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NVG's in ALE ops


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All three of our EC120's cockpit's were just modified for NVG.  We are supposed to get our goggles in early Oct.  Once we have gone through the training and start to use them I will let you know what we experience and any areas to watch out for.  The cockpit mods were approx. $20K per aircraft.  It seemed like a lot of money for a few post lights and a few filters over the instruments.
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Thanks EAGLE1, sounds encouraging.  I look forward to hearing about how it develops for you.


Another question, have you used any type of thermal beacon or tracking devices in your operation?  At times it would make things much easier on searches if K-9 and SAR were easily identified on the FLIR with a thermal beacon.

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There is some confusion on this point due to similar terms used for different applications.  You have probably heard of “IR Flashers” or “IR Markers”.  These are used with night vision goggles and are very effective.  They emit a light source that is only seen through the goggles.  This allows you to easily identify “friendlies” with a small, relatively inexpensive light.  They are NOT compatible with FLIR sensors.  The FLIR sensors detect heat and these lights do not put out a “heat signature” so they do not work with a FLIR sensor.  There are some materials that are used for marking vehicles and people designed specifically for the military.  This might not be 100% technically correct, but I think it is close enough to convey the point. These materials are neutral to the FLIR and therefore do not show up on the FLIR image.  On the FLIR we have it set up so the hotter the object, the brighter the image.  In other words hot objects like people, hot engines, hot asphalt etc show up white on the screen.  You can mark a vehicle or a building or even a person using these materials and you can identify it by the contrast of the hot object and the neutral material.  You could mark a vehicle by using the material to put an X on the hood and the X would clearly contrast with the hot hood.  The difficulty is, it takes a relatively large amount of material, which is expensive, and it is in no way covert.  I have some samples that we tested, but it was impractical and to expensive to incorporate into everyday use.  Hope this helps.
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  • 1 month later...

Hi there,

I'm flying with NVG's since 2001 - and accumulated round about 350 hrs so far on Bo105 and BK117, mostly on missions.

Flying with NVG is quite an improvement in flight safety at night - but there are also some dangers, so training is necessary.

Problems are i.e., that you don't see colored (red) lights - and while beeing in a decent, it is possible to misinterpret a tower with obstacle lights in a city - with a road with roadlights... So it's wise, to have a look underneath - from time to time.

Percepetation, especially snow, is another problem. You recognise, that the distance you see is reduced, but you won't see rain or snow, unless light is reflected - or the snowflakes are real big - and whenswitching on the landinglight - you're blinded by the reflecting snow - or even worse - you're finding yourself suddenly in a black hole, because the snow sucks all the light.

Another thing - the time needed to switch eyes between the NVG and looking underneeth the googles on the instrumentpanel. With the reduced viewangle a chance to hit some obstacles, while doing so  close to the ground. We use crew-coordination - the Co-Pilot limting and matching the torque, so the flying pilot can warch outside for the obstacles.

Another pitfall, outsidelandings. Nice to be demonstrated landing on the T of a golf-course - you won't see the slope - just wondering, that after inital touchdown of one skid the helicopter starts to tilt.....

Powerlines are also a threat - mostly you only see the masts - you might use the landing light, to find the cabels - but sometimes, in hazy conditions or with light up your NVG's, you might not see them in time - we're using the FLIR-system, to check the flightpath as well, when flying low level in such conditions - quite helpful.

And then light - there are bastards around, trying to blind you with lasers, halogenspots and so on - or just the light of a nearby city is reducing your view to the dark area, you're operating above....

Fatigue is another factor, I think it's more demanding - we're normaly limit the time to four hours NVG-flying a night - but if the ground forces call - or a child is missing - we go again. You feel the fatigue when the mission is off and the helicopter is to be landed on the plattform again..... I normaly land with the NVG on - but then I do two landings - one on the taxiway - googles up - Landing light on then on to the plattform.


Greetings Udo

"Flying Bull"

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  • 7 months later...
<font color='#000000'>Well thanks again EAGLE1, that is what I've discovered in my light investigations thus far as well.  At the same time I am not dissapointed, one more good reason for goggles!   ::2thumbsat::</font>


Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One, based out of MCAS Yuma (Box 99200, Yuma, AZ 85369-9200) produces a Night Vision Device manual that contains lots of good info that may help answer some of you question or augment material that you will receive during your training. Additionally, there is a computer based program called the Solar Lunar Almanac Program (SLAP) that provides products that will aid your training, mission planning and overall SA (I believe the Army manages the program but MAWTS-1 should be able to tell you how to get a copy). Some of the products produced are a light level planning calendar and a lunar elevation and azimuth chart. These products are extremely valuable when planning missions in an austere and urban environments.


We classify the night environment as either high light level or low light level. .0022 lux is the demarcation - the two products mentioned above will aide you greatly as the NVGs are only image intensifiers and will only operate efficiently with sufficient atmospheric illumination (man made or natural). You would be surprised the difference between a HLL and a LLL night. Makes a big difference in urban areas as well (dark night, bright city lights means more blooming in the NVGs). The lunar elevation and azimuth planning function will let you know when the moon is above the horizon and how high above the horizon it will be per hour of the night. It will also give you the azimuth which will help you plan your landings, predict shadowing (how big and which side of the terrain they will be on) and let you know which quadrant of sky the moon is going to be in.


All in all, a great tool to let you know how well you are going to be able to see out of the NVGs which is critical to picking out hazards.

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