Defense & National Security

Why the Army owns the night

Why the Army owns the night
Secretary of the Army John McHugh takes aim with an M4 rifle equipped with the Virtual Pointer system during a visit to the Army's Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate, April 18, 2013, at Fort Belvoir, Va. The Virtual Pointer system, demonstrated by Amanda Skrabut, an NVESD engineer, provides improved capability for users by rapidly exchanging target locations when they are separated in the field.

FORT BELVOIR, Va. (April 19, 2013) — Secretary of the Army John McHugh received a demonstration of some of the Army’s current and future technologies during a visit to the Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate, here, April 18.

“We want to ensure that we invest in innovations that continue to give us the technological edge that our forces need to take on whatever tomorrow’s mission might be,” McHugh said.

Ms. Jill Smith, Director of Communication-Electronics Research and Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), and Dr. Donald Reago, Acting Director of NVESD, a subordinate element to CERDEC, hosted the demonstrations for the Army Secretary. CERDEC is the information technologies and integrated systems center for the Army. NVESD develops imaging devices for Soldiers.

McHugh saw first-hand the latest in the next generation of Soldier sensor technologies, which included night vision, targeting devices, and long range surveillance systems.

“These technologies show great potential to increase Soldier lethality, survivability and situational awareness,” he said. “Together these developments have changed the way U.S. Soldiers fight.”

NVESD has enabled Soldier sensor capability for more than 60 years. “Their accomplishments have enabled the Soldiers to own the night and substantially expanded Soldier sensor capabilities,” said Smith. “Technologies developed at Night Vision give our Soldiers significant advantages over our adversaries both day and night.”

Of special interest to the McHugh was Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate’s, efforts to continually reduce size, weight, cost, and power of night vision and thermal technologies. Its thermal weapon site technology reduced an 18-inch weapon sight from 2.75 pounds with four AA batteries to less than 5 inches and 1 pound with two AA batteries and increased functionality.

“By reducing the load a Soldier carries, coupled with technology, is the right way to do more with less,” McHugh said.  In NVESD’s unique Indoor Mine Lanes Facility, McHugh saw advancements of evolutionary and revolutionary technologies that find buried mines and improvised explosive devices. As one of the Army’s core competencies, McHugh was highly interested in how the Army is countering mines and IEDs.

NVESD benefited from years of collaboration with a wide range of national and international partners to include testing facilities where NVESD uses large “sandboxes” filled with dirt and soil from around the world. Having access to these earth samples enables NVESD subject matter experts to test the performance of mine finding technologies for use in specific geographical locations.

NVESD systems have saved thousands of Soldier and civilian lives, said Reago.

Using larger manned countermine equipment such as the Husky Mounted Detection System, unmanned ground systems or man-portable technologies, NVESD experts explained that these systems can sense explosive threats at significant depths in the ground. Soldiers can use the systems separately or together in conjunction with NVESD aerial assets for enhanced capabilities.

“NVESD is doing great work,” said McHugh. “I get plenty of briefings in the Pentagon, but nothing beats getting out to see the folks who are doing great work in support of our Soldiers and say’ thank you.’”

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