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US Marines test new night vision goggles

A view of a Marine through the Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggle at night. Photo: US Marine Corps

A group of US Marines recently got a chance to test their next-generation night vision goggles in a realistic setting.

Ordered by the service from Elbit Systems of America, formerly Harris Corporation Night Vision Business, in September 2019, the Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggle (SBNVG) is scheduled to be delivered to the marines this spring.

Comprising an image-intensifier binocular and enhanced clip-on thermal imager, the SBNVG is more capable than the AN/PVS-14—the legacy system that lacked the performance characteristics of the newer technology.

A helmet-mounted system, the SBNVG provides increased depth perception, improved clarity and a thermal-imaging capability to detect targets in extreme darkness or through battlefield obscurants. Marines can use the goggles to operate vehicles at night, move through dark buildings or tunnels, and engage targets after sunset.

SBNVG assessment

The limited user evaluation that took place in January facilitated the testing and assessment of the equipment to ensure its usability, reliability and effectiveness.

The SBNVG limited user evaluation comprised three separate evaluations, enabling Marines to test the system in realistic scenarios and environments similar to those on the battlefield.

During one exercise, a group of marines from The Basic School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, converged upon a military operations on urbanized terrain training facility to evaluate the SBNVG in low-light conditions.

The environment mirrored the sights, sounds and smells of a Middle Eastern town. The location comprised replications of a hotel, fish market, trade school, clothing store, police station and United States Embassy building.

In a separate, live-fire exercise, marines used the SBNVG with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle mounted with an M7 Rifle Combat Optic and a Mini-Integrated Pointer Illumination Module. This test event helped to identify performance, interface or user impacts encountered during nighttime small arms engagements.

Marines also used the SBNVG in a target observation assessment to locate human targets at various ranges and levels of illumination. The weather enabled them to test the technology in fog to evaluate the system’s clarity, depth perception and thermal capability in such conditions.

“MCSC remains in contact with ESA. If any issues with the SBNVG exist, the program office will submit an engineering change proposal allowing the company to modify the binoculars to meet performance requirements,” said Ruth Stewart, Marine Corps System Command’s project officer for the SBNVG.