Army Introduces New Night Vision Goggles
Photo: Defense Dept.
The Army is bolstering its night vision capabilities to increase the maneuverability and situational awareness of soldiers by improving upon a legacy system, according to service officials.
The third iteration of the enhanced night vision goggles — or ENVG — is slated for fielding between May and June 2018.
The goggles will help soldiers operate in multiple environments, while improving upon its predecessors by wirelessly linking the system to the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual, a device that can be mounted onto a rifle. DRS Technologies and BAE Systems are contractors for the program.
Lt. Col. Anthony Douglas, product manager for soldier maneuver sensors at program executive office soldier, said this connection allows the soldier to see what the rifle is pointing at through the goggles.
“If you’re under fire, you can maintain your position behind cover or a barrier,” he said. “You could ... target what is around you without having to expose your body to hostile fire.” The first ENVG product was delivered in 2008 and the service began work on the third iteration in 2014, he noted.
When looking through the goggles, a soldier sees the view from the rifle in a 19-degree bubble that overlaps the main image, he said. That allows the soldier to “shoot from the hip,” he added.
Maj. Kevin Smith, assistant product manager for soldier maneuver sensors, said the ENVG III has already undergone operational examinations. The Army performed reliability growth testing on the goggles in February 2017, and had the 4th Infantry Division test both the ENVG III and the FWS-I in May 2017. Soldiers highlighted the thermal image as a particularly useful feature, as they were able to see through smoke, he noted.
Thomas Bowman, director of ground combat systems at the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, said that the ENVG equipment is an improvement over the Army’s standard PVS-14 monocular night vision device, which uses a method called i2, or image intensifying, to amplify ambient light. This means the device is limited in low-constrast environments, he noted.
The ENVG series of goggles fuses the i2 technology with a thermal camera that provides the soldier with the option to examine his surroundings for heat signatures, he explained.
Jorge Concepcion, a program officer at PEO soldier, said combining the two capabilities into one system allows troops to choose which one to use when operating in different situations. This means using the goggles is “just a matter of understanding your environment,” he said.
“If it’s no light and you run into a big building, and it’s nighttime and there’s no lights on … switch on your thermal — that’s what you’re going to maneuver with,” he explained. In addition to the connection with the FWS-I, the ENVG III also has an improved thermal camera, he added.
"The ENVG series of goggles fuses the i2 technology with a thermal camera that provides the soldier with the option to examine his surroundings for heat signatures."
Smith said ENVG III has four modes, including rapid target acquisition, two picture-in-picture modes — which allows the soldier to see from the FWS-I and the goggles on the same display — and the full weapons sight. The service plans to eventually replace the first and second versions of the systems with the new technology. The goggles have a shelf life of about 10 years, he noted.
Douglas added that for future goggles, the Army may incorporate additional features such as navigational assistance and augmented reality.
Concepcion said they may also contain blue force tracking, which is the ability to see allied soldiers’ locations.
Bowman compared the display on the future goggles to the navigation app Waze, which displays warnings to drivers about upcoming traffic accidents, road closures and traffic cameras.
“You’re going to be able to see where all your blue [forces are], which is the same as your hazards in the road [icon]. ... It will actually tell you, ‘OK, a blue force is off to your 11 o’clock,’” he explained.
“You’ll also look around and say, ‘Oh, I need to be walking in this direction because that’s my next waypoint.’”
The display would also allow a unit’s commander to tell his soldiers where to go, he said.
Prototypes for future night vision devices are currently in development, Bowman said, and are scheduled to be transferred to Douglas’ office in fiscal year 2019.
READ MORE STORIES FROM OUR SMALL UNIT DOMINANCE SPECIAL REPORT