVGs, which stands for "enhanced night-vision goggles". ITT Industries has partnered with Raytheon to develop sensor-fusion goggle (ENVG) prototypes. Northrop Grumman Corp. and Insight Technology, Inc. have also developed prototype ENVG units.

Unfettered "wraparound" panoramic night vision and a joint helmet-mounted cueing system (JHMCS) are also likely to be incorporated in future incarnations. Hopefully, these future versions will be goggle-less and employ a flat panel lens/screen or monocular, instead. It’s likely that nanotechnology will play a role in this development, if/when it occurs. Defense Review will follow all of the discussed technologies as the continue to develop, and we’ll keep you posted as we do so.

Click here to read a very interesting article by Defense Daily Network that discusses all of these interesting night vision/infrared (NV/IR) technologies (including night vision cueing). The article is titled "Night Vision: Beyond Image Intensification".

Click here to read more about sensor-fusion/enhanced night-vision goggles (ENVGs). The article was written by Sandra I. Erwin of National Defense Magazine, and it’s titled ‘Owning the Night’ Means Fusing Sensors

Click here
to read a SoldierTech article on the PNVG tech, titled "FOUR-EYES: Air Force Spec Ops Get Panoramic Night Vision".

The SoldierTech article above was written by 1st Lt. David Cromwell, and it’s a reprint of his Air Force News article, titled "Airmen receive panoramic night-vision goggles".

to read a article on the PNVG tech, titled "".

Air Force SPECOPS Pilots Get Panoramic Night-Vision Goggles for Night Combat Ops by

About David Crane

David Crane started publishing online in 2001. Since that time, governments, military organizations, Special Operators (i.e. professional trigger pullers), agencies, and civilian tactical shooters the world over have come to depend on Defense Review as the authoritative source of news and information on "the latest and greatest" in the field of military defense and tactical technology and hardware, including tactical firearms, ammunition, equipment, gear, and training.

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