Next generation of night vision technology tested before equipping US warfighters
To determine the operational effectiveness and suitability of the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle – Binocular (ENVG-B) — the U.S. Army’s next generation of night vision system — and the Small Tactical Optical Rifle Mounted Micro-Laser Range Finder (STORM II), Soldiers conducted multiple jumps, despite a few setbacks with weather and COVID-19. Mike Shelton, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command, reports.
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A Special Operations Soldier supporting the military free-fall test, exits an Air Force C-27 aircraft and achieves stability over Laurinburg-Maxton Airfield, North Carolina with his Small Tactical Optical Rifle Mounted Micro-Laser Range Finder II (STORM II)-equipped M-4 carbine in the front-mount rigging configuration. (Picture source: Staff Sgt. Jonathan R. Copley, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate)
“This is the end of a long road for these two programs,” said Bill Slaven, test officer with the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate. “Both programs had suffered impacts to their acquisition time line due to the influences of COVID-19 in the preceding months.” The ENVG-B equips Soldiers with situational awareness by providing not only cutting edge night vision technology, but also providing real-time combat information and navigation assistance. Staff Sgt. Michael Wagner, an Infantry squad leader from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, hailing from Tampa Florida said, “The new capabilities of the ENVG will make night dismounted navigation much simpler.”
A Soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade, equipped with the M4 equipped Small Tactical Optical Rifle Mounted Micro-Laser Range Finder II (STORM II), takes aim while conducting a post-airdrop ranging exercise, engaging targets which consist of non-military and military vehicles during operational testing of the STORM II. (Picture source: James Finney, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)
The STORM II is a rifle-mounted laser range finder with infrared aiming capabilities. It is intended to provide Soldiers accurate range-to-target information when employing organic and indirect weapons systems. STORM II also provides an infrared aiming reticule for the Soldier’s primary weapon during limited visibility.
Testing for the STORM II culminated with MFF testing by local Fort Bragg special operations Soldiers to address special operations community requirements when employing the STORM II during and subsequent to MFF infiltration. During this phase of testing, the STORM II was jumped exposed during MFF operations, providing the critical test conditions of rapid altitude change, temperature and atmospheric pressure existing during free-fall jumps. SPC Jacob O’Brien of Easton, Massachusetts, with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division was one of the STORM II primary operators during all phases of testing. “I like it!,” he said of STORM II. “It’s a very durable system that attaches securely to my rifle and maintains its zero.”
STORM II testing was delayed due to the influences of tropical weather in November but completed in early December with the final free-fall test trials by Soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group.
However, unlike previous tests of this nature conducted during early 2020, unique challenges surfaced due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic at Fort Bragg, which brought about a few new procedures. “The new normal test day now begins with social distancing, temperature checks, medical screening and bubble assignments,” said Wayne Lovely, an ABNSOTD Test Officer. “Consequently, paratroopers are a very hard demographic to socially distance,” said Maj. John Phillips, ABNSOTD Deputy of Chief of testing.
“Military aircraft are inherently designed to deliver the maximum amount of Soldiers possible in the least amount of space, and the proximity of a jumpmaster to the jumper is non-negotiable when inspecting the lifesaving parachute of a Soldier. Our goal is to keep the Soldiers participating in testing socially distant and safe during every phase of our operations,” said Slaven. Upon arrival each morning, participating soldiers were given temperature checks by ABNSOTD staff and assigned to a specific work bubble for the day. “This ensured that the operational soldiers had minimal exposure to support staff and employees not directly involved with their mission,” Slaven added. “Operational Testing is about Soldiers. It is about making sure that the systems developed are effective in a Soldier’s hands and suitable for the environments in which Soldiers train and fight,” said Col. Brad Mock, Director of ABNSOTD.
A Soldier with 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade participates in new equipment training prior to the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle Binocular (ENVG-B) airdrop test (Picture source: Chris O’Leary, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)
U.S. Army Operational Test Command
The Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based ABNSOTD plans, executes, and reports on operational tests and field experiments of Airborne and Special Operations Forces equipment, procedures, aerial delivery and air transportation systems in order to provide key operational data for the continued development and fielding of doctrine, systems or equipment to the Warfighter.
The U.S. Army Operational Test Command is based at West Fort Hood, Texas, and its mission is about ensuring that systems developed are effective in a Soldier’s hands and suitable for the environments in which Soldiers train and fight. Test units and their Soldiers provide feedback, by offering input to improve upon existing and future systems with which Soldiers will ultimately use to train and fight.