A group of U.S. Marines assessed the next-generation night vision goggles (NVGs), the Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggle (SBNVG), in a realistic setting, in January.
The SBNVG is a lightweight night vision system comprising an image-intensifier binocular and an enhanced clip-on thermal imager. It is more capable than the AN/PVS-14 Monocular Night Vision Device (MNVD) — the legacy system that lacked the performance characteristics of the newer technology.
A helmet-mounted system, the SBNVG provides increased depth perception, improved clarity and a thermal-imaging capability to detect targets in extreme darkness or through battlefield obscurants. Marines can use the goggles to operate vehicles at night, move through dark buildings or tunnels, and engage targets after sunset.
In September, the Marine Corps awarded a contract to Elbit Systems of America (ESA) — formerly Harris Corporation Night Vision Business — in Roanoke, Virginia, for the SBNVG system.
During a Limited User Evaluation (LUE), MCSC facilitated the testing and assessment of the equipment to ensure its usability, reliability and effectiveness. The SBNVG LUE comprised three separate evaluations, enabling Marines to test the system in realistic scenarios and environments similar to those on the battlefield.
During one exercise, a group of Marines from The Basic School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, converged upon a Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain training facility to evaluate the SBNVG in low-light conditions.
The environment mirrored the sights, sounds and smells of a Middle Eastern town. The location comprised replications of a hotel, fish market, trade school, clothing store, police station and a United States Embassy building.
Some participants donned chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) protective equipment and helmets with the SBNVG attached. Others served as role players dressed in attire specific to that region of the world.
At sundown, Marines participated in a scenario during which they leveraged the SBNVG to scan multi-level buildings to secure a position, rescue friendlies or capture hostile targets. They searched for targets in all directions and at different heights, adjusted the focus as necessary and navigated pitch-black sewer tunnels with restricted height.
In a separate, live-fire exercise, Marines used the SBNVG with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) mounted with an M7 Rifle Combat Optic and an AN/PEQ-16 Mini-Integrated Pointer Illumination Module (MIPIM). This test event helped to identify performance, interface or user impacts encountered during nighttime small arms engagements.
Marines also used the SBNVG in a target observation assessment to locate human targets at various ranges and levels of illumination. The weather enabled them to test the technology in fog to evaluate the system’s clarity, depth perception and thermal capability in such conditions.
The LUE allowed Marines to discern any SBNVG mechanical limitations that would hinder real-world operations. The assessments enable MCSC to learn more about the SBNVG, gauge stakeholder opinion and address systematic issues. These events also help Marines familiarize themselves with the technology prior to fielding.
If any issues with the SBNVG exist, the program office will submit an Engineering Change Proposal allowing the company – ESA – to modify the binoculars to meet performance requirements.