Electronic Weapons: Curing The Pain In The Neck

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October 20, 2012: The U.S. Army has selected two manufacturers of night-vision equipment to develop the next version of the decade old AN/AVS-6 night-vision binoculars for helicopter pilots. While the first version of the AN/AVS-6 weighs over two kilograms (nearly five pounds) and provided useful images of objects up to a kilometer away using only starlight, this was still too heavy for prolonged wearing and longer range was needed. These NVGs (night vision goggles) now have a higher level of light intensification and weigh less than a kilogram (2.2 pounds). Current AN/AVS-6 systems give pilots a clear view of objects a kilometer or more away.

The next generation of AN/AVS-6 (Enhanced AN/AVS-6) will be lighter, have longer range, wider field of view, better glare protection, longer battery life, and clip on to most flight helmets. The new model will also be easier to use off the helmet as binoculars. The most important element of the new model will be less weight. Night flying is tense enough without having to deal with neck pain brought on by having all that extra weight on your flight helmet.

Meanwhile ground troops are increasingly using NVGs that combine light enhancement (the "star light scope") technology (which is all that pilots require most of the time) with thermal imaging (showing a picture via heat differences). The combo NVGs enable 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 thermal imager is most useful in places where there is no star (or moon) light to enhance (like inside buildings or caves). The combo NVGs cost about $10,000 each while high end light-enhancement-only models for pilots use cost about half as much.

 

 


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