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PVS-4 Starlight Scope

Other Pictures:
The Day/Night adapter allows use of the AN/PVS-4 during the day.

When the Day/Night adapter is used, the image field of view is reduced and appears triangular.

A simple crosshair reticle can be seen on the photo taken through a surveillance AN/PVS-4.

AN/PVS-4 (Night Vision Sight, Individual Served Weapon, AN/PVS-4) is the U.S. military designation for a specification of the first second generation passive Night vision device.

The AN/PVS-4 first saw widespread use during the Gulf War and later some deployment in the Iraq War and has since been replaced by modern third-generation weaponsights.

Although passive night vision technology capable of allowing vision under ambient starlight conditions has existed since the 1950s, it was not until the AN/PVS-4 was developed that a practical, high quality device that met military requirements was first made available.

Unlike earlier passive starlight weaponscopes the AN/PVS-4 provided a high quality image without significant distortion, could adjust to changing ambient light conditions, was able to take multiple reticles to operate in many roles and had protective features allowing it to shut down in the event of exposure to bright light, but still recover in time after a muzzle flash for the operator to see the round hit the target.

Using the MX-9644 Image Intensifier tube the AN/PVS-4 became one of the most widely used night vision scopes and has been in active use for more than a quarter of a century.

Initial engineering development of the AN/PVS-4 was undertaken by Optic Electronic Corporation of Dallas, Texas, in 1975 as a replacement for the Vietnam War era AN/PVS-2 Starlight Scope.

In 1976, the first production contract was awarded for 47,074 units, and first deployed in 1978.

16,927 more units were produced between 1985 and 1989 and 24,046 more units produced between 1990 and 1992.

By 2002, more than 150,000 units had been produced within the United States alone.

Although production has ceased, as recently as 2008 the US military was still obtaining parts to both repair AN/PVS-4s and convert AN/PVS-4s to AN/TVS-5As. It is still presently also upgrading AN/PVS-4s to AN/PVS4As also.

During the Gulf War, the AN/PVS-4 was widely deployed on a variety of weapons. The Gulf War represented the first war in which ground combat operations continued both day and night through the use of night vision devices.

Although more modern equipment was available during the Iraq War, the AN/PVS-4 was still in active use. Production of the AN/PAS-13 thermal weaponsight began in 1996 and production of the AN/PVS-4 ceased entirely by 2002.

Design details
The AN/PVS-4 uses a 25mm screw-type variable-gain Image Intensifier tube. Operational voltage is 3.0 Volts. Early production models feature two circular battery compartments located on the main housing. These battery compartments are designed to accommodate one 3.0V BA-5567/U, or two 1.5V BA-3058/U simultaneously. Later designations such as the AN/PVS-4A use two common AA batteries (BA-3058/U) via a purpose-built adapter (PN A3009873) that attaches to one of the circular battery compartments. Use of the adapter negates the need for BA-5567/U and BA-3058/U. AN/PVS-4s still in use today are typically upgraded with the AA battery adapter even if they have not been upgraded to a third generation tube. Some AN/PVS-4A models made after 1984 feature an integral AA battery housing that does not require the use of an external AA battery adapter.

MX-9644 Image Intensifier Tube
Much of the success and longevity of the AN/PVS-4 was due to the MX-9644 Image Intensifier tube. To make the tube more usable with simple optics, a second-generation MCP based image intensifier was adapted to an electrostatic inverter, similar to a first-generation image intensifier.

The result was that the tube produced an inverted image, simplifying the optical requirements of any night vision device that used it.

Although not a hybrid tube (Gen1 and Gen2 in the same tube housing) it nonetheless produced a gain of around 20,000 making it suitable for use under starlight only conditions and even overcast starlight conditions in remote locations.

Subsequent Image Intensifier Tube Development
The MX-9644 was later replaced by the MX-11620 Third-generation tube, which is a direct replacement for devices that were designed to use the MX-9644.

The MX-9644 tube was also continued in the form of the MX9644/UV which was a second generation tube although evidence exists that a further hybrid tube (Gen3 tube attached by FO to a Gen1 tube) was developed under this specification to provide far more gain, improved S/N and lower EBI. Hybrid tubes are capable of gains well in excess of 100,000 times. The Stinger Night Sight is a good example of Gen3+1 technology.

The ITT F4849 and ITT F4960 (MX-11619 and MX-11620) were also developed which use a 25mm Gen3 tube. As these tubes were proximity focussed, it was necessary to add a Fiber-Optic inverter to the tube to both extend the optical length of the device and the Gen3 photocathode was also mounted in some cases on a Fiber Optic plate rather than the usual Gen3 glass plate to match the focal point of the AN/PVS-4 optics. These tubes provided significant performance increase in gain but very little in the way of resolution.

Two other tube developments that occurred but were not widely manufactured included optical relays to invert the image both in front and behind a Gen3 25mm tube. This allowed for significant increases in tube resolution and performance over the FO based third generation tubes and involved a lens assembly being housed in a container that matched the MX-9644 tube exactly.

Related development for driving based devices included Fiber Optic expanders that magnified the image and could be retrofitted to driving scopes that also used this tube.

Operation of the device is through two controls located on the left side of the tube housing.

The lower control is an on/off switch for the image intensifier tube and secondarily controls the gain of the tube, allowing the operator to control the brightness of the image.

The upper control is an on/off switch for the illuminated reticle and secondarily allows the brightness of the reticle to be adjusted.

Elevation and Windage adjustment is made through turrets located on the objective lens. Each click equals 1/4 moa.

Day/night adapter
The AN/PVS4 also has a Day/Night adapter that allows sighting in of the units during the day time or for daytime operation of the sight. Under extremely bright nighttime conditions, it may be necessary to use this adapter.

The adapter consists of three hole sizes spaced evenly around the periphery

These pass by three larger aperture holes and three dark glass lenses to allow for six different levels of light reduction into the scope.

As a result, the AN/PVS-4 can be used in lighting conditions ranging from midday-sun in the desert, through to very-bright-moonlight and high levels of urban lighting.

Under moonlight or lower conditions, the AN/PVS-4 can be used without the adaptor and the ABC or Automatic Brightness Controls will reduce the gain, although the image may be too bright for the reticle to show correctly.

When used, the image of the AN/PVS-4 is reduced and appears somewhat triangular. Due to the small apertures and resulting light diffraction, focusing behavior differs from normal operation due to the increased Depth of Field.

In December 1974, the final AN/PVS-4 Development Test recorded the various shortcomings found during field testing. The majority of the issues were addressed in final production. Issues not addressed were deemed permissible.

Several issues noted were reliability, specifically with intensifier tubes being damaged due to moisture. This problem was fully addressed in final production. It was also noted the mount designed to secure the AN/PVS-4 to the M60 machine gun was difficult to install and prone to loss of zero. The sight reticles for both the M16 rifle and M14 rifle required firing a minimum of 20 rounds to seat before the zeroing procedures could begin, leading to an excessive expenditure of ammunition. The sight reticles were subsequently modified, requiring only 2 rounds for seating purposes. Early reticles for the M16/M203 could not be zeroed for each weapon simultaneously. Rubber eye guard separation from the sight was a common problem that was addressed.

An example of a noted shortcoming ultimately considered insignificant was an enemies ability to detect the reflection of the AN/PVS-4 objective lens using an active infrared night vision device. The IR device needed to detect the AN/PVS-4 required a straight-on unobstructed view, and AN/PVS-4 detection only occurred using an active device (as opposed to passive). The IR light emitted from the enemy`s active device would be clearly observable to a anyone employing an AN/PVS-4, making the enemies position easily known.

Reticle burn-in was also addressed. One issue that persists even in production models is the tendency for the projected reticle pattern to become washed out in bright light. This can be somewhat mitigated by adjusting the Reticle Brightness knob to its brightest position and keeping the Tube Brightness knob as low as possible.

One of the unique capabilities of the AN/PVS-4 that is not available in many other night vision weaponsights is the field-changeable reticles.

By replacing the reticle, the AN/PVS-4 is able to provide service to a wider variety of weapons than any other weaponsight including Squad Automatic Weapons, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapons and recoilless rifles.

Location of manufacture
The AN/PVS-4 is one of the most widely manufactured night vision sights in the world, with many countries making their own version either under license to the US or as a variant.

- US manufacturers
Originally manufactured by Optic-Electronic Corp in Texas, also manufactured by Varo (Litton), ITT and Northrop Grumman and Ni-Tec Inc. in Niles Illinois.

- Pakistan
The Institute Of Optronics (IOP) manufactures the AN/PVS-4 and AN/TVS-5 under license.

- Germany
Euroatlas manufacture the AN/PVS-4 and AN/TVS-5 Night Vision Sights under license.

- Iran
Iran Electronics Industries manufacture the NVS-700(AN/PVS-4) and NVS-800(AN/TVS-5)

- Singapore
Thales Optronics Systems manufacture the NVS-700(AN/PVS-4) and NVS-800(AN/TVS-5)

- Israel
New Noga Light, a subsidiary of Star Night Technologies, manufactures a range of NVDs including the NL84, NL87 and NL89 variants of the AN/PVS4, AN/TVS5 and AN/PVS20

Alternative use

- Surveillance
The AN/PVS-4 is also commonly used for surveillance operations and surplus units are commonly donated to police forces.

There are also surveillance model derivatives specifically designed to use civilian versions of the tube, such as the Star-Tron, which uses the ITT F4845 25mm tube.

Additionally, companies such as AB Night Vision also produce after-market surveillance device housings such as the NVM-4A for law enforcement and civilian use that take surplus military MX9644 tubes.

- Astronomy
Due to its availability and affordability, the AN/PVS-4 has been used very successfully in the realm of electronically assisted astronomy. Astronomers have adapted the AN/PVS-4 for use with telescopes and other celestial observation equipment.

Despite being obsoleted by newer technology, especially third-generation night vision, the AN/PVS-4 is still a capable device and still far exceeds the quality of many contemporary civilian devices.

While considered an older scope, it still shows up from time to time as a second-hand or used item at weapon shows and through private sales, although good quality units are still sought after and difficult to come by.

Although the military is phasing this unit out, older devices are frequently donated to police services for reuse and so the AN/PVS-4 is likely to remain in use for some time.

Cultural impact and civilian ownership
Although the AN/PVS-4 is one of the best-known night vision devices, it is not a commonly recognized device. Up until recent times, prohibitive costs and availability limitations on devices such as the AN/PVS-4 resulted in very few items being available outside of the Military.

Because of the limited availability of 25mm image intensifier tubes and housings to civilians, and what AN/PVS-4s did become available tended to have well used tubes and as a result, civilians tended to avoid buying them.

The availability of third-generation riflescopes of higher quality for professionals would have provided another option for shooters while the lower cost of first-generation consumer night vision devices would have led to lower end consumers purchasing cheaper imported scopes.

However the AN/PVS-4 does have a reputation for holding zero and being able to withstand high recoil, making it popular amongst enthusiasts who are able to get a reasonable good condition item.

The optics are considered exceptional, even by contemporary standards and the biggest drawback compared to modern scopes is the weight.

Although the AN/PVS-4 has not had a great deal of cultural impact, its legacy of high quality night vision has become a staple of movies and television shows which often do not show real equipment.

As a result, very few people that do not have military, firearm or night-vision experience are likely to recognize one visually.

Used by
- Spain: Grupo Especial de Operaciones (Special Operations Group, GEO)
- Turkey: Formerly used by the Turkish Land Forces
- United States: Formerly used by the U.S. Marine Corps.

- Gulf War

AN/PVS-4 Gen 2 and Gen 3 25mm Image Intensifiers Evaluation Tutorial

Optic Electronic Corporation of Dallas


1,8 kg (4.0 lb)

320 mm (12,6

In service dates:

In Production:

Effective range:
Range of recognition: 400m (Starlight), Range of detection: 600m (Starlight)


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