Night vision gear gave U.S. forces a huge leg up in the first Gulf War. But these days, anyone can buy see-in-the-dark goggles for a few hundred bucks, online.So military research labs [are] push[ing] to give U.S. war fighters nighttime optics that are several steps ahead of what can be bought at any hunting and fishing store, or duplicated by foreign militaries," National Defense magazine notes.
At the top of the want list is a system that fuses both 'image enhancement,' which relies on ambient light, and infrared capabilities.Infrared does not rely on ambient light, as does image enhancement, which emits the technologys characteristic green glow. Laying infrared over the image will help operators see camouflaged targets and give them better contrast, experts said. If you turn on that fused system, the red will pop out at you, and you can react very quickly, said Elizabeth Redden, chief of the human research and engineering directorate field element at the U.S. Army Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga.However, military researchers are grappling with several challenges to create this fusion. Helicopter pilots, for example, cannot use infrared sensors through windshields, noted Chief Warrant Officer Wade Fox, an adviser to the night vision devices branch at the Army 110th aviation brigade, Fort Rucker, Ala. A fused system is really where we want to go.Such a system could still be used by crewmembers like door gunners who can stick their heads outside windows. For pilots, an infrared sensor could be mounted outside the cockpit, and the imaged fused on a helmet-mounted device. However, external cameras can create distortion caused by viewing the same object from two different angles, also known as a parallax effect, which makes it difficult to maneuver.