April 15, 1999
FORT A.P. HILL, Virginia (CNN) -- Saying it's critical to "own the night," U.S. Army officials this week demonstrated their latest night-vision technology for warfare, and invited representatives from four NATO countries to compare notes.
The cooperative demonstration included visitors from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada, and involved two primary types of see-in-the-dark technology: image intensification, which greatly amplifies starlight and ambient light to produce the green-screen effect often seen in television footage of military attacks; and forward-looking infrared, or FLIR ("fleer"), technology that "sees" heat rather than light.
About 45 examples of new see-in-the-dark technology were presented for review. Gunsights, goggles and infrared trackers were all on display.
Many of the devices were products of the U.S. Army's ongoing night vision and electronic sensor program. U.S. officials said the program was established during Operation Desert Storm, in an effort to maintain U.S. supremacy in night-vision technology.
The new generation of night-vision goggles and forward-looking infrareds will be 20 percent to 50 percent more accurate and powerful than first generation devices currently issued to troops worldwide, U.S. officials said.
Some of the new devices have already been approved by the Army and will go into production early next year while others are still in the testing phase.
In a demonstration for VIPs and the media on Wednesday, a forward-looking infrared camera clearly showed the outlines of a Soviet T-72 tank, and various American tanks and trucks, even though some of the vehicles were as far as six kilometers (3.75 miles) away. A first generation FLIR camera nearby lacked such fine resolution.
Guests at the demonstration said they were "astonished" at the clarity of the images they were able to see in near total darkness while wearing the $3,000 prototype.
They were also able to track from a great distance a helicopter carrying Under Secretary of the Army Bernard Rostker, who toured the demonstration.
Rostker said the progress made in night vision technology was "a magnificent increase ... one that will give us the edge to be dominant on the battlefield."
The total cost of purchasing the U.S. Army's entire wish list of new night-vision technology has not been formally announced, but Army officials said it could cost hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.
Infrared eye aids after-dark drivers
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