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Early NVG and FLIR in UK?

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Early NVG and FLIR in UK?

Old 15th Dec 2008, 15:35
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Early NVG and FLIR in UK?

Hi all

When did the old RAF/FAA/AAC and RAe start experimenting with FLIR, LLTV. NVGs? What is the earliest period? 1960s?

All i know is the first gen NVGs used were in Op Corporate for Sea King crews
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Old 15th Dec 2008, 15:41
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As an aside, why is FLIR called Flir: as Forward Looking? Which way could it look before it could look forward?
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Old 15th Dec 2008, 15:50
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The F-117 also had a DLIR (Downwards - Looking IR)
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Old 15th Dec 2008, 17:16
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I was involved in rotary flying in UK and RAFG using Passive Night Goggles (PNG) from 1979 onwards. We used to wear Mk1A helmet cloth inners and throat mikes. PNGs were not designed for aircraft use and it wasn't possible to wear a hard helmet with them (they were built on a plastic moulding which was held to the face by a head harness). Also, it wasn't possible to "look under" them onto the instruments. Therefore, we used to have to focus one tube on the instruments and the other one outside.

After those, Gen 1 NVGs were a revelation.
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Old 15th Dec 2008, 17:30
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Those systems that only look forward are FLIR, (obviously!). They are often fixed to the centreline of the aircraft, but there are others that mistakenly called a FLIR, when they are technically in the family of IRDS - (IR Detection Systems) that can be rotated around - 360 in most cases, and those that can look up and down, forward and back (including 90 down and 90 rear) - most targetting pods have this capacity and can sometimes be projected onto a HUD or similar.....IMHO the term FLIR is stuck in the '70s, but just like most 'punter oriented' terms, the wannabees can relate to what they already know (eg only bombers bomb, and fighters fight ....)...
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 07:31
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First PNG I saw was in 1975 on 103 Sqn in Singapore. One of our crews used them to descend into an upcountry clearing and sat there all night checking on how accurate the rest of us were at night navigation over the jungle. Most of us got within several hundred yards which was pretty good with only a clock, compass and maps marked "uncharted territory". The procedure was that one pilot had the goggles strapped on and flew the ac but he couldn't see any of the instruments and the other had to sit in complete darkness, read out things like, height, speed, attitude, rod and be ready to turn the cockpit lights on and take control in the event of an emergency. The crewman then did all he could to navigate (he was the only one who could see the map) and just about everything else! Changing radio frequencies was a nightmare. It was about 1977-8 when we were stopped from using them in N. Ireland after a series of very hairy incidents which bent a few aircraft and any one of which could have been a nasty accident.
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 13:21
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941,Was that with Wessex or WHirlwind? Didn't 103 disband in 75?

Looking at the 60s with regard to the Vietnam War and the technologies associated with it, such as AC-130, B-57G, YO-3A, UH-1M INFANT, AP-2H etc etc fitted with LLTV, FLIR and night vision systems so what else in the Uk had similar specialized avionics fit

Also when reading on the DARPA / CIA 'Quiet One' Hughes 300 fitted with 1st gen NVG and FLIR equipped cockpit back in late 60s/early 70s quite fascinating.

So after the RAF I guess the FAA and AAC followed suit with NVGs and FLIR in the 70s??
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 14:57
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Chopper 2004, that was with Wessex HC2s when we were part of UNZUK forces based at Tengah. I left in 1976 and 103 Sqn was disbanded in 1977 I think it was. If you were there you will know what 941 means!
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 15:37
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To my knowledge, different tests and research started before WWII. The first system tested/used was probably the "Tabby" series of monoculars and binoculars. There was a Tabby monocular (Tabby E?? - have to check this), designed for aviation use.Arrakis
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 16:18
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We tested CAVNAV goggles in NI in Oct 73. Scared the bejasus out of several flocks of sheep plus the non-CAVNAV goggle "safety pilot".
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 18:53
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I’m with Wwyvern. Oct 1973 is what my log book says when we first started stumbling about with Cavnavs. The first ones were useless in a Puma owing to reflections from the co-pilot’s instrument lighting. They were; however, perfect for belting a Land Rover around a crowded exercise area without any lights on. You would see lots of RMPs diving into ditches.

It got more serious in April 1974 and the goggles eventually matured into ones that had a better contrast and would attach to the visor slide. I did a considerable amount of training and teaching during that period and it required a lot of co-operation between the pilot who thought he could see what was going on and the pilot who thought that the other could see, or vice versa. A visual limit was described as ‘quarter starlight’ i.e. the same as a person with good night vision. That I had and that was the only reason why I was prepared to teach the technique.

There were some appalling close near-misses which is why they dropped it until the equipment improved. The worst I heard about was one sculling low level in South Armagh, went into low status and decided to throw it away. He climbed on a Westerly heading and during the climb the radalt was spiking on the 100 ft. setting. He came out of the tops and right in front of him was the Forkhill trig point.

Even better was IR Nite Sun. That was where you really had to have a sense of humour. Especially the co-pilot as he watched the aircraft plunging earthwards in total darkness with the pilot and crewman arguing the toss between each other.

My first experience of fixed external optical systems was a Lowlite TV system. This was mounted on the Pershore Puma and I was asked to fly it to Odiham by reference to this alone to give an assessment. When the team fitted it they had decided to use the load pole hatch so when you switched it on on the ground you had a perfect picture of the back of the nosewheels. The other modification was a piece of black tape over the u/c warning light to stop it blinding you when you retracted the gear in the hover so you could see which way to go. The camera was fixed straight ahead so I was lost shortly after passing the airfield boundary. It got better at 3,000 ft. and motorways were easy as long as they were going in the same direction as you were.

On arrival at Odiham we went to the old 33 Sqn dispersal on the South side. There was an official visit going on with lots of senior officers and the like. It was an easterly wind so I lined up with the perimeter track as a guide to the dispersal. As I required the undercarriage to be up in order to see where I was going I had a TV picture full of high ranking officers all frantically waving and gesticulating at this Puma on short finals with the gear up.

Never flew anything like that again until the Solomon Islands a couple of years ago.
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Old 17th Dec 2008, 10:16
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Lots of slightly different "tabby" equipments used in the last year or so of WW2 and just after.

The British Nightfighters had some sort of infra-red i.d. equipment to check friend/foe of returning bombers.

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Old 18th Dec 2008, 08:13
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I was an instructional Flight Commander at Middle Wallop from '73 to '76 and was posted to NI as the Theatre QHI in early '77. PNG were being trailed by D&T Sqn in the latter part of my time as the Flight Commander and I was cleared C to I on PNG on both Scout and Gazelle. There were 2 types of PNG around at the time, monofocal and bifocal the latter allowed one to see the instruments. Both types had a bracket which screwed onto the visor track. The PNG were mounted in a plastic frame which prevents you from looking out of the side and were designed for use by vehicle drivers. During a recce to NI to assess the roles for my new appointment I was shown how PNG (procured as a UOR) were being used at the time. There was no permenant QHI in theatre at the time and the rules and training were being made up on the hoof under the guise and protection of operational necessity. They were hand held (no helmet fitting in the Province at the time) by and Inf JNCO in the left hand seat of the Scout giving directions to the pilot who was flying mortal. THese Inf JNCOs wouldn't recognise a sight picture approach if one jumped up and bit them. I was proadly shown a Scout which half a hedge wrapped round the skids. On taking up the appointment I stopped this lunacy and it's very lucky no one had been killed in the interim. More PNG and helmet brackets were quickly introduced and formal training, 10 hours, was completed when crews, both pilot and crewman, were cleared for operations. As time progressed equipment became available for pre NI training in UK and BAOR and I recall spending time with incoming aircrew training them before arrival in their own theatre. Time passed as a staff officer and other appointments which took me away from flying duties and when I returned ANVIS had replaced the PNG and I was qualified on Lynx. On a further return we were issued with a Ferranti set of goggles which were good and before deploying on GW1 each crewmember was issued with his own personal issue. Flying on NVG in the desert was awesome. Happy days or rather nights with some 200hrs on NVG and alive but with lots of grey hair.


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Old 18th Dec 2008, 09:01
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Jaguar FJ NVG Trials

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.
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Old 18th Dec 2008, 13:58
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There was more than near misses. Gazelle XW900 crashed at Soest during pre NI NVG training in 1976. Both pilots walked away I'm glad to say.;
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Old 18th Dec 2008, 19:00
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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.
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Old 18th Dec 2008, 19:05
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As as lad I can recall messing about with such things in the early 80's - my old boy, a boffin with Ferranti in Edinburgh, let me try out the NVGs he'd been using for the Harrier Nightbird programme. My recollection is of standing in the dark-room at his work and making impolite gestures towards him, only inches from his face. Needless to say he was none the wiser, hence I could continue to sit down in comfort for the next two weeks.
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Old 18th Dec 2008, 20:05
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What about 'hecate' the lady of the night. RAE Farnboroughs T7 Hunter ? Was doing some interesting work in early 80's as she used to come and do night flying with us at a secret airfield in wiltshire , had to have all the lights of on the airfield . Got shown some very interesting footage afterwards of low level flying with it. Think at that stage the programme had been running for some time.
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Old 18th Dec 2008, 20:07
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Double Zero,

The Navy (?) Lynx may well have carried out an internal aids letdown using radar/TANS/FCS to position himself by you. SeaKings did it all the time.

Then again, he may well have been using Night NVG goggles.
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Old 6th Jan 2009, 09:59
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Thumbs up Cavnav/PNG

Cavnav in 1976 as a positioning aid in rural NI, not really an act of war but they did help in navigation (right field, right side of the border!) trained by a great guy sadly not with us now (S Vatsendale) then on to PNG in 77 and while I try not to confuse change with progress ANVIS most certainly was.
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