Oct 12th 2023

​Lesson 11 - Taking Flight After Dark: The Evolution of Night Vision in Aviation

When it comes to military technology, few innovations have been as pivotal as night vision goggles (NVGs). These extraordinary devices have transformed nighttime operations across various military branches. In this blog post, we'll dive into the fascinating journey of NVGs in aviation, shedding light on their evolution and impact on aerial missions.

The Early Days of Night Vision

Decades ago, ground forces in the Army were among the first to experience the advantages of night vision, thanks to the AN/PVS-5A goggles. These goggles were not just limited to the infantry; they found applications in various roles, from vehicle drivers to riflemen and unit leaders. One of the key advancements was the development of the "cut-away" mask, which allowed peripheral vision and in-cockpit use, making them even more versatile.

A Controversial Transition to Aviation

However, the incorporation of NVGs into aviation wasn't without its challenges. It followed a path similar to the development of aviation itself, filled with trial-and-error and occasional setbacks. In the 1980s, there were a number of nighttime accidents involving NVGs, particularly in military helicopters. This raised serious concerns about the safety and appropriateness of using NVGs in aviation.

A Turning Point: Safety and Training

The situation reached a critical point when several helicopter crashes occurred within Orange County, leading to a comprehensive investigative article by the Orange County Register. A congressional hearing was convened to address the issues surrounding NVGs in military helicopters. The outcome of this inquiry affirmed the necessity of NVGs for night flight operations but emphasized the need for better equipment and training.

The Evolution Continues: ANVIS (AN/AVS-6) and Beyond

Following the safety review, it became clear that improvements were needed. As a result, the ANVIS (AN/AVS-6) system was developed and subsequently evolved into the AN/AVS-9 (ANVIS). These advanced NVGs became the preferred choice for aviators, offering enhanced performance and safety features.