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Early NVG and FLIR in UK?

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Early NVG and FLIR in UK?

Old 29th Jan 2023, 09:22
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Originally Posted by Firestreak
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.
And having string tied to them so that should they fall off the helmet mount they wouldn't hit the ground and break (as one did). IIRC there were concerns that ejection with NVGs tied around the neck could have been problematic as they would probably fall off the helmet mount and end up on in your chest.
Mind you night close formation was fun, not having NVGs the nav couldn't see the other aircraft and could get quite worried!
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Old 29th Jan 2023, 14:37
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Originally Posted by beardy
Mind you night close formation was fun, not having NVGs the nav couldn't see the other aircraft and could get quite worried!
During a helicopter exchange visit to New Mexico in 1994 the ‘mericans were trusting enough to allow me to have a go at refuelling from a C130 in one of their Blackhawks on NVG then descend to fly at 50’ agl over the desert, on a very dark night. In the RAF back then we were only cleared down to 150’ agl. One of our crewman instructors was down the back of the aircraft and not one peep came from his lips. I don’t ever remember him not speaking during a flight before….. all very trusting, anyway.
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Old 29th Jan 2023, 14:49
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Ah yes, the goggles that hit the floor, the jury is still out as to whether or not that was a genuine accident or was there a helping hand? For possible ejection, the official line became just knock the things off your bone dome then they shouldn’t kill you when you pull the handle.
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Old 30th Jan 2023, 15:12
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Chevvron mentioned Wing Commander Ian Strachan (one time boss of B Sqdn A&AEE Boscombe Down and Wingco Flying Farnborough) in his post #34. Ian tells me "Initially we used a LLTV camera in the nose (camera was from Hearne's GEC factory at Rochester airfield), but soon transitioned to using NVGs mounted on the pilot's helmet which allowed sideways scan."

From his (as yet unpublished autobiography):


In the Hunter, after practise by day, in April 1978 night flying followed, initially at about 500 ft above ground level. Two pictures are shown below - the small numbers are airspeed top left and on the right is height above ground from the Hunter’s radio altimeter. In the picture on the right, altitude is 694 ft at a speed of 448 knots. When a turn is not being made, altitude can be reduced and the left image shows flying at 512 ft above the ground at 459 knots. In the image on the right, the aircraft horizon bar is below the real horizon close to the aircraft’s Velocity Vector (VV) symbol and the pilot knows that the nose has soon to be raised to avoid hitting the ground. As we became more familiar with the system, altitude could safely be reduced further as long as the wings were level and the LLTV picture was good. The two pictures below from later in the trials show radio altimeter figures of 272 and 251 feet, after which we felt there was no need to demonstrate flying any lower.


The LLTV system could also be used for covert takeoffs and landings without runway lights. This was first tested on the long runway at Boscombe Down in April 1978. I was in the Air Traffic Control Tower to monitor events and the Hunter pilot was Squadron Leader John Bishop. I remember the incredulity of the Air Traffic staff when I asked them to turn off the runway lights before the Hunter made a "roller" landing 1 , but I assured them that the pilots had a screen that clearly showed the runway even without lights. They watched with amazement when John Bishop successfully landed, the only indication from the Control Tower being flashing navigation lights travelling down the completely dark runway, although in real covert operations the navigation lights would be switched off. A world-first, I think.
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Old 30th Jan 2023, 18:29
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Originally Posted by Fitter2
The LLTV system could also be used for covert takeoffs and landings without runway lights. This was first tested on the long runway at Boscombe Down in April 1978. I was in the Air Traffic Control Tower to monitor events and the Hunter pilot was Squadron Leader John Bishop. I remember the incredulity of the Air Traffic staff when I asked them to turn off the runway lights before the Hunter made a "roller" landing 1 , but I assured them that the pilots had a screen that clearly showed the runway even without lights. They watched with amazement when John Bishop successfully landed, the only indication from the Control Tower being flashing navigation lights travelling down the completely dark runway, although in real covert operations the navigation lights would be switched off. A world-first, I think.
As far as I recall, at Farnborough ATC, full 'lights out' takeoffs and landings were normal from the start of fast jet operations; the aircrew briefed us on the requirements and everyone participated down to the airfield electricians who went round the airfield extinguishing stray lights; as I said previously where there was a small current in some of the circuits which was meant to stop the lights 'icing over' in cold weather.
I'm surprised at the 'incredulity' of the Boscombe controllers when asked to turn the lights off because at Farnborough we were fully briefed by the aircrew that it was 'the norm' and some of us had visited EFS and viewed the tape recordings of the operations. I had even put a 'special' section in the the Civil AIP warning pilots that the airfield was frequently active at night with the airfield totally blacked out because at least one local civil airfield operated H24.
The most spectacular sorties were with the Jaguar (yes I remember the Jag trips now) whereby you could see a single anti - coll beacon taxy out, line up and go with the afterburners lighting up for takeoff only to be extinguished after they were airborne.

Last edited by chevvron; 31st Jan 2023 at 11:06.
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Old 30th Jan 2023, 22:04
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Hi Chevvron (by the way, are any still flying? I watched Derek Piggott demo the prototype at Booker)

I'm surprised at the 'incredulity' of the Boscombe controllers when asked to turn the lights off because at Farnborough we were fully briefed by the aircrew that it was 'the norm' and some of us had visited EFS and viewed the tape recordings of the operations
Ian was writing about the first no-lights landing trial in April 1987, it rapidly (as you say) became normal.
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 11:04
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Originally Posted by Fitter2
Hi Chevvron (by the way, are any still flying? I watched Derek Piggott demo the prototype at Booker)
I think there are one or two still operating at Chilbolton. I read about Derek Piggott's air test in 'Pilot' so years later when I started flying them at Halton, I knew what to expect.
The first one we had was a demonstrator with a Hirth 45hp engine but the rest were Konig 32hp. On one occasion I didn't 'flare' enough and discovered about Derek's remarks about getting the right angle of attack to complete a flare; the aircraft touched, then bounced back into the air. On Halton's long runway, I let it touch and go 3 times before pulling back a bit more and landing it properly!
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 11:44
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About '68 or '69 one of 205 Sqn's Shackletons in Singapore was fitted with an infra red detector.Some trials were done to see if it could locate insurgents in the jungle at night by detecting their cooking fires. As I recall, some Gurkhas were up in Malaya tasked with setting up " targets". The only trial I was due to fly on was cancelled for some reason, and I have no knowledge how succesful the trials were.
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 13:48
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Like many of the others here, my introduction to NVG was in Northern Ireland in 1980/81, when the first generation PNG arrived for us to use (AN-PVS 5?). This wonderful device was worn (I use the term relatively) by one pilot and the crewman, with the other pilot sitting as a safety pilot watching the T’s and P’s and frightened out of his skin by some of the comments between them and rapid applications of power by the pilot flying. How we missed some of the wires (and other aircraft) in South Armagh I don’t know – I do remember the limited field of view when wearing them, and how relieved I was when I took them off, and also when it was decided that it was time to stop using them altogether.

In mid ’82 I converted to the Chinook, and was also introduced to Gen 2 ANVIS, which was a whole world away from earlier experiences, and we were quite happy operating with them, including landing in fields etc with little or no light.

However, the little snippet I have to add comes from my first visit to the Falklands in late 82, when we were based at Port San Carlos rather than the later site round the bay. On Christmas Day we were invited to have lunch with the Estate manager, who also took us out in his Land Rover ‘to have a look around’. Apart from visiting a penguin colony, he took us out to the western most point of land, overlooking Fanning Bay and the entrance to San Carlos water, and showed us the Argentinian positions there. There were two or three recoilless rifles still there, with a large amount of ammunition (in fact we toyed with the idea of ‘trying one out’), but the surprise of the day was to find a bunker with 6 pairs of PNG neatly stacked – all of which still worked. Not only that but two of them had UK MOD markings on them! Had the FP been manned on the night the fleet sailed into the bay there could have been a lot of damage. Fortunately for us the guys who should have been manning it were apparently at a party at PSC and then couldn’t get back. When we told the int guys in Stanley they weren’t interested, and the next time I went out there the position had been ‘liberated’.
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 22:37
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There was a small cadre of NVG qual Jag pilots in Germany in the late 80s. We flew low level in UK for training before returning to base. I was authed for a mission in Germany one night to demonstrate the concept. Unfortunately, no one seemed to tell the German authorities and there was all sorts of trouble for flying below 1000ft. Not me Herr Colonel, speak to my auth, a gent who now sits in the Lords!
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Old 31st Jan 2023, 23:03
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Originally Posted by Capt Scribble
There was a small cadre of NVG qual Jag pilots in Germany in the late 80s. We flew low level in UK for training before returning to base. I was authed for a mission in Germany one night to demonstrate the concept. Unfortunately, no one seemed to tell the German authorities and there was all sorts of trouble for flying below 1000ft. Not me Herr Colonel, speak to my auth, a gent who now sits in the Lords!
Come to think of it, wasn't there a ban put on all FJ low flying in the UK after 1130pm every night?
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