A Brief History of Seeing in the Dark…Part 2

In 1961 the first night vision devices working off ambient light appeared.  These Generation 1 devices were first used in anger in the Vietnam War in 1967.  Because they didn’t need their own built in light source they could be made lighter and smaller and with extended battery life.

The Generation 1 rifle scope fitted to the M1 or M16 assault rifle had a battery life of up to 100 hours.  The image intensifier still used vacuum tube technology and had problems with image distortion.  They also could not be used in any less than half moon conditions and were pretty much ineffective on cloudy nights.

Mean while in the UK, British forces had begun using rifle mounted night vision devices inNorthern Ireland in anti terrorism operations against the IRA.  The British Gen 1 Individual Weapon Sight (IWS) could be adapted and used independently with a handle attachment or as a long range binocular.

In the USSR Starlight night vision technology was adapted for use on AK variant rifles, RPG launchers, PKM machine guns and SDV sniper rifles.

In 1975 the Generation 2 was launched.  The Optic Electronic Corp of Texas released the first mass produced device meeting military specification, the AN/PVS-4.  Almost distortion free, high quality images could be achieved.  It featured automatic brightness control for varying light conditions, an auto shut off device to prevent burn out in unexpected flashes of light.  This device was in production until 2002 and was widely used by coalition forces in the Gulf War.

In the final part of this blog we will look at hands free and airborne night vision tech and what the future may hold for night vision…

Image courtesy of Kenneth Allen [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, thanks.