A Night Vision Device (NVD) is an optical instrument that allows images to be produced in levels of light approaching total darkness. The term usually refers to a complete unit, including an image intensifier tube, a protective and generally water-resistant housing, and some type of mounting system.
Many NVDs also include sacrificial lenses, IR illuminators, and telescopic lenses. Night vision devices were first used in World War II, and came into wide use during the Vietnam War. The technology has evolved greatly since their introduction, leading to several "generations" of night vision equipment with performance increasing and price decreasing.
Light Amplification Night Vision Device Classifications
Generation 0 (GEN 0)
Historically, many armies would not fight at night because the confusion, lack of quality on-time intelligence, and increased communication difficulty made night fighting a very dangerous and very risky proposition. Only the most highly trained soldiers with a well rehearsed plan could take to the battlefield at night with any clear chance of success.
One of the first technologies to enhance vision at night goes all the way back to the end of WWII. The first night vision devices were introduced by the German army as early as 1939. The first devices were being developed by AEG starting in 1935. By the end of World War II, the German army had equipped approximately 50 Panther tanks, which saw combat on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. The "Vampir" man-portable system for infantrymen was being used with Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifles.
Parallel development of night vision systems occurred in the United States. The M1 and M3 infrared night sighting devices, also known as the "sniperscope" or "snooperscope", were introduced by the US Army in World War II, and also used in the Korean War, to assist snipers. They were active devices, using a large infrared light source to illuminate targets. Their image intensifier tubes function using an anode and an S-1 photocathode, made primarily of silver, caesium, and oxygen to accelerate the electrons.
Generation 1 (GEN I)
First generation passive devices, introduced during the Vietnam War, were an adaptation of earlier active GEN 0 technology, and rely on ambient light instead of an infrared light source.
Using an S-20 photocathode, their image intensifiers produce a light amplification of around 1000x, but are quite bulky and require moonlight to function properly.
Generation 2 (GEN II)
Second generation devices feature an improved image-intensifier tube utilizing micro-channel plate (MCP) with an S-25 photocathode, resulting in a much brighter image, especially around the edges of the lens.
This leads to increased illumination in low ambient light environments, such as moonless nights. Light amplification is around 20,000x. Also improved were image resolution and reliability.
Later advancements in GEN II technology brought the tactical characteristics of "GEN II+" devices (equipped with better optics, SUPERGEN tubes, improved resolution and better signal-to-noise ratios) into the range of GEN III devices, which has complicated comparisons.
Generation 3 (GEN III)
Third generation night vision systems maintain the MCP from Gen II, but now use a photocathode made with gallium arsenide, which further improves image resolution. In addition, the MCP is coated with an ion barrier film for increased tube life. The light amplification is also improved to around 30,000-50,000x.
Generation 4 (GEN IV)
The US Army Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate (NVESD) is part of the governing body that dictates the name of the generation of night vision technologies. Although the recent increased performance associated with the GEN-III OMNI-VII components is impressive, the US Army has not yet authorized the use of the name GEN-IV for these components.
GEN-III OMNI-VII devices can differ from standard Generation 3 in two important ways. First, an automatic gated power supply system regulates the photocathode voltage, allowing the NVD to instantaneously adapt to changing light conditions. The second is a removed or greatly thinned ion barrier, which decreases the amount of electrons that are usually rejected by the Standard GEN III MCP, hence resulting in less image noise and the ability to operate with a luminous sensitivity at 2850K of only 700, compared to operating with a luminous sensitivity of at least 1800 for GEN III image intensifiers. The disadvantage to a thin or removed ion barrier is the overall decrease in tube life from a theoretical 20,000 hrs mean time to failure (MTTF) for Gen III type, to 15,000 hrs MTTF for GEN IV type. However, this is largely negated by the low numbers of image intensifier tubes that reach 15,000 hrs of operation before replacement.
It is important to note that while the consumer market classifies this type of system as "Generation 4", the United States military describes these systems as Generation 3 Autogated tubes (GEN-III OMNI-VII). Moreover, as autogating power supplies can now be added to any previous generation of night vision, "autogating" capability does not automatically class the devices as a GEN-III OMNI-VII, as seen with the XD-4. Another point to note is that any postnominals appearing after a Generation type (i.e.: Gen II +, Gen III +) do not change the generation type of the device, but instead indicates an advancement(s) over the original specification's requirements.
Transform your SLR camera or camcorder into a night vision photography system with our night vision camera adapters. Capture high resolution images at night and in low-light situations otherwise too dark for unintensified digital cameras. Light amplification is equivalent to an 8-10 F-stop improvement so that moonlit or starlit scenes are transformed into bright images.
Night Vision Goggles are the most popular and versatile night vision systems on the market. With a wide selection in price and technology, we have night vision goggles to fit all of your night vision needs. Night vision goggles display real-time images and allow users to operate in the darkest and harshest of environments.
Night Vision Weapon-Mountable Solutions, also called Night Vision Sights, or Night Vision Riflescopes, or simply Night Vision Scopes, are designed to be mounted on the weapon and used as an aiming system. Night Vision Rifle Scopes will benefit Military Snipers, Law Enforcement Marksmen and Predator Hunters. Night Vision Riflescopes are fully dedicated Night Vision Scopes made for military and consumers alike. These Night Vision Scopes come with outstanding Components and Construction and offer an array of choices for Image Intensifier Tubes, titanium mounting systems, positive 1/8 MOA per click windage and elevation adjustments, standard target turrets, rails for add-on lights, lasers, back-up iron sights and MIL-Dot reticle just to name a few.