Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Marine Corps has begun distributing about 1,300 helmet-mounted binocular night vision goggles to its infantry units.
Marine Corps Systems Command accelerated the acquisition of the Binocular Night Vision Goggle II using existing Defense Logistics Agency contracts for the new system that helps Marines see through smoke, fog and concealment better than other devices.
In December, 650 Marines received the equipment and learned how to use them last month at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and another 650 will receive them in April at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Barbara Hamby, public affairs team leader with Marine Corps Systems Command, told United Press International.
The Department of Defense is accepting contracts for an estimated 16,000 additional systems for the Marines.
The first priority is to issue goggles to the Marine Rifle Squad and eventually the entire Ground Combat Element, program officials said.
"We have employed a bridge capability to give Marines the best gear right now available in the commercial marketplace," Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons, said in a statement. "A final procurement solution will allow a larger pool of our industry partners to bid on the program."
The goggles are lighter than the current system and allow for better depth perception when moving.
The squad binocular night vision goggles combine a binocular night vision device and an enhanced clip-on thermal imager. They help positioning in reduced visibility.
The dual-tube goggles provide an individual with a full view of what's in front of them, unlike other night vision goggles that may only be single-tube, which only covers only one eye.
"The lethality that it'll bring is exponential," said Cpl. Zachary Zapata, a Marine who participated in the training. "With these new [BNVGs], having the ability to not only use thermal optics along with it, but just the entire depth perception and speed that we can operate in is going to significantly increase, as opposed to what we were able to do in the past."
L3 Insight Technology makes the binocular night vision device while Optics 1 manufactures the clip-on thermal imager. And Wilcox Industries fabricates the Dovetail, which is used to mount the device to a Marine's helmet.
Army/Navy Portable Visual Search devices, or AN/PVS, have been used by the military since at least the 1990s.
"Right now, we are participating with the Army on their next generation night vision systems, both the enhanced night vision device-binocular and integrated visual augmentation system programs," Hough said. "We are eager to see the maturation of these capabilities for adoption to improve the effectiveness of our Marines."'
Last May, L3 Technologies was awarded a $391.7 million contract for enhanced night vision goggles for the U.S. Army that include weapon sight and augmented reality for one view while maneuvering.The Marines also will receive the devices.
The enhanced devices include "picture-in-picture" mode that lets the shooter see two different directions at once or allowing the soldier to shoot around corners without being exposed, Army Times reported.