This Is What A Black Hawk Helicopter Looks Like Through The Army’s New Night Vision Goggles

A picture shared online shows what a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk looks like through the U.S. Army’s newest night vision goggles, known as Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binoculars, or ENVG-Bs. The image shows the helicopter as viewed through a pair of ENVG-Bs in the so-called “outline” mode, which has brightly illuminated the edges on every surface of the aircraft. This setting is designed to make it easier for troops to quickly identify objects and highlights the revolutionary nature of these optics, which offer capabilities that previously seemed to be more in the realm of science fiction or video games.

The image was posted to Twitter by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, more commonly referred to as simply “Lancer Brigade,” which is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, or JLBM, in Washington State. The Tweet says the UH-60 belongs to the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, another unit at JBLM. The Lancer Brigade had also previously shared footage of exercises conducted over Seattle with the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, demonstrating the goggles’ ability to clearly and brightly outline objects against dark backgrounds.

Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division, train with the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle (ENVG-B) and associated systems at Aberdeen Proving Ground., US Army/Courtney Bacon

The ENVG-Bs, which the Army first began fielding in 2019 and evolved from the earlier ENVG III, offer impressive new capabilities over older night vision goggles that allow for greater optical fidelity and the ability to see through obscurants like dust or smoke. The ENVG-B accomplishes this through an improved image intensifier, the view through which can also be fused with that from a thermal sensor. 

Images from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s exercises alongside the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade., Lancer Brigade via Twitter
A comparison of a Black Hawk through ENVG-B, left, and an older night vision system, right., Lancer Brigade via Twitter/US Army/Sgt. Ken Scar
A UH-60 Black Hawk, US Army/2nd Lt. Joshua Hill

The system also has what the Army refers to as “augmented reality” functionality, but which, in its present form, simply puts various types of information right in front of a soldier’s eyes, more akin to what is already available to military aviators using helmet-mounted displays. This includes a video-game-like “radar,” as seen in the video below, which can show the locations of friendly troops in relation to the user, as well as possible hostile units and other waypoints. Such a capability, if deployed in a fully operational state, would literally change the game for soldiers in terms of situational awareness.

The ENVG-B’s manufacturer, L3Harris Technologies, says that the ENVG-B can be linked to a wide variety of sensors and data feeds that use the Army’s Nett Warrior situational awareness system, including possibly from video captured aboard unmanned vehicles. This could offer Army units new levels of situational awareness, allowing them to conduct scout operations or avoid threats well ahead of their positions on a level not previously possible. 

L3Harris also says the goggles can offer new capabilities when paired with feeds from the Family of Weapon Sight-Individual (FWS-I) system, allowing for picture-in-picture displays or even allowing Army soldiers to use the feed from their FWS-I as their primary view in their goggles. This means soldiers using the system can use their weapons to peer around corners or over obstacles without putting themselves in harm’s way. Lt. Gen. James Richardson, the deputy commander of Army Futures Command, said in 2019 that the new goggles are “better than anything I’ve experienced in my Army career.”

US Army

As the images and footage shared by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division show, the Army’s new ENVG-B system could forever improve the way soldiers view the battlefield. Situational awareness can be easy to lose in the heat of battle, particularly when soldiers’ vision is obscured by dust, smoke, or weather conditions, creating risks of friendly fire incidents or collateral damage. Even just more clearly defining an object, allowing for a split second faster comprehension of a threat or potential target, can be hugely valuable and even mean the difference between life and death. 

All told, the new ENVG-B could someday help make those concerns a thing of the past by bringing new levels of battlefield awareness firmly into reality.

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