Law Enforcement

Camera Systems

Specialty Products



How does night vision work?

Night vision products, such as goggles and monoculars, contain an image intensifier tube, which is the "heart" of the night vision product. An image intensifier tube consists primarily of 3 components: the photocathode, the microchannel plate (MCP) and the phosphor screen. The photocathode senses even the smallest amount of light in the night sky (from the moon and stars) that the human eye may not detect and converts the light energy (photons) into electrical energy (electrons). The electrons exit the cathode, then enter and pass through the MCP, a thin disk about the size of a quarter, which contains over 10 million channels. As the electrons move through the channels, they hit and "bounce off" the channel walls. Each time an electron strikes a channel wall, more electrons are released. By the time the electrons exit the MCP, they have been multiplied thousands of times. The multiplied electrons then strike a phosphor screen, which is similar to a miniature television screen. When struck with electrons, the phosphor screen releases photons (light energy that "glows green") in the same image pattern by which the photons originally entered the MCP. Only now the image - that original, small amount of light - has been greatly intensified to a visible level of brightness. The user, then, sees (or "watches") the intensified image on the screen.

Read more about how night vision works

How far can a person see when using night vision?

The distance someone can see, or the range at which an object can be detected, varies depending upon: (1) the generation of technology the person is using; (2) the size of the object(s) in the viewing area; and (3) the level of darkness / light conditions (i.e., full moon, starlight, cloudy/overcast). All these factors play a role in determining how far you can see using night vision. Most night vision products are "1X" - unless they're equipped with special magnification lenses - so distance is viewed in "real time."

How much does night vision cost?

The price of night vision equipment varies depending upon the level of technology performance (generation), the number of image intensifier tubes used in the system (usually one or two), and the number and quality of the lenses used in the system. All of ITT's night vision systems have Gen 3 tube technology. For individuals wishing to purchase monoculars, pocketscopes, or goggles, the unit price for ITT's equipment ranges from approximately $2000 to $4000 (U.S.). Night weapon sights are sold only to military and law enforcement users.

[NOTE: Night vision equipment is controlled by the U.S. Government International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and cannot be exported from the U.S. without an export license from the U.S. Department of State.]

What countries outside the U.S. use night vision equipment?

Various levels of night vision technology (generations) are available throughout the world from foreign (non-U.S.) manufacturers. The U.S. Department(s) of Defense, State, and Commerce restrict the international sale of night vision technology/equipment manufactured in the U.S. These restrictions apply primarily to Generation 3 technology, the most advanced technology currently used by U.S. military forces. However, in an effort to support U.S. allies and to ensure interoperability of equipment, the U.S. Government allows Gen 3 technology to be exported to all NATO countries, plus Japan, South Korea, Australia, Egypt, and Israel. Other countries' requests for Gen 3 technology must be reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis. The U.S. Government is currently implementing a new system for reviewing night vision export licenses that uses various levels of Gen 3 tube performance - rather than simply the Generation itself - as the limiting "parameters" by which export applications are reviewed/approved. This approach is referred to as the "Figure of Merit" (FOM) system.

Can a person use night vision for hunting?

Legally, a person may use night vision only to maneuver safely through wooded terrain, to locate a tree stand, etc. It is unlawful to use night vision equipment for weapon aiming when hunting. This is why ITT does not sell night weapon sights to the public (consumers).

Can anyone who owns/flies a private plane use night vision to fly with at night?

No. Using night vision for aviation requires very special training. Only military aviators and airborne law enforcement pilots who have completed NVG flight training are authorized to use night vision goggles for night aviation.