Night Vision Optics

Prior to WWII night time enemy engagements were rarely happened. Night time engagements were dangerous for the attacking party. It was easy to misinterpret a friendly as an enemy and this caused engagements with friendly forces. That all changed in WWII when both the United States and Germany started to develop Night Vision Devices (NV). The first generation of Night Vision was bulky and had to be mounted to vehicles. By the end of the war both the US and Germans had developed rifle mounted Night Vision Scopes to their rifles. This difference was that the Germans attached them to assault rifles and the US used NV for mainly sniper applications.

The wide spread use of NV didn’t happen until Vietnam. The US used the AN/PVS-2 Starlight scope. The technology took a major turn by using ambient light instead of an infrared light source. The Starlight scope did have some drawbacks though. The NVS was only able to function in moonlight. That means if the cloud cover is heavy that night your Starlight scope would not work very well. The light amplification was only around 1,000 candle power.

Further enhancements have been made from the Generation 2 to the current Generation 3+ NV that is being used today. Each generation has made improvements to the illumination power and the clarity of the image. This has been done by refining the materials in the device and also capturing different types of light. The current NV will use light that is not visible to the human eye to better illuminate the field of view. Current Generation 3 NV has an illumination power of 50,000+.

Civilian use has spread as NV has become less expensive. The price has reduced but you cannot call NV cheap. A Generation 3 will cost an average of $2000-$3000(USD). There are no restrictions to owning a NV device in the United States (California has a law against rifle mounted NV, but NV goggles are legal). Many countries outside of the United States have bans on civilian ownership of NV devices.