History of Night Vision Devices in Aviation

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by chippymick, Oct 18, 2008.

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  1. Quite simple really.

    How long have NVD's been in use?

    Is it a military only thing or are there civilian applications?

    Who was the first person to strap a set of goggles on and think; I reckon I could fly an aeroplane or helo wearing those?

    How hairy would the first flight have been?

    I know nothing about the caper, please feel free to educate me?


  2. The AAC started to routinely use NVD in the late 80's mainly in NI. These took the form of a hand-held monocle that was only used by the non handling pilot. Handling pilot pretty much flying blind with the non handling pilot or crewman talking him down with a Gen 1 tube. Punchy stuff!

    As for civvy applications. Its starting to take off quite a bit (excuse the pun) in civvy flying. Mainly law enforcement and mainly in the US. Although I believe the UK police ASUs are starting to use them, they are not widespread at the moment. Silsoe Sid is probably the best person to ask in this field.

    For general civvy use, its non starter really because of several factors. Firstly, a Robinson 22 for example would have absolutely no requirement to use NVG even if the pilot had a night rating. He will be taking off from an airfield with lighting and landing at an airfield with lighting. The bits in between would requite him to be above 2000' and NVG dont really have much use above 500' or so. If he wants to land in a field location, he is either daft or will ensure it is brightly lit. Secondly; training. The cost of training to get to an acceptable level would be prohibitive for your average PPL(H) or even commercial outfit especially when you consider the amount of training required and the amount of currency he would require to remain safe. Thirdly; the cockpit would need to be fully NVG compatible. It would be a huge cost to convert a Bell Jetranger or even a Robinson 22 and certify it for flights under NVG. When you think that if they did, it would only be for take off and landing. Far cheaper and safer to ensure your landing site is suitably lit.

    NVG come into their own in the low level environment and seeings how there is no requirement for civvy general aviation to be down there at night, there is no real application for them.

    I think the next big push is to try and get the Air Ambulances Night and NVG'd. Their world is landing in mainly unrecced' areas attending accidents and NVG would be very useful and increase their capability hugely. Currently, most air ambulances are day only which is quite limiting. As I've said, the cost is prohibitive at present (not just for the cost of the goggles but the training and compatibility issues I've mentioned). Luckily, most of the police and air ambulances are flown by experienced ex mil pilots with lots of time on goggles so as and when they do go NVG, it shouldn't be too much of a drama. The people to convince is the Campaign Against Aviation (CAA- Civil Aviation Authority).

    On the military side, we are playing around with some very interesting systems at the moment. Panoramic NVG, HMD (Helmet mounted displays) as well as fully intergrated systems; NVG/Thermal integration will full flight and conformal symbology displayed via a couple of small visor projectors.
  3. US Military were using NVG's in the debacle in Iran ( operation Eagle Claw) in 1979. I believe Uk used them in Aviation in 1982 on Corporate, in a limited way.
  4. The early eighties I think you'll find flash, with pilots 'wearing' a set of bifocal png all the lights in the cockpit off and the observer (I was one of those men), using a set of monofocal png that were carried on a neckstrap!
    great for map reading round the a^^e end oc Co Fermanagh.
    Look through goggles
    take goggles off
    switch on torch with green filter
    shine on map
    adjust eyes
    see if anything on the map resembled anything on the ground
    inform pilot we were probably in republic and would he care to do a 180
  5. I stand erected, handysnaks and para-dox. (old farts)
  6. JAFOs of the world unite. I did a roulement attachment to City Flight with 663 Sqn in 83/84, and had no NVG apart from Nitesun, but again, NVG would seldom be needed in most ops in the city.

    By the way Flash, a very succinct and concise answer to the original post.
  7. Used to fit lenses to certain equipment in the cockpit of the Hercs, specifically to prevent the NVG goggles going phutt. Circa 1983
  8. Is that like Standard SOPs? Or Night Vision Goggle goggles? :D :D
  9. Not forgetting the ubiquitous BIT test.
  10. I'm with 'snaks on the timeline, although I only got to use the PNG (the initials of which one OC insisted should only be used to describe a nuclear torpedo) when bimbling around German forestry while on stag. Call it a perk of being 'Q's' dog.

    ISTR the first time I went about LL on goggles, looking at the proximity of terra-firma and thinking 'FARK ME, we used do do this mortal????????'

    Might even have been with Mighty Gem on that particular trip..........
  11. As alluded to above, you don't simply "strap on" goggles without first integrating the entire system. The difficult and very expensive bit is modifying the aircraft instrumentation and lighting, in particular the finer detail such as chromaticity balance to ensure your eyes are not drawn to the "wrong" instrument by an imbalance. Human factors integration in other words. I believe, following a recent fatal crash (GW2), there was a criticism "They should have been issued with NVG". Far too simplistic. You don't specify non-NVG and then suddenly decide to use it. You specify NVG up front and ensure you facilitate its use should it be required.
  12. Unless its a Lynx then you just velcro a load of NVG compatible strips willy-nilly around the cockpit as a temporary measure. So temporary, we've only had them for 16 years. :roll:

    NVG/white light LEDs in each instrument wouldn't have had a huge cost impact but we must have a job lot of ELPs.
  13. Wow, can I reiterate still21inmyminds comment - "By the way Flash, a very succinct and concise answer to the original post." Thanks.

    So, if NVD's were used operationally in NI by the early 80's, that means the concept was proven. Who did the proving, when and how?

    Any idea on the Soviet or US efforts to do the same?

    Thanks again


  14. On the UK side, Boscombe would have been the outfit to have done the initial testing. I would guess the yanks were the first to take the leap. They are still the technology leaders when it comes to night vision (unfortunately their application in using them is a bit retarded). No idea how advanced the Soviets were to be honest.
  15. D&T were proudly showing off the lighting strips in 88, along with a number of other goodies including radio-controlled NVG-compatible approach lighting that would fire up when you talked to it.

    (I did not sit in that big Hind-looking airframe that sat in the same hangar. Nor did anybody else on my APC.)