First, a word from The Geardo Crow
Before handing over to the authors of this blog, I’d just like to say my thanks to them for giving us an insight into what is a very new and unreported on subject. Night vision is a very cool tool, and we’ve all seen the shift from day to night time ops for the bearded hands-in-pockets brigade, but for regular forces especially in Britain, our blacked out capability has been questionable for years.
A distinct lack of training, upkeep and experience has led to, at least in my experience, a very low level of skill in your average Private soldier when it comes to actually fighting under night vision. Patrolling and navigating is second nature, but moving dynamically and shooting accurately through night vision simply isn’t.
With this in mind, it is not without a certain amount of jealousy that I’m very glad to see the British Army actually doing something good for a change and investing in a bit of kit that actually fucking works, and more importantly, training blokes in how to use it properly.
I can only hope that this trend continues, and that the next generation of soldier while hamstringed by the pile of dogshit that is VIRTUS, will at least have the cover of darkness to make up for it.
You can also read pt.1 of this article here.
We first wrote a small review back in May when my unit was initially issued with the new Kestrel BNVDs just prior to Ex Wessex Storm. They impressed us, but after being able to use them for a few months now we’re able to give a more accurate review and insight of its full capability.
After completing a series of exercises and range packages on the build up to our deployment, the opinion of this piece of kit has only gotten better. As we’ve previously mentioned the Kestrels truly are a game changer for operating at night. They do actually allow the soldier to…. I hate to say it…. ‘own the night’.
The operation of the Kestrels has been designed very simply (some would say it’s even been designed with an infanteer in mind). The front of the sight has a catch which is actuated by pressing it down to move it into either of its two positions, one being the on position and the other being to enable the onboard IR flood.
Whether it’s just because they are all new, or if they genuinely have a stronger IR bulb than their overused predecessors, the flood is very bright and can often be blinding if someone in the callsign decides to use it. The main difference is the fact that the on/off switches are at the front rather than the rear which people will be more used to operating with the HMNVS. This arguably takes a bit of getting used to but after an single exercise you’ll be fine.
The Kestrels are crystal clear. There’s nothing worse than signing out a HMNVS and getting one that someone has decided to square you away with a bit of scotchbrite cleanliness to the lenses. The Kestrels run on white phosphor tubes and unlike HMNVS do not give you that headache after any prolonged use. The fact they are dual-tubes also gives you some form of depth perception when operating in blacked out conditions.
Say goodbye to stumbling around a pitch black harbour area and reaching out for 5 minutes to try and grab the comms cord to move underneath it.
Our opinions of the Kestrels have only improved. They truly are a battle winning bit of kit. We can honestly say watching the men moving around the battle space at night with an improved situational awareness allows them to remain more effective but also allow for better coordination and control as commanders.
Previously the ECOTI hasn’t been mentioned too much, but after some hands on we are able to form an opinion.
Straight off the bat it’s brilliant. It’s a thermal intensifier that paints rings around any thermal targets. Without going into too much detail of its full capabilities for disclosure reasons it’s easy to say it’s bloody brilliant. It can be used in conjunction with a range of different projects the army is developing which will feed into the higher J2 picture and understanding on the ground.
Blokes using the Kestrel alongside the ECOTI were able to PID targets moving on the inside of woodblocks from 200+ metres away very comfortably. They’ve been a big hit within our unit but we tend to use them only with the point men in the patrol to aid in route selection and early PID as the lead set of eyes on the ground. The gen around the parade square is that the rest of the Army will expect to see the ECOTI once the Kestrels start delivery into other units.
The ECOTI build is arguably fiddly. It’s not entirely squaddie proof and relies on a cable to run from the unit itself to a battery pack located on the rear of the helmet (this also doubles up as a counterweight). With some good cable management and preparation you can have it set up nicely but you still have to brave it not falling off in the night when moving through woodblocks, or knocking it off jumping in and out of a vehicle. If anything the mount lets it down and best practice would be to consider doubling it up with a lanyard or some green tape.
The reaction of the lads to all this new kit has been great. As commanders we think we will have some real struggles if we have to move back to HMNVS due to the lack of updated units within the system.
We can’t stress enough the clarity and vision they give you when using compared to the HMNVS. Overall its great to see the Army moving towards new kit and equipment to keep us in line with other Armies and more importantly potential enemies. The kit available on eBay and Amazon these days is astonishing and allows any man and his dog the freedom to operate at night. With this in mind the army have rightly so looked at our capabilities and seen how much they have been lacking.
Both the Kestrel and ECOTI together put us way ahead of these commercial capabilities, and even some friendly militaries when operating at night. We expect all infantry units to receive them shortly with the priority going to those deploying on ops. Look forward to getting some more content to really show off their capabilities.
Finally we invite you all to check out our friends at @stirlingtimepieces , although they aren’t members of Hereford, they are in fact serving soldiers. After having eyes onto one of their watches we can vouch for and say they have smashed it out the park with this project. They are a military focused watch company branded on the history and ethos of David Stirling and his WW2 originals. They aim to incorporate the same values and morals into the stunning watches they are building.
Each sale they make will include a donation to Combat Stress which is a brilliant touch and great to see they are supporting military charities.
The first watch is planned to be released later this month and is limited to a pre-order only basis. Head over to their website and sign up to the mailing list and check out what they are up to.
Thanks for reading through this guest article, I always appreciate guys who are still in putting their time aside to make content like this available to those of us who give a shit. If you’ve got any questions you would like me to put to the authors of this blog, or would just like to call me a cunt, then head over to @thegeardocrow on Instagram and leave them there. Cheers cunts.