35 Comments

  1. Any direct information on how effective theese early nightvision devices were in the field? Did it cause the enemy any real problems?

  2. “Stealthy night vision is somewhat compromised by the sound of a halftrack roaming around.” Than again, hearing the sound of a jabo roaming around in the daytime is even less desirable.

    • Jabo referring to the P-47 Thunderbolt… I would hate to have that over my head blowing stuff to bits around me. Anyways, the half-track could try using an existing night-time fire fight’s din to camouflage its own engine noise. Troops would probably not pay much attention to distant engine noise if the sound of closer enemy gunfire is more likely to kill them! At that time, the gunner in the half-track could start firing long-range bursts, picking off individuals in random groups to delay discovery and subsequent counter-fire with bigger ordinance.

      Is anyone else interested in hypothesizing the deployment of this vehicle?

      • As far as I can ascertain, the IR night-vision systems used on the Panther ( and other ) tanks was co-ordinated with the deployment of similar devices on the half-tracks mostly against enemy armor, where engine noise exposure was rarely an issue. Also, even on quiet nights, sound can travel and propagate in a deceptive manner depending on the terrain and existing atmospheric conditions, making one think that the source is either a lot closer or farther away than it actually is, or even somewhere else other than its true location.

  3. We’ve certainly come a long way in drastically reducing the physical bulk of NVD’s.

    Initially, judging from the size of that IR spotlight, as well as the large-diameter lens of the image-converting scope and the apparently long focal length ( based on the length of the tube ), I had thought that the effective range would probably be quite respectable. Then I did a bit of research, and found out that the particular combination shown in the photograph above had a typical range of 600 meters. It was known as the SdKfz.251/20 “Uhu” ( “Owl” ) Solution B ( type “Biwa”, acronym for “Bildwandler” ), whereby the commander, driver and gunner all had 30cm IR searchlights paired with the appropriate image converters ( probably ZG1221 devices ). These night-vision systems were pioneered by the AEG firm, with initial development starting as early as 1936. Introduction to service in small numbers may have begun in early to mid-1943.

    There were other variations, such as the Solution A version ( “Sperber” or “Sparrowhawk” FG1250 ) designed for mounting on the commander’s cupola of the Panther tank. There are several reports of these devices having seen combat on the Eastern and Western Fronts with a generally high degree of success, but as far as I can tell it is difficult to substantiate some of them due to the loss of wartime records.

    Anyone interested in the history of these “Infrarot Scheinwerfer” systems can start off with http://www.achtungpanzer.com/german-infrared-night-vision-devices-infrarot-scheinwerfer.htm. It is an excellent web site that also has numerous technical and historical articles and papers on all manner of German and Axis armor from the Second World War.

    Hope this will be useful for most FW readers.

  4. Oh, before I forget, the http://www.achtungpanzer.com site also features an interesting IR night-vision combo mounted on an StG44 assault rifle, complete with a backpack containing the battery and control unit. It was called the ZG1229 “Vampir” ( “Vampire” ).

      • Hate to be a nitpicker (but this is the Forgotten Weapons comment section), but it was the M3 Carbine and T120, M1 and M3 sniperscopes.

          • Hunter’s first novel “The Master Sniper” had as key plot element the “Vampire” sight on the Stg-44 Kurtz rifle. Lots of interesting detail – knowing Hunter’s passion for detail, probably mostly non-fiction – on overcoming weight which was the huge problem (not bulk) with fielding a man-portable system. His later “Black Light” – which was the third book of the initial four-book Bob Lee Swagger trilogy (there are lots of things about Hunter that make no sense if you haven’t read them) dealt with a Viet Nam vet investigating a crime committed in the 1950s with a “borrowed” M-3 system in Arkansas. The M-3 was also critical to Hunter’s “Hot Springs” which has my vote as The Great American Gunfight Novel. “Hot Springs” and “Black Light” are both pretty interesting commentary on the Civil Rights movement. Non-violence is well and good and should be pursued as often as possible, but there is a certain level of ignorant, racist, redneckism that is best dealt with by three cocked and locked 1911A1s, and a whole bunch of spare magazines. If not a BAR.

      • Ian – think you meant Hunter is a favorite fiction writer, although his movie reviews are outstanding. Which is why he got the Pulitzer for them. Pale Horse is great if you get the joke, i.e., know about the Golden Age gun writers. But there’s some “insider baseball” to all of his stuff… his daughter took him to his first NASCAR race and he looked at all the noise and lights and chaos and said “Wow, what this needs is a gunfight!” Hence, “Night of Thunder.”

        Anyway, speaking of Stephen Hunter, this is a scream:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIdDnoSnBo8

    • Try “sauerbraten und liverwurst” LOL :)! For our German contributors and readers, just kidding and definitely no offence intended whatsoever. I have German family friends whom I dearly love and, besides , I happen to like sauerbraten and liverwurst very much, among a whole lot of other great foods!

      • That’s nice, mentioning food. My mom just cooked turkey… Anyway, if you’re going to disguise the half-track, you might want to think up a few more ideas such as “urban-rubble-and-knocked-out-unoccupied-vehicle camouflage.” It’s hard to spot a live vehicle if there are many wrecks lying around-unless you attempt to loot one of the supposedly wrecked vehicles which happens to have a very ticked-off crew trying to shoot off your [unmentionables] once you blow their cover… Anyone think my idea is good, assuming our enemy doesn’t have IR sensors of their own?

        • For God’s sake, Andrew, you really are stirring up the gastric juices….good ideas about lying “doggo” with the half-tracks under the circumstances, though :)! Incidentally, I think I’ll try to keep my “unmentionables” all to myself, if you don’t mind :).

  5. @ Thiel & Jeremy Barnum :

    There’s a pretty good discussion on the M3 carbine equipped with the T120/M1/M2 IR sniper scope system as well as some additional information on the ZG1229 “Vampir” system at http://www.theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=279824. Reading further into the various posts on the forum page, there appears to still be a certain amount of controversy regarding operational use of the German IR systems and their results.

  6. Earl…Stephen Hunter, in one of his early (Pre Bob Lee Swagger) novels, “The Master Sniper” describes a fictional hunt (by a US agent) for the ‘vampir” and its user in Nazi Germany. Good book…typical Hunter.

    CB in FL

  7. Ooops…shouldda read the REST of the comments first, before opining…seems just about EVERY one here is familiar with Mr Hunter….sorry…

    CB in FL…BTW his latest, “The Third Bullet”, is excellent also

  8. does anybody know it there is a surviving ZG 1229 “Vampir” , i have seen the old US IR sniper scopes in museums and pop up for auction but not the ZG1229 “Vampir”

    • The WTS museum in Koblenz has a Zielgerät 1229 scope in it’s collection. I have yet to find any other original parts (lamp, battery, etc).

  9. what form of imaging sensor did those early IR systems use. I’m reasonably familiar with image intensifiers, and cMOS solid state sensors but not with short wave IR.

    I was going to post a link to two side by side images, from a new European development of a second gen image intensifier and a 3rd gen. It seems that the new second gen has better amplification than the 3rd gen and can pick up SWIR illumination that is undetectable to the 3rd gen intensifier. The images have disappeared from the site over the past week. here’s the site, just incase they come back http://www.dvsmil.com/

  10. I am glad you did not make policy or that you were not in charge of buying equipment for the US Military when I served in the 1980’s because you probably would not have approved of our noisy M-60 tanks or noisy APC’s being equipped with night vision sights.

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