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From the monthly archives:

June 2011

Sister site Kit Up! appears to have spotted what might be these super high-tech AN/PVS-21 Low Profile Night Vision Goggles in a photo showing New Zealand Special Air Service commandos leaving the scene of yesterday’s hotel attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. While Kit Up! originalyl postulates that the NVGs look to be the panoramic QUADEYE night vision system. But on closer inspection of the goggles (shown above), it looks like the Kiwis may very well be sporting the slimmer PVS-21s.

These goggles are up to 4 inches slimmer than most NVG and incorporate a see-through, clear screen allowing the viewer to see the natural environment through a night vision display only when necissary. According to Tactical Night Vision Company’s product info:

The AN/PVS-21 uses a patented “folded optics” system that projects the night vision image into a pair of see-through optics.  This means that the operator can literally see through the lenses regardless of whether or not the unit is engaged.  See through optics add a whole new level of versatility.  No longer does the tube control the brightness of the image.  If an operator is exposed to too much ambient light, the image simply fades out and the actual scene is viewed straight through the lenses.  The image appears as it normally would through a set of clear goggles because the operator is not viewing through an image intensifier.  This ability greatly increases the operator’s situational awareness and makes him more combat effective because threats can be more easily engaged regardless of the lighting conditions.  While PINNACLE tubes do a good job of protecting the user’s vision from changing lighting conditions, the AN/PVS-21 solves the problem in a more innovative way, providing smooth transition from dark to light.  The see-through lenses also provide the most depth-perception available of any head-mounted night vision goggle.

The design also gives the wearer better peripheral vision and the ability to aim a weapon without a laser target designator, something unique to these goggles, according to TNVC:

A forward-looking round 40 degree night vision image is visible while a relatively open/un-aided view is seen around it and to the immediate peripherals.  This makes rapid terrain traversing much easier.

But, the coolest feature may be the goggles’ ability to project mission info onto that see-through screen, heads-up display-style:

The LPNVG has two inputs for the optional Heads Up Display module that allows the operator to connect the 21 to any electronic device with a BNC-Out Connector, enabling real-time overlay of mission critical information onto the night vision image.  This system interfaces with everything from thermal weapon sights (allowing the operator to place the weapon around a corner and engage targets without exposing himself), FLIR, PC’s (allowing real time data streaming from a laptop in the operator’s pack), and vehicle systems.  The image is projected over one of the see-through lenses and can be adjusted for transparency so the operator can still see the regular night vision image through the overlay, maintaining situational awareness.

Yet another feature allows the wearer to focus the lenses for short-and-long distance viewing:

The AN/PVS-21 comes with a specially-developed, Patent Pending Refocus Ring that snaps over one of the objective lenses.  The lens can flip up out of the way or be flipped down in front of the objective.  This revolutionary little device will instantly refocus the objective lens to a close-in distance.  The operator does not need to refocus the actual objective lens because this innovative lens does it instantly.  The Refocus Lens focuses the view to within 18–24” and is extremely useful for quick radio checks, map/compass reads, weapon remedial action, emergency medical, etc.  One of the most interesting abilities of the Refocus Lens is that it allows the operator to engage threats with a pistol’s iron sights.

Pretty badass.

Speaking of drones, this is pretty interesting. Apparently, Pakistan has told the U.S. to abandon a secret desert base inside Pakistan that CIA drones fly out of. This is no doubt more fallout of the May 1 raid that killed Osama bin Laden and we’ve been waiting for something like this to happen for a while.

From AFP:

Pakistan told the U.S. to leave a remote desert air base reportedly used as a hub for covert CIA drone attacks, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar was quoted by state media as saying June 29.

His remarks are the latest indication of Pakistan attempting to limit U.S. activities since a clandestine American military raid killed Osama bin Laden on May 2 and plunged ties between the anti-terror allies into chaos.

“We have told (U.S. officials) to leave the air base,” national news agency APP quoted Mukhtar as telling a group of journalists in his office.

Images said to be of U.S. Predator drones at Shamsi have been published by Google Earth in the past. The air strip is 560 miles southwest of Islamabad in Baluchistan province.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman told AFP there were no U.S. military personnel at the Shamsi base.

This last line may be the key to seeing that this is simply political theater on Pakistan’s behalf. The very next sentence indicates that Pakistan is demanding the U.S. leave a base that it has already evacuated.

CNN reported in April that U.S. military personnel had left the base, said to be a key hub for American drone operations, in the fallout over public killings by a CIA contractor in Lahore and his subsequent detention.

So we left one, fairly small, base in the middle of nowhere. However, U.S. personnel are have been rumored to be operating out of at least two other Pakistani air bases including one near Ghazi and another at Jacocobad known as PAF Base Shahbaz.

In case you didn’t see it, the U.S. has unleashed the drones on yet another country, Somalia. Two leaders of the al Shabab terrorist group were wounded in a drone strike there last week, according to the Washington Post. They plane, or planes, involved apparently belonged to U.S. Special Operations Command.

As the Post notes, this is the sixth country where U.S. drones are dropping ordnance. The other countries, that we know about, are; Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen. The aircraft hitting targets in Somalia may be operating out of the ever-growing U.S.-French base in nearby Djibouti known as Camp Lemonnier but we’ll likely never know for sure.

Still, we’ve been rustling around in Somalia on and off for decades now. Things heated up a couple of years ago when Air Force Special Operations Command AC-130 gunships pounded terrorists from above with their cannons and the U.S. and a ton of other countries have been conducting all sorts of anti-piracy ops in the waters off Somalia and in some cases venturing ashore to nab pirate or terrorist targets. And keep in mind that drones have definitley been used in those offshore ops.

Apparently, the Pentagon brought the drones into Somalia itself because of “growing concern within the U.S. government that some leaders of the Islamist group [al-Shabab] are collaborating more closely with al-Qaeda to strike targets beyond Somalia, the military official said.”

As we all know, UAVs can loiter for a long time looking for and tracking targets, are almost invincible to Somalia’s non-existant air defenses (although, Stinger-style MANPADS are all over Africa), and if they do go down it’s no huge loss.

More details of the attack per the Post:

In last week’s attack, local officials told the Associated Press that military aircraft struck a convoy carrying the militants as they drove along the coastline of the southern port city of Kismaayo late Thursday. Other local residents told journalists that an air attack had taken place on a militant camp near Kismaayo, an insurgent stronghold. Several residents were quoted as saying that more than one explosion had occurred over a period of several hours and that they thought that at least helicopters had taken part in the attack.

An al-Shabab leader confirmed the airstrike and said two militants were wounded. Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig, Somalia’s deputy defense minister, said the attack was a coordinated operation that killed “many” foreign fighters.

So it looks like NATO has begun arming the Libyan rebels, or at least the French have.

Makes me wonder if this tricked out FN2000 (shown above) was really seized from a Gadhafi loyalist, or was it provided by the French?

From AFP:

The French military confirmed June 29 that it had air-dropped “light weapons” earlier this month to Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Ghadafi’s forces in the highlands south of Tripoli.

Earlier, the Le Figaro newspaper and a well-placed nongovernment source had said that France had dropped several tons of arms, including Milan anti-tank rockets and light armored vehicles, to the rebels.

But Col. Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French general staff, told AFP that the shipments were essentially light arms such as assault rifles to help civilian communities protect themselves from regime troops.

Burkhard said France had become aware in early June that rebel-held Berber villages in the Djebel Nafusa highland region south of the capital had come under pressure from the Libyan strongman’s loyalist forces.

“We began by dropping humanitarian aid: food, water and medical supplies,” he said. “During the operation, the situation for the civilians on the ground worsened. We dropped arms and means of self-defense, mainly ammunition.”

Burkhard described the arms as “light infantry weapons of the rifle type” and said the drops were carried out over several days “so that civilians would not be massacred”.

According to Le Figaro, which said it had seen a secret intelligence memo and talked to well-placed officials, the drops were designed to help rebel fighters encircle Tripoli and encourage a popular revolt in the city itself.

“If the rebels can get to the outskirts of Tripoli, the capital will take the chance to rise against Ghadafi,” said an official quoted in the report. “The regime’s mercenaries are no longer getting paid and are scarcely getting fed. There’s a severe fuel shortage, the population has had enough.”

A well-placed nongovernment source told AFP that 40 tons of weapons including “light armored cars” had been delivered to rebels in western Libya.

According to Le Figaro, the French arms shipments are dropped from planes across the Djebel Nafusa region, where Berber tribes have risen to join the revolt against Ghadafi’s rule and seized several provincial towns.

The crates hold assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, it said, and also European-made Milan anti-tank missiles, a powerful addition to the rebel arsenal that can destroy a tank or a bunker.

Here’s one more video tour of an aircraft on display at last week’s Paris Air Show. It’s the RAF’s newest jet trainer, the BAE Hawk T2.

In addition to the new Rolls-Royce Adour 951 engine and other upgrades listed in the video, the jet has recofigurable digital cockpit displays, meaning they can be programmed to replicate, to some extent, the cockpit displays of Britain’s most modern fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon. Such technology is key for jet trainers today because it allows one aircraft to potentially mimick the interiors of several front line fighters, making it extremely flexible as a trainer.