Since its discovery in 1669, the use of white phosphorus night vision in aerial application is growing wider by the day. Dubbed as the “devil’s element,” this 13th element, whose name aptly translates to “bringer of light,” helps many aerial operators perform critical services such as aircraft piloting, search and rescue, surveillance, and combat.
Currently, white phosphorus brings significant improvements in night vision when it comes to aerial use. Its more natural-feeling performance continuously helps users leverage night vision for longer periods with less eye strain and a smaller learning curve.
But before we dive deep into the use of white phosphorus night vision in aerial application, how even did white phosphorus emerge as an alternative to the traditional green phosphorus night vision?
How white phosphorus evolved night vision as we know it
Since white phosphorus is originally known for its pyrophoric qualities, meaning its tendency to instantly ignite from oxygen exposure, it was not until 70 years into the reign of green phosphor that the use of white phosphorus night vision in aerial application has been widely used.
Although green night vision has flourished and endured since the 1950s, the more natural feel of white phosphor has been found to reduce eye strain. This advantage comes in handy especially for operations requiring long-term night vision use, such as round-the-clock surveillance operations.
While green has a wider range of shades compared to white, the white phosphorus night vision provides a more natural transition for its users. This cuts down the learning curve for new users while also preventing the temporary purple vision associated with the extended use of green night vision gear.
Even though many industry experts have stated how white phosphor night vision goggles can be superior to green phosphor night vision goggles, it is important to remember that, ultimately, the efficiency and benefits from night vision equipment are still dependent on the user’s proficiency and situational awareness
With this in mind, here are some of the many use of white phosphorus night vision in aerial application:
Piloting and operating aircraft
When it comes to aerial navigation, vision, and visibility are a pilot’s main allies. This is why white phosphorus night vision plays a crucial role during nighttime flights, also called red-eye flights, where the bare human eye may not perform as well as it does during daytime operations.
Here are some ways white phosphorus night vision helps red-eye flight pilots:
Piloting and landing
White phosphorus night vision can greatly assist night flight pilots in safely navigating and landing the aircraft by providing a clear view of the runway, terrain, and lighting systems.
Since the safety and navigation of an aircraft rely on accurate positioning, white phosphorus night vision comes especially handy during low-visibility flights, where it can aid red-eye flight pilots land and navigate more accurately, smoothly, and safely.
Detecting and avoiding obstacles
It is unavoidable to encounter obstacles when piloting an aircraft, be it during takeoff, mid-flight, or landing. White phosphorus night vision helps red-eye flight pilots detect and avoid these hazards, both man-made and naturally occurring. Some examples of these obstacles are power lines, towers, mountains, or other aircraft.
While some obstacles may seem insignificant compared to the size of most aircraft, these hazards pose a threat to flight safety regardless of the aircraft type or size. White phosphorus night vision helps pilots identify, track, and ultimately avoid or work around these objects.
Performing search and rescue operations
Since most search and rescue operations occur in remote low-visibility areas, such as mountains or over large bodies of water, and are always critically time-sensitive, white phosphorus night vision goggles help search and rescuers more efficiently scan the area, navigate the area, and locate their targets.
Here are some ways white phosphorus night vision aids search and rescue operations:
Identifying distress signals
Thanks to the clearer and more natural feel of the white phosphorus night vision, rescuers can see distress signals even in nocturnal operations more easily. Time is paramount for these emergency situations, so this swift reaction time can be a lifesaving significance, especially for low-visibility and remote areas.
Locating safe landing sites
Aside from target acquisition, this state-of-the-art night vision equipment also helps pilots identify safe landing sites. Given the challenging context of these sensitive operations, white phosphorus night vision provides a clear visual of the terrain, which is an invaluable advantage for these situations.
Administering nighttime surveillance
When it comes to nocturnal surveillance, you need as much visual assistance as you can get for an extended period. The less-straining feel of white phosphorus night vision gives you enhanced night vision without the harsh aftereffects, such as the temporary purple vision that users sometimes experience after using green night vision goggles for longer periods.
With superior comfort and visual enhancement, here are some reasons why white phosphorus night vision is ideal for administering nighttime surveillance:
Carrying out undercover surveillance
For operations that require secrecy, white phosphorus night vision helps users administer covert surveillance even in low-visibility areas without compromising visual enhancement.
Whether for monitoring suspicious activities, identifying potential threats, or tracking targets, white phosphorus night vision goggles help users efficiently undertake these sensitive operations while safely concealed in the dark.
Taking on extended surveillance
Given the smoother transition of white phosphorus night vision goggles compared to the classic green night vision, it can offer 10 hours of straight use without experiencing eye strain. Unlike green night vision, white phosphorus can provide a gentler experience while also offering superior visual assistance.
This advantage is useful for extended nocturnal surveillance where night vision use can go on throughout the night. The extended comfort is also handy for law enforcement, border security, or military operations that require undercover surveillance for extended periods.
Carrying out aerial combat and defense
White phosphorus night vision helps military operations locate and track targets both on the ground or in mid-air. Whether for aerial combat or defense, the visual assistance from white phosphorus night vision significantly raises the situational and navigational awareness of its users.
Here are some ways white phosphorus night vision helps aerial combat and firefighting:
Obtaining unobstructed visuals:
One understated advantage of white phosphorus night vision is its ability to provide high-resolution visuals even in the midst of smoke, haze, or fog. Aside from tracking targets, this is an indispensable edge to safely navigating the terrain during these challenging situations.
White phosphorus night vision goggles help military operations achieve their targets more accurately and safely, both from man-made threats or natural hazards from tricky terrains.
Performing defensive piloting:
From the enhanced situational awareness, white phosphorus night vision helps pilots perform defensive maneuvers against incoming threats such as enemy aircraft or heat-seeking aircraft.
Much like any time-sensitive operations, this quick reaction time can mean the difference between life and death. White phosphorus night vision gives a significant tactical advantage by helping military pilots respond more effectively, performing life-saving evasion maneuvers or counterattacks against enemy lines.
To wrap it up
Needless to say, enhanced visibility is the biggest common advantage that white phosphorus night vision goggles bring to the aerial operations above. This alone brings unprecedented time and cost-saving efficiencies, helping aerial operators achieve more in their critical roles.
Throughout the history of night vision, one thing is consistent. Whether you are on surveillance duty, search, and rescue missions, or other sensitive operations, you can rely on its versatile and reliable use for critical and routinary tasks. Now with the gentler feel of white phosphorus night vision in aerial application, night vision users can now enjoy enhanced visibility even on low-light terrains for longer periods with less eye strain.
While some operators may prefer the use of white phosphorus night vision in aerial application over the green one, remember that it is still the user’s skills and training that will determine how beneficial this powerful tool will be towards their goals.
Ultimately, it is true that night vision is one tool out of many that pilots, rescuers, and other aerial operators use to achieve their goals. There are still radio communications, visual aids, aerial instruments, or even the user’s situational awareness that all play an important role in these aerial operations. But on capable hands, the enhanced visual assistance from white phosphorus night vision can be a game-changing advantage for many aerial applications.