Thermal imagers and night vision devices are pretty different. Thermal imagers pick up the heat given off by stuff, depending on how hot it is, while night vision gadgets take the available light around you and make it brighter so you can see stuff.
Thermal imagers provide the ability to see the world in a different way, while night vision devices (NVDs) allow us to see like cats in the dark.
That’s it. Here we can end our article 🙂
If it’s not enough for you, let’s dive a bit deeper in next sections.
Okay, so let us just say that we're talking about the civil version of these devices from the perspective of the war in Ukraine.
Here, you can see images from each. Thermal imagers typically offer at least five different picture styles, such as color (shown below) and white-hot (also shown below). The operator can choose the most convenient style depending on personal preferences, the environment, and the mission.
Analog Night Vision Devices (NVDs) come in two colors: Green Phosphor and White Phosphor. At first glance, people may mistake white phosphor for a thermal image in white-hot. However, the information provided by both images is dramatically different.
But before we go any further, let's check out their features side by side in this handy table. This table applies only to civil-grade versions that are available in Europe.
So, like, are thermal imagers just better? Not gonna lie, it's kinda hard to say for sure. Every technology has its own pros and cons, so it really depends on the situation and what you're trying to do.
Let’s take a look at actual application of both types in modern warfare. Inspired by military experience in Russian-Ukrainian war.
There are some next-gen devices that combine thermal and night vision in one device, in one picture, but we won't cover them today because they haven't been widely used yet.
The “fun” thing is that thermal scopes and monoculars were originally designed for hunting, but these models have become a powerful advantage in warfare due to their incredible performance, especially considering their price.
Here is a video from a drone equipped with a thermal camera in white-hot mode, filmed on a battlefield in Ukraine.
A video how thermal imager see through a fog.
When using an IR-illuminator or IR-laser beam for targeting, keep in mind that you may be visible to the enemy if they are using NVDs as well.
Here is a great video on US Army Training in Afghanistan. The video was filmed using NVD, which represents everything in Green Phosphor.
Previously, these technologies were only available to a narrow list of special operations forces. However, due to their affordable prices, they are now widely used in modern warfare, such as the war in Ukraine. This allows military personnel to gain a strategic advantage over their enemies, leading to significant changes in battle tactics. For example, there are far more night fights than in previous wars and conflicts.
In the following articles, we will cover each device type to learn their unique features, how to choose one, and how to use it for your mission.
We hope, you’ve learned some new things about those devices, their key differences and use cases so you can help Ukrainian army wiser.