With thermal imaging, the night is no longer your friend


A rather horrifying video clip has emerged, allegedly showing Taliban marksmen taking down Afghan troops at night with the aid of thermal imaging riflescopes.  If you’d like to see it, click over to Solomon’s place and follow the Twitter link he provides.  WARNING:  It’s graphic.  Definitely not for the squeamish.

The screen capture below is from that clip.  You can now buy thermal scopes and binoculars with built-in cameras to record things like this.  The resolution may not be great, but it doesn’t have to be as long as it gets the job done – which the shooter does, a few frames later.

The thing is, this sort of gear is increasingly widely used.  We no longer have to contend only with US military thermal sights and surveillance systems, which used to be far ahead of everything else out there.  Equivalent gear (or near-equivalent) is now widely available from other sources, and is found all over the world.  The Taliban have allegedly been using Pulsar scopes from Lithuania for several years, although I don’t know whether or not that’s true.  Be that as it may, Pulsar thermal imaging gear is freely available in this country.  There was some on sale at a gun show I attended a couple of weeks ago.  It’s still relatively expensive ($3K to $4K at the high end), but that’s way cheaper than it was a few years ago.  In another few years, it’ll be at the $1K-$2K level.  Other competitors (for example, ATN) are already approaching that price point.  There are more out there.

I’ve been seeing more and more reports that extremists in Antifa, BLM and similar movements are also carrying this stuff now.  They’re currently using it more to watch their opponents and observe the police than as riflescopes, but there’s no reason that can’t change.  The point is, the night is no longer the concealment that many people still assume it is.  An enemy equipped with thermal imaging gear doesn’t need street lights or building lights to see you, and won’t use infra-red emitters to illuminate a scene.  He or she can be completely passive.  You’ll never know they’re there, but they’ll see you – and what you’re doing – clearly enough.

Keep that thought firmly in mind if you find yourself in a riot or unrest situation at night.  If you can afford it, I highly recommend getting yourself some thermal imaging gear.  The rest of us . . . well, we can’t afford it, but we should at least be aware of it, because well-equipped enemies of our society don’t labor under that handicap.

(No, I’m not being compensated by any of the companies linked here for mentioning their gear, and I don’t own any of their products.  They’re just used as examples of what’s out there.)



  1. Every technology, no matter how useful and efficient, can be defeated.

    One need not know where it is (although that would be helpful), the knowledge that it is being used is all that is required.

    Perhaps the passive night vision of today has conquered the problem of 'bloom'; where the night vision is rendered useless by bright light in visible portion of the spectrum. If passive night vision, such as for sniping, has a narrow field of focus, even a relatively small light can overwhelm the system.

    So, if today's passive night vision has overcome the problem through the use of AI or software, would that be for all wavelengths of energy directed across a broad field? A 'bloom' of laser across the entire arc in x,y, z axis would not need to know the location of the sniper(s) in order to negate the NV passive system. Then, a combination of laser + IR + whatever programmed to intermittent pulse in order to avoid attenuation to the NV system used by the sniper(s).

    If it's not painfully obvious already, I am not a software engineer. Neither am I a SF writer. Yet, if I have in any way effectively transmitted my ideas, then tell me why the above would not work.

  2. Passive night vision and an IR laser is a game changer. BTDT.
    Thermal is less so.

    I had high-end thermal NV a decade ago, playing for keeps, and the problem isn't that you can see people.
    It's finding out how hot everything else is.
    Tree. Rocks. Pavement. Metal. Ad infinitum.

    If one is looking for people in Central Park at midnight in January amidst the bushes, it'll work. Sometimes.

    At night in Miami in August, not so much.

    When everything's 95+ degrees, it's all just hash.

    This is why even IR Sidewinder missiles don't have a pK of 100%.

    And thermal signatures can be camouflaged just as well as visual ones can.

    Assuming that an enemy has gear as good as yours is common sense.

    But offense:defense is an endless game.

  3. I'll keep that in mind for that specific night in August when it is hot.

    For everything else I gladly use thermal imaging devices that are not even high end and have a "resolution" of somewhere around 1°C which makes it virtually impossible except for some very specific circumstances for mammals to get lost in the "heat fog".

    The biggest enemy of thermal imaging is not ambient temperature but glass 😀

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