The task of effectively using night time to solve tactical tasks in the conduct of hostilities has always stood before commanders.
Technology and practice
The development of night vision devices (NVD) by scientists and engineers in our country began actively in the 30-s of the twentieth century. It was at this time that the first photoelectric devices appeared. As one blogger, Kirill Ryabov, an expert on this issue, correctly noted: “One branch of development in this area spawned television and modern digital video, and the second led to the appearance of electron-optical converters (EOC), which are the basis for night-vision devices.”
A typical NVD consists of a lens, an image intensifier with a power supply unit and an eyepiece. The principle of its operation in brief is as follows: the light reflected from the object of observation passes through the lens and creates an image at the input (cathode) of the image intensifier, which is electronically amplified and projected in a yellow-green glow on the output screen of the converter, transmitted through the eyepiece to the observer's eye.
A distinctive feature of these types of devices is that the image is clear only in the center, with distortion and a lower edge resolution. In addition, if bright sources of light come into view, such as lanterns, luminous windows of houses, and the like, they can light up the entire image, obstructing the possibility of observation.
By the principle of operation, all night vision devices are divided into two classes: devices using the light of the Moon, reflected from targets and local objects, stars (passive) or artificial sources - infrared illuminators (active), and devices that mainly use their own thermal radiation from targets and local objects, o which speech below.
NVD. Historical excursion
One of the first NVDs in the Soviet Union was the Kvant system, which was based on the principle of infrared radiation. The infrared light reflected from surrounding objects was necessary for operation of the device, and the image intensifier had a photocathode and a luminescent screen. (A similar system, by the way, is still used, although it has to compete with other types of NVD.)
Quantum itself, a rather large-sized complex, was initially planned to be installed on airplanes. However, later the project was redirected to Tanks. Similar systems were developed for the Navy. By the beginning of World War II, only the Black Sea Fleet had 15 sets of night vision ship systems. And by the middle of autumn 1941, Black Sea sailors received another 18. In the fall of 1943, employees of the All-Russian Electrotechnical Institute created a night sight for the rifle weapons. For obvious reasons, it was not possible to equip it with a searchlight illumination. However, when using an external source of IR radiation, the system worked well. The claims were caused by a short range of action - even in 1945, for the best prototypes, this figure did not exceed 150 – 200 meters.
At the end of World War II, our scientists were able to compare their developments with trophy ones. It turned out that the praised German equipment in its performance practically did not differ from the domestic one.
NVD continued to improve, priority was given to one or another type of instrument illumination. So, in 70-x - the beginning of 80-ies of the twentieth century, interest in active-type devices increased dramatically due to the use of pulsed-mode lasers for them. The target is illuminated by short pulses of laser radiation. Since the device is turned on only when the laser pulses that are reflected from the target reach the lens, parasitic pulses from local objects in front and behind the target, and also reflected from particles suspended in the atmosphere of dust, moisture, smoke do not get into the NVD. As a result, the observation range is significantly increased compared with the illumination with conventional IR illuminators.
TVP. Modern developments
Soon, new-type devices appeared, which can be easily attributed to night vision devices, but since they convert thermal radiation into a visible image, they are often called thermal imaging devices (TVP). The development of the latter began in the 60 of the twentieth century. There is no competition in principle between the two types of devices, but it should be noted that only in 2009 – 2010 the sales of “thermal imagers” have more than doubled! The principal difference between a night vision device and a high voltage TV is the source of illumination that the first needs and the second one is without.
The most promising direction of development of this type of device is the use of technology of uncooled bolometers, based on the ultra-precise determination of the change in resistance of thin plates under the action of thermal radiation of the entire spectral range. Because of this, the imager is an expensive device. Rare metals, such as germanium, are used to create it, therefore, cheaper materials are being searched for.
It is important to note that despite the sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU countries against Russia and significantly affected our defense industry, we will not reverse this promising weapons trend, since the country has established its own production of these devices. They are produced by OJSC TsNII Tsiklon and the Research and Production Center Spektr AT.
Sych-3TSU and Katran-3 devices, which "in their performance characteristics are not inferior to foreign counterparts and meet all the requirements of modern equipment, include the main brands of domestic thermal imagers currently in service with the Russian army and the military of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation): thinks their exploiter, Colonel I. Kozlenko. “The main scope of their application is reconnaissance, protection of objects, assessment of the degree of masking of objects, search for wounded and injured, detection of mines and caches, unauthorized, hidden burial places”.
Both devices are designed to work around the clock in all weather conditions. Both cameras allow you to see a person at a distance of about 1 kilometers, and recognize him - from a distance of 500 – 600 meters. “Sych” is also capable of not only detecting a target, but also determining its coordinates with the display of information on an electronic map of the area. At the same time, the device does not need special maintenance and maintenance for 10 years! The thermal imager "Katran", in turn, is more practical, equipped with a high-resolution display.
The latest thermal imaging device can be called a Sych-4 portable rangefinder camera. It uses advanced technologies of uncooled microbolometers and safe laser range finders. The successful combination of modern technologies makes it possible to effectively use the camera in any security and safety systems, and the built-in image recording system allows documenting during the entire working time of the camera. Due to objective reasons, TVP, as opposed to night vision devices, cannot yet be mounted on small arms, but are used both independently and in any combination on standard equipment.
These devices are actively used (mainly by the FSB, special forces and intelligence units) in areas of the North Caucasus, where a counter-terrorist operation regime is being introduced. There they are one of the main tactical optical-electronic reconnaissance assets used in all-weather conditions. According to the testimonials of servicemen who actively use the SAT, as one of the side negative effects, they have deteriorated vision. In some situations (for example, when working indoors), thermal imagers are significantly inferior to night vision devices, since with an excess of heat it is difficult for the operator to determine the clear outlines of a living target.
According to the servicemen of the special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who use both domestic night vision devices and TPVs, ideally they need a compact, all-weather instrument-sight with two branches, combining their characteristics. The main criterion is a high-quality, non-blurred image and the ability to identify an object.
Border guards also have their own experience, who traditionally are among the first to get the latest developments of such equipment models. Their need for thermal imagers is particularly high in the flat border areas, where such devices are particularly effective. Modification of a thermal imaging camera for them will be called “Muti”. This autofocus camera looks no different from common video surveillance systems.
As a successful example of the use of special devices in search and reconnaissance activities in the North Caucasus, one can cite the fact that sergeants Alexander K. and Ibrahim M. told the correspondent of the New Defense Order.
In one of the districts in the north of Dagestan, their division blocked the gang. The terrain is flat, with a dense intersection of canals for irrigating farmland, along canals and aryks everything is overgrown with reeds. The maneuverable group of special forces was assigned the task: to carry out an inspection of the terrain with the help of thermal imaging devices. In one of the places, in a large thickets of reeds, the operator was able to detect a contrast target, which was destroyed by sighting fire from a machine gun. After the search at this place was found dead armed gunman.