US Places $3.24B Order for Night Vision Devices
The U.S. Army Contracting Agency, at White Sands Missile Range, NM has just issued $3.24 billion in contracts for “Omnibus VII enhanced third generation image intensifier ground night vision devices and spare image intensifier tubes.” What this means in practice is that the US Army and US Marine Corps are using one omnibus contract to purchase the following night-vision devices, in quantity: AN/PVS-14 monocular, AN/PVS-7D binocular, MX-10130/UV image intensifier tubes, and MX-11769/UV image intensifier tubes.
Naturally, all of these items work exceptionally well when paired with the deliverables to a $1.37 billion contract for Multi-Functioning Aiming Laser Systems.
Night Vision Goggles allow the user to see at night using moonlight or starlight. The most modern versions usually include 2 different technologies: infrared/thermal, and image intensification.
Image intensification (I2) is best for seeing details like maps, because it works by intensifying the existing light spectrum. Low levels of ambient light pass through a photocathode that converts the light photons to electrons, then amplifies them (sensitivity levels to various infrared, ultraviolet and visible spectrum wavelengths vary with the exact device). They then hit a phosphor screen (read: “TV screen”) where they are converted into visible light (read: “picture”). More exact technical details can be found here. Tactically, they catch is that I2 needs some light to work, and smoke, fog, etc. block it just as they block normal vision.
Infrared (IR) or thermal imaging notes heat sources (aka. “deep infrared” spectrum) instead. Because that form of infrared is actively emitted and not just reflected, and isn’t blocked as easily as visible light, this form of “infravision” works in no-light conditions that may prevail underground, inside dark buildings, etc., or in conditions like dust storms, fog, etc. On the other hand, unless the lines on your map or lettering on that street sign have different heat values than the rest, IR isn’t going to help very much.
This is why 3rd and 4th generation military devices usually use some combination of the two modes. As this ITT April 2005 press release re: a major US military order for Enhanced Vision Night Goggles demonstrates.
Under the “Omnibus VII enhanced third generation image intensifier gound night vision devices and spare image intensifier tubes” program, maximum quantity requirements for these devices differ by item. These figures were part of the Industry Day Presentation [PDF]. The maximum number of goggles ordered could go as high as 379,302:
- AN/PVS-14 night vision monocle = 340,486
- AN/PVS-7D night vision binocular = 38,816
- MX-10130/UV image tubes = 116,000
- MX-11769/UV image tube = 95,700
Proposed ceiling prices per device were:
- AN/PVS-7 = $2,614
- AN/PVS-14 = $2,570
- MX-10130 = $1,829
- MX-11769 = $1,995
PVS-7Ds and PVS-14s can be hand held, head-mounted, or helmet-mounted. The goggles have an infrared illuminator (IR) for illumination or signaling. An indicator lets the user know when the IR light is on. A separate indicator signals low battery. Automatic shutoff occurs on high light, when goggle is detached from the head mount, or flipped up on the helmet mount. The image intensifier tubes, as the program name indicates, are just the spare “eyepieces” that can be switched into the goggles.
Now, the contracts, as issued by the U.S. Army Contracting Agency at White Sands Missile Range, NM. There were an unknown number of bids solicited via the World Wide Web on June 9, 2005, and two bids were received. Work is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2009. These are firm-fixed-price contracts:
Sept 15/05: Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Garland, TX received the full delivery order amount of $1.85 billion. Work will be performed in Garland, Texas, (60%), and Tempe, AZ (40%) (W9124Q-05-D-0823).
Sept 15/05: ITT Industries in Roanoke, VA received the full delivery order amount of $1.39 billion. Work will be performed in Roanoke, VA (W9124Q-05-D-0821).
This acquisition program was structured around technical excellence, with past performance second and cost a distant third. Requirements for the AN/PVS-14 monocular and AN/PVS-7D binocular night vision goggles were:
- Weight: < 1.5 lb/PVS-7 and 0.87 lb/PVS-14
- 150 meter range recognition of man-sized target in clear starlight.
- 15 hrs. or more of continuous operation in all climatic regions.
- Compatible with weapon mounted aiming lights.
- Signal to Noise Ratio: 25:1
- Photocathode Response: 1,800 ÂµA/lm
- Halo: < 1.0mm
- EBI: 2.5 x 10-11 phot
- Resolution: 64 lp/mm
- High Light Resolution: 36 lp/mm