Electronic Weapons: More, Please Sir, and Quick

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August 10, 2010: Britain is urging U.S. firm ITT, to expedite an order for 11,000 night vision devices. They are due for delivery early next year, but the British want some of them sooner. These devices are worn on soldiers helmets, and pulled down over an eye when needed. These are third generation night vision devices, which give a sharper image, at longer range (over 300 meters for a man sized object). Battery life is improved, with one set good for 18 hours of use. These are the latest night vision devices available using light intensification.

Meanwhile, the U.S., which has pioneered the use of infantry night vision, is upgrading its older equipment. To do this the army is buying third generation image intensifier (light enhancement) assemblies (the MX 10160) for its existing night vision goggles. These cost nearly four times as much as the second generation image intensifiers, but last longer and provide a sharper image. These third generation image intensifiers are particularly popular with the new night vision goggles that incorporate thermal imaging.

Two years ago, the U.S. Army began issuing a new type of night vision goggles, the PSQ-20, which combines light enhancement (the "star light scope") technology with thermal imaging (showing a picture via heat differences). The two pound PSQ-20 can operate for about seven hours on four AA batteries. This new sensor enables a soldier to spot man sized objects out to about 300 meters. The closer the object is, the more accurately it can be identified. The PSQ-20 can use both detection technologies, overlaying them, or either. The thermal imager is most useful in places where there is no star (or moon) light to enhance (like inside buildings or caves). The army developed new software that made the digitally created thermal images even clearer. Troops can also capture and transmit the digital images. Most U.S. troops use the PVS-7 or 14, which are similar in performance to the third generation device the British troops are getting.

The new British light enhancement devices cost about $4,900 each, while the PSQ-20 costs $10,000 each. Part of the higher cost is the use of third generation thermal imaging technology. Because it is heavier than the current goggles, it will not be issued to everyone. But the next generation of the PSQ-20 will be lighter. That version probably will be issued more widely.

 


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