Night vision goggle is everywhere

Night vision offers a clear tactical advantage. But today night vision devices are almost everywhere — opposing forces have them too — so it’s more important than ever to have the best optical performance technology can offer.

Over the last 40 years, night vision goggles have become a crucial piece of equipment, used routinely by dismounted forces, vehicle drivers and helicopter pilots. Indeed, many armed forces often prefer to operate at night because of the tactical advantage that night vision confers.

As demand has increased, the number of suppliers has grown, and the range of available products and performance classes has expanded significantly. So what makes the Thales offering different?

A device for every mission

For military and public safety applications, there is a night vision device for almost every role and mission and growing specialisation in the range — from simple I² monoculars to binocular or fusion devices, each corresponding to a different set of operational scenarios. Some users need the best range and resolution, while others require outstanding performance with virtually no ambient light. Certain missions call for ultra-compact devices that perform well in a variety of unpredictable situations.

In addition to a full range of night vision devices for ground troops and land vehicles, Thales offers the high-performance HELIE (HElicopter Light Intensifier Equipment) night vision goggles for helicopter crews. It includes a standard ANVIS interface for mounting on any flight helmet and has been fully proven in operational service with France’s armed forces and security services.
HELIE is one of the lightest goggles on the market and one of the brightest too — with its unique wider f/0.95 aperture, the device collects 60% more photons than goggles equipped with standard f/1.2 aperture lenses.

These high-performance night vision goggles are an integral part of Thales’s range of advanced optronic systems for airborne operations. Designed specifically for helicopter pilots, HELIE can also be used in conjunction with the new Scorpion helmet mounted monocular sight display, which has been selected by Airbus Helicopters for its H-Force weapon system programme.

Superior mechanical design

As well as optical performance, goggles architecture is a major factor that helps deployed forces to stay a step ahead of the enemy, and goggles for helicopter pilots are no exception. HELIE’s state of the art mechanical design offers perfect stability for improved comfort, and a long eye relief for excellent peripheral vision.

Building on the same optical technologies as HELIE, we developed the BONIE binoculars for land forces. Here again, mechanical design was a key factor. We worked extensively with special forces personnel to optimise everything from weight to configurations of buttons, controls and accessories. Above all, users find it helpful to keep one eye on the surroundings for better peripheral vision and to facilitate the transition from intensified to natural vision. With the rugged BONIE binoculars, each side channel can be independently rotated out of the way with one hand at any time.

In the future, new technologies will continue to bring deployed forces a tactical advantage both on the ground and in the air. Thales’s comprehensive range of optronic products for land forces and helicopter pilots are designed around an open architecture so that every user benefits directly from all the latest developments.


Night fusion

The MINIE D/IR is a dual-mode variant of the successful MINIE goggles for land forces that uses a combination of light intensification technology (visible and NIR spectrum) to see vegetation, buildings and terrain features, and thermal imaging (LWIR spectrum) to show individuals, vehicles, etc. The two images are optically fused together to display a rich scene that combines the best performance in terms of detection (thermal imaging) and recognition (intensification) to provide a tactical advantage in the field.

At the ninth meeting of Thales’s Sophie & Portable Optronics Users’ Club, held in Bordeaux, France in October 2016, members of the user community attended workshops on a range of topics, including Sophie -XF/VGA, Sophie Lite, the range of equipment available to support the Sophie product family, and “Understanding optronics in 25 minutes”. The event also included a night-time demonstration at a nearby military camp.