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Battlelab develops C-5 aircrew night vision system

by Lt. Col. Christie L.S. Dragan
Air Mobility Warfare Center Public Affairs

7/29/2005 - FORT DIX, N.J. (AFPN) -- C-5 Galaxy aircrews must tape over some white lights in the cockpit of their huge aircraft before missions into a “blacked out” environment when they must use night vision goggles.

Sometimes crews use flashlights or even pull circuit breakers and light bulbs for other light systems to minimize the visual “wash out” effects lights have on their sensitive goggles.

Then Air Mobility Battlelab innovators here came up with a solution.

This week, command officials at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., approved use of the C-5 Aviator Night Vision Lighting system. This is a portable “clip-on” night-vision goggle compatible lighting system that will improve existing lighting conditions and techniques for NVG missions.

The kit consists of two parts: one for the flight deck and one for the cargo compartment. It took 15 months of operational testing to field the kit. Each kit costs about $60,000 per aircraft. It includes an NVG compatible system to assist with the aircraft’s cargo compartment floor lighting.

Testing was done at the 339th Flight Test Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., which certified the system for flight.

Maj. Joe Davisson, a former C-5 special operations low-level pilot, spent a lot of time taping up the flight deck. He said he is impressed with the improved lighting the system provides when serving as the C-5 test director for the new system.

“Our test effort consisted of evaluating the two parts of the system separately,” said Major Davisson, from the major command’s test and evaluation squadron at nearby McGuire AFB.

“For the flight deck portion, we flew several NVG local sorties at Dover (AFB, Del.) For the cargo portion, we had different load teams upload various pieces of cargo using NVGs,” he said.

Both groups then filled out questionnaires at the end of their respective mission or upload.

“I saw a definite decrease in the jump seat pilot’s workload,” the major said. “And almost all comments from the left and right seat pilots were positive. We made recommendations for a few system enhancements in our final report. But overall ANViL is a vast improvement over previous lighting methods.”

Maj. Chris Nuzzo was the pilot and 436th Operations Group NVG representative from Dover. He conducted ground and flight demonstrations to assess radiance luminance, day and night readability, visual acuity, electromagnetic compatibility, and performing a NVG landing. The demonstrations resulted in certification of the system, flight and for crews to land in blackout conditions.

“The ANViL is a big improvement over current taping and the lighting that we use now in the C-5 cockpit,” Major Nuzzo said.

He also said the system has three key benefits.

“First, the pilot and co-pilot main flight instruments are well-lit with the ANViL, eliminating the need for ‘chem-sticks’ to light primary flight displays,” he said. “Second, (it) provides additional NVG-compatible lighting for other displays like landing gear, engine instruments (and) hydraulic indicators. Third, the ANViL provides a shield for most of the pilot enunciator and warning lights that are not currently NVG compatible.”

And it improves operations in the cargo compartment, he said, “because we had no NVG-compatible lighting down there in the past.”

Dover has five of the kits, and with command approval, aircrews there are cleared to fly with the kits as needed. (Courtesy of Air Mobility Command News Service)

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