Difference between night vision generations?




Difference between night vision generations

Difference between night vision generations

Soldier Optronics

To detect, recognize, and identify a target in pitch dark conditions, Night vision devices play an important role. This technology of night vision empowers our soldiers in combat situations. There are different generations of image intensifier tubes used in NVD’s, read the blog to know more about which is important while purchasing a suitable night vision device.

Night Vision Device

Prachi Gupta



The Technology

Night Vision Devices, commonly known as NVDs are tactical devices that are capable of amplifying light to illuminate the dark surroundings of their users. As a result, in pitch-dark situations the user can detect, recognize, and identify targets while the enemy remains unaware and is caught off guard. This game-changing technology has effectively transformed the battlefield of the 21st century and given its user a clear-cut advantage over their adversary. As a result, their usage has become increasingly common as a majority of forces intend to equip their soldiers with NVDs to tackle the 21st-century battlefield. All establishments unanimously concur to its abilities to provide a distinct edge. 

However, the NVD market is usually challenging to understand for procurement officials due to the existence of different generations and common myths around its technological capabilities. To simplify this, let’s ‘shed some light’ on what one can expect when trying to procure the optimum equipment for their forces. 

The Different Stages
Like all technologies, NVDs have also gone through multiple evolutionary stages to reach their current capabilities and can broadly be differentiated into four separate generations.

Generation “0”
The first known as generation ‘0’, used an IR illuminator as an active method of forming an image. This technology is considered primitive by today’s standards and is commercially not available.   

Generation “1”
The second, known as generation ‘1’ used an S20 multi-alkali photocathode to form an image and is thus also considered outdated by today’s standards as it wasn’t far apart in terms of the technology when compared to generation ‘0’.   

Generation “2”
However, the next generation onwards, also known as, generation ‘2’, a monumental step up was initiated in the quality of the image obtained. Even though it too employed a multi-alkali photocathode, it also used a micro channel plate (MCP) in the image intensifier tube for the amplification of the photoelectrons. As a result, it was able to operate ‘passively’ without the need for an IR illuminator. Generation ‘2’ devices typically have a spectral range of up to 850nm and a sensitivity of ~700 μA/lm depending upon the model selected. It is also capable of correcting the image distortion caused by light when compared to its predecessors. As a result, it finds a wide variety of applications in surveillance and navigation roles. 

Generation “3”

The fourth and the last generation known as generation ‘3’ on the other hand employs image intensifier tubes that contain Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) photocathode which is capable of offering a much higher sensitivity to light, i.e. up to 1600~2000 μA/lm and a  spectral range of up to 900nm. In addition to that, the photocathodes used in generation 3 NVD’s  Image intensifier, exhibit a negative electron affinity that in turn provides the photoelectrons a ‘proverbial’ free ride toward the vacuum band. As a result, when generation 2 and generation 3 NVDs are exposed to the same level of low light conditions, the image from generation 3 devices is typically much sharper and crisper than those of generation 2. The generation 3 NVDs become ideal for applications like Special Forces, Search & Rescue and Border Surveillance.

The Vision

Keeping in mind our ‘Passion To Protect’ and our promise to provide only the latest and the most sophisticated technology to our customers, the entire night vision line of products by MKU utilizes only generation 2 and generation 3 image intensifiers.  Besides the generation of the image intensifier used in the NVD, there is a myriad of other performance parameters that come into play when differentiating between an ‘entry-level’ NVD device and a ‘high end’ NVD device. If you feel intrigued by the science and capabilities of night vision, stay tuned to this space to learn more about this fascinating tool that is transforming the battlefields. Click here To know more about NETRO Optronics Devices

Night Vision Device

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