Night Vision Weapon Sights

History


The history of night vision weapon sights in the IDF began in the late 1960’s with the introduction of the AN/PVS-2, a Gen I, X4 sight, known in the IDF as “Meshorer”. The AN/PVS-2 was first issued to SF units, and later, in the 1970’s, was issued to regular units.

In the mid 1980’s the AN/PVS-2 was disbanded and replaced by the AN/PVS-4, a Gen II, X3.6 sight, known in the IDF as “VARO” after one of its manufactures, as well as the Litton M845, a Gen II, X1.5 sight, known in the IDF as “Litton” after its maker.

In the mid 1990’s the AN/PVS-12 Aquila, Gen III, X4 and X6 sights, entered service and were issued to designated marksman and snipers respectively. Known in the IDF as “Aquila”, the AN/PVS-12 replaced all other weapons sights in service at the time.

In recent years, the aging AN/PVS-12 X4 sight is gradually been replaced by the New Noga Light LI-OR, a Gen III, X3 sight. For sniping platforms, the changes have been more subtle with a limited issue of the New Noga Light LI-OR X7 as well as the OSTI AN/PVS-27 UNS clip-on sight, both replacing the AN/PVS-12 X6.

 

Manufactures


Over the years the IDF has bought night vision sights from a variety of Israeli and American makers, some of which has undergone a major consolidation process since – in 1995 Varo was acquired by Litton Industries, which was acquired by Northrop Grumman in 2001 and integrated into its Electro-Optical Systems (EOS) division. Finally, in 2008 Northrop Grumman EOS division was sold to L-3 Communications.

The primary Israeli manufactures of night vision are Elbit (which acquired ITL) and Meprolight (which acquired New Noga Light). Both Elbit and Meprolight build sights based on U.S. or European made image intensifiers tubes.

Magnifying Sights

New Noga Light provides the IDF with the LI-OR X3 and LI-OR X7 as replacements to the aging Aquila X4 and X6 respectively.

Thermal Sights

A recent development is the Israeli makers’ headway into uncooled thermal devices, with all major Israeli players introducing such advanced optics in 2008:

  • New Noga Light Meitar - various magnifications available

  • Meprolight Noa - various magnifications available

  • ITL Coyote - various magnifications available, can be used as either weapon mounted sight or hand held observation device.

ITL Coyote as a weapon sight mounted on a M4A1.

ITL Coyote as a hand held device.

New Noga Light Meitar - stand alone and mounted on a M24.

Meprolight NOA.

Status


  • Designated Marksman - most platforms utilize either the AN/PVS-12 X4 sight or the newer LI-OR X3.

  • Sniping - most platforms utilize the AN/PVS-12 X6 sight. Sporadic samples of LI-OR X7 and AN/PVS-27 sights are in service with SF units. More exotic thermal sights are in limited usage due to their extremely high price.

Due to their advantages, in the future UNS clip-on type sights will likely see a broader issue, replacing conventional magnifying sights. However, as past experience has clearly shown, the high cost of night vision sights dictates a slow transition. In the meanwhile, Aquila and LI-OR will likely remain the backbone of the IDF night vision weapon sights for years to come. The transition to new optics will be faster in SF units, which benefit from a more generous budget and less restricted procurement process. UNS sights and thermal sights are likely to see wider distribution once future economy of scale and technological advancement lead to lower purchase price.

Optics Guide