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Early NVG and FLIR in UK?

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Early NVG and FLIR in UK?

Old 6th Jan 2009, 10:41
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 12:42
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Originally Posted by Double Zero
Certainly not the earliest uses ( and low how about light TV ? Martel was another thing I saw stashed away but not ever used again ) ...

Once when sailing my little 22' boat across Lyme Bay say 10 miles offshore in 1979/80, at night with no lights on - it was then a total loss battery system so nav' lights only used when any boats came close -we were most definitely ' intercepted by ' a Lynx - I knew the sound - hovering equally unlit very close ahead of us.

I did what was then the text-book sailor's answer to colregs / ID and shone a bright light on the mainsail for ID no. & up- I hope I didn't bother the chap with the early NVG's too much, didn't know what I know now !

The Sea Harrier FRS1 experimented with NVG's from early ( 1981 ? ) days, but I have no idea when it went into service.

I do know there was a competetion between A&AEE / St.Athan V. BAe for the Harrier 'Nightbird' project where G-VTOL's interior lighting was all adapted to suit; despite that, in an early precursor of QQ V. BAes, the other lot won.

The ARBS was quite capable of having IR fitted, but as I recall it was all of 65,000 per unit more than the lump on top of the nose as now.

I can see the advantage of not relying on one lens / system, however the IR ARBS might have been more versatile ?

I realise some modern systems make this a question of history.
Was speaking to some former Mighty Hunter pilots few years back at Farnborough (one of whom worked for Airbus) and I casually asked if early Nimrods had any LLTV as US Navy P-3A/B was equipped LLTV. Latter more for use during the SEA for Market Time operations . Anyhow apparently the Nimrods did not have any E/O let alone LLTV fitted in....

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Old 25th Jan 2023, 13:11
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One of our ex-Boscombe Junglies on Hermes in ‘82, had liberated some Gen 3(?) NVGs and brought them with him. I tried them out in the SHAR cockpit and decided that they would be useable after a bit of chinagraph (grease) pencil work on some of the cockpit lights.

Our first option to take out the runway at Stanley was to use them to deliver KFFs in a 30 degree dive at night, with a release height of c3000’. This was a good wheeze against light defences but we had second thoughts when we discovered the bad guys had radar-laid 35mm and Roland missiles. Never did get to fly with them although the Junglies made very good use of them.

Mog
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 14:40
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At one point in the trials, an RAE Varsity was fitted with both LLTV and FLIR sensors side by side in the optical 'flats' in the bomb bay. The OC Flying at the time rather took to this system and one night, on returning from a trip through Wales, decided to do a couple of circuits.
He did a circuit carefully observing the features visible on the ground via the CCTV screens on the flight deck and on the tape afterwards, I heard him say 'yes I'm very happy to do a landing on that'..
On his 'go for it' final landing, he positioned the aircraft on final and lowered the gear, only to find (amongst the expletives on the tape) the nosewheel effectively blocked the view of the runway so he had to do a visual landing after all.
Initially we (ATC) would 'kill' the airfield lighting before takeoff using the 'airfield blackout' selection on our lighting panel however it was quickly found that the pilots flying the trials kept telling us the airfeld lighting was still on. When our techies looked at the wiring, they realised the 'airfield blackout' had been designed for wartime use and there was still a very tiny current running through the wiring (to keep the lights warmed up and avoid blowing transformers) and thus a small amount of IR radiation was being emitted so in future, they made sure the lighting circuits were really cold and then put out 4 low powered 'glim' lamps (one either side of each threshold) on the runway for reference.
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 15:19
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I am currently editing Roger Searle's autobiography, in conjunction with a few of his colleagues from BAe Brough and Holme on Spalding Moor. He wrote that he carried out what he believed was the first night low level, low light television sortie from RAE Farnborough in Hunter T7 XL383 on 12th Jan 1976. Harry Maclean, an ex RAF Lightning pilot was the safety pilot. Roger passed away on 16th April 2020.
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 15:34
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Originally Posted by chevvron
At one point in the trials, an RAE Varsity was fitted with both LLTV and FLIR sensors side by side in the optical 'flats' in the bomb bay. The OC Flying at the time rather took to this system and one night, on returning from a trip through Wales, decided to do a couple of circuits.
He did a circuit carefully observing the features visible on the ground via the CCTV screens on the flight deck and on the tape afterwards, I heard him say 'yes I'm very happy to do a landing on that'..
On his 'go for it' final landing, he positioned the aircraft on final and lowered the gear, only to find (amongst the expletives on the tape) the nosewheel effectively blocked the view of the runway so he had to do a visual landing after all.
Initially we (ATC) would 'kill' the airfield lighting before takeoff using the 'airfield blackout' selection on our lighting panel however it was quickly found that the pilots flying the trials kept telling us the airfeld lighting was still on. When our techies looked at the wiring, they realised the 'airfield blackout' had been designed for wartime use and there was still a very tiny current running through the wiring (to keep the lights warmed up and avoid blowing transformers) and thus a small amount of IR radiation was being emitted so in future, they made sure the lighting circuits were really cold and then put out 4 low powered 'glim' lamps (one either side of each threshold) on the runway for reference.
Remember that sortie well. Came over from Boscombe to do an associated ride along trial as flight test observer and yes, the expletives were interesting, if not particularly educational, when he discovered the relative locations of camera and nosewheel, though my memory suggests an overshoot and goaround as the result. The display was very impressive during the Welsh LL portion of the trial. Without digging out my log book memory suggests mid 74 or early 75.
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 15:47
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Originally Posted by Softie
Initial trials of NVGs on Fast Jet aircraft were carried out on Jaguar at Coltishall in 1981/82. I was a first tourist OC Avionics and my OC EES kept this trial very much as his pet project. I believe some rudimentry filtering was applied to cockpit lighting as cockpit were not NVG compatible. I recall that the NVG had to be removed manually before any consideration of pulling the ejection handle. There were various trials during the 1980s under the Nightbird programme. Fleet incorporation on Jaguar did not start until the first Gulf War under SEM procedures.

They tinkered with them in RAFG about the same time, I seem to remember they turned all the airfield lights off while the trials were going on, About 82-83 ish.

Odiham I remember them playing with it in the Wessex 77-78 ish, a mate of mine on 72 had to go sit in a field somewhere in the cold while they pissed about in a Wessex, I remember him telling me the vehicles had to be cold, and also some under nets and the bods had to be cold too, which they were, they then had to jump about to warm up and the vehicles were run... Long and the short of it, he wasn't amused by it all having spent the night being pissed about..

The first Chinooks when they arrived were NVG compatible I seem to remember.


..

Last edited by NutLoose; 25th Jan 2023 at 15:58.
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 15:55
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Originally Posted by chopper2004
Was speaking to some former Mighty Hunter pilots few years back at Farnborough (one of whom worked for Airbus) and I casually asked if early Nimrods had any LLTV as US Navy P-3A/B was equipped LLTV. Latter more for use during the SEA for Market Time operations . Anyhow apparently the Nimrods did not have any E/O let alone LLTV fitted in....

cheers
LLTV\IR was one of those subjects that was regularly aired on the Nimrod force, but the killer question was "What use would it be in wartime?". The answer was "Not a lot". There was a low light device called the Nimtan sight, supposedly intended for use on both the Nimrod and Chieftain tank but rejected for both roles. A few were employed for ground defence surveillance; that's where I saw them.

Corporate caused all sorts of bits and pieces appear. We were given a few pairs of early NVG, used hand held, and version of the Steadyscope monocular with a simple image intensifier. Neither were particularly impressive. there was a discussion about replacing a beam window with an IR transparent panel and mounting a large IR device in that position but it came to nought and it's hard to see what use it would have been. After all, we had Searchwater that was a very capable piece if kit and was a much better option.

If we had to do a peacetime night vis-ident, there was the searchlight, but if you were inhibited from directly illuminating the target, flying past it at about 4" lens photo distance and triggering the Chicago Flash was more that adqequate to confirm a vessels identity.

YS
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 16:21
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I was one of the supply officers at Odiham in 1982 when the Falklands war started and recall being tasked with collecting together all the NVGs that could be found around the RAF most of which seemed to come from fast jet stations. I was previously unaware of the existence of NVGs and cannot recall any arriving at Odiham prior to the war. This was seen to be a fairly sensitive matter and although most were destined for use by the Chinooks we acted as a central distribution point issuing NVGs to other force elements as directed by HQSTC.
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 16:37
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Originally Posted by Softie
Initial trials of NVGs on Fast Jet aircraft were carried out on Jaguar at Coltishall in 1981/82. I was a first tourist OC Avionics and my OC EES kept this trial very much as his pet project. I believe some rudimentry filtering was applied to cockpit lighting as cockpit were not NVG compatible. I recall that the NVG had to be removed manually before any consideration of pulling the ejection handle. There were various trials during the 1980s under the Nightbird programme. Fleet incorporation on Jaguar did not start until the first Gulf War under SEM procedures.
If I recall things correctly the Phantom detachment "down south" started getting at least some helmet mounted NVGs early '83.

As you say the cockpit lighting had to be modified.
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 16:43
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RAE Bedford had a forward looking Low Light TV installed in the HS 748 used by the Blind Landing Experimental Unit - early 1970s. It was not IR based, just enhancement.
No great improvement, just differed from normal vision in the same conditions.

The system was used in the late 70s to gather raw video for an unknown future system of 'active TV'.
Low level flying - 100 ft in Wales, Scotland and Germany.
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 20:46
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Originally Posted by Yellow Sun
We were given a few pairs of early NVG, used hand held, and version of the Steadyscope monocular with a simple image intensifier.
In NVG trials for jast jets (we operated the Jaguar at Farnborough as well as Hecate), the sponsors lent us a pair of NVGs so we could take a 'last look' at the gear as they were coming in to land. Once you got it pointed the right way you could see a nice clear picture but it was getting it sighted in that was the problem.
I don't think they managed a full stop landing with the Jag using NVGs; that was reserved for the 'official' landings at Boscombe, but we did several with Hecate. The ops at Farnborough were never really publicised like the Boscombe ones were.
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 22:08
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On 14 May 1982, I did a night trial in an F-4 from Wattisham with a Harrier whose pilot was doing an NVG trial. Very late at night, so really dark - he spotted us very easily and read the registration no. XV404 very easily, with all our lights out.

Then he asked me to put an engine into A/B.... Immediately there was a brief call of 'knock it off' as it had virtually destroyed either his night vision or the NVGs!
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Old 25th Jan 2023, 22:30
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Originally Posted by Paying Guest
Remember that sortie well. Came over from Boscombe to do an associated ride along trial as flight test observer and yes, the expletives were interesting, if not particularly educational, when he discovered the relative locations of camera and nosewheel, though my memory suggests an overshoot and goaround as the result. The display was very impressive during the Welsh LL portion of the trial. Without digging out my log book memory suggests mid 74 or early 75.
Don't wish to haggle but it wasn't '74; the main runway was being re-surfaced for most of the year then we were straight into the airshow and after that, OC Flying (Wg Cdr Clive Rustin) was 'moved on' to Boscombe for reasons I won't disclose although his successor Wg Cdr Dave Bywater did tell me.
Clive had another er 'problem' while at Boscombe (which was featured on TV) and when I met him at Bruggen (visiting in my alter ego as an RAFVR(T) officer) in 1986, he was still a Wg Cdr. Tells a tale doesn't it.
After this came Wg Cdr Ian Strachan who is the one I remember as 'adopting' the Varsity trial.
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Old 26th Jan 2023, 08:47
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Originally Posted by walbut
I am currently editing Roger Searle's autobiography, in conjunction with a few of his colleagues from BAe Brough and Holme on Spalding Moor. He wrote that he carried out what he believed was the first night low level, low light television sortie from RAE Farnborough in Hunter T7 XL383 on 12th Jan 1976. Harry Maclean, an ex RAF Lightning pilot was the safety pilot. Roger passed away on 16th April 2020.
I'll be interested in that when your book comes out to put this story together. I spoke to Roger briefly a few years ago after a RAeSoc meeting and he described his first flight with low light capability as meeting all the planned targets in one go, they went straight into low-level high speed flight with real confidence.
A colleague picked up the work to fit an earlier Chisel nose onto XV344 for the TICM II trials. I believe it came from S,1 XN923 (now preserved at Charlewood, near Gatwick).
His work flying Harrier at Boscombe should also be interesting. These guys certainly earned their pay !


XN923 A&AEE photo rescued from a retired Designers desk !
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Old 26th Jan 2023, 21:18
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I joined RAE Avionics Flight in Jan 74 and flew on both Sea King low level LLTV trials and one trip in a Wessex at night using NVG with our Army helo tp who was trialling NVG at the time. No FW FLIR on Avionics Flight at that time as far as I am aware..
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Old 26th Jan 2023, 21:46
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Originally Posted by chevvron
In NVG trials for jast jets (we operated the Jaguar at Farnborough as well as Hecate), the sponsors lent us a pair of NVGs so we could take a 'last look' at the gear as they were coming in to land. Once you got it pointed the right way you could see a nice clear picture but it was getting it sighted in that was the problem.

I don't think they managed a full stop landing with the Jag using NVGs; that was reserved for the 'official' landings at Boscombe, but we did several with Hecate. The ops at Farnborough were never really publicised like the Boscombe ones were.
Chevvron: we certainly landed Jaguar ZB 615 at Farnborough at night, but I am not sure if we did that with XW566. We did not land the Tornado at Farnborough although we did one flyby ( I think it was on 28 March 1985) - it was always Boscombe based
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Old 27th Jan 2023, 07:32
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I remember being 'safety pilot' on a T2 Jaguar on 6 Squadron at Coltishall in the early 80's doing Squadron trials on NVGs. It was alright for the TP up front with the goggles. but rushing around Wales at low level at night was frankly terrifying in the back!
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Old 27th Jan 2023, 09:45
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For many years the Wessex was the forerunner with regards to PNG/NVG ops because of Northern Ireland. On my first tour on 72 Sqn 80-83 the cockpits weren't compatible so the only people using firstly hand held PNG and then helmet mounted NVG were the crewman. The pilot flew us to an IP, then we took over navigating to the correct field and put a White Light Nite Sun on it for them to land in. By my second tour 85 -87 the cockpits were modified and all the crew were on Goggles using Black Lite Nite Sun. I believe that 72 Sqn was the first squadron to have all aircrew and aircraft capable of NVG ops.
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Old 29th Jan 2023, 06:10
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Re NVGs in the F4, the 3 aircraft we took to Ascension in May 1982 had hastily modified blue glass cockpits. A bod appeared with some goggles for us, I took him airborne on 28 May 82 which could well have been the first RAF Phantom NVG sortie. The bod, as I recall, was certainly not fast jet aircrew, not even sure if he was aircrew at all as he seemed to be very windy about getting airborne, at night, from Ascension. On subsequent nights, we all flew with the goggles flying against blacked out aircraft and ships.
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