FORT MONMOUTH, N.J., May 21 - American troops in Vietnam are using thousands of electronic?
FORT MONMOUTH, N.J., May 21 - American troops in Vietnam are using thousands of electronic "starlight scopes" enabling them to see the Vietcong as well at night as during the day, the Army said today.
As the devices become more plentiful, the Army said, the Vietcong will be denied the cover of darkness on which they have long relied.
Unlike the older infrared sniperscope, the compact starlight scope sends out no radiation of its own and hence cannot be detected by the enemy. It picks up the faintest of light--from the stars, the moon or phosphorous in the jungle, regardless of cloud cover and magnifies it 40,000 times. That is enough to turn night virtually into day for someone looking through the scope.
"We're taking the night away from Charlie," said Maj. Gen. W. B. Latta, head of the Army Electronics Command, which developed the starlight scope and demonstrated its use today.
"We feel it will have a profound influence on warfare," General Latta said.
The "starlight scope" has been used in increasing numbers in Vietnam since early 1966, but the Army said nothing officially about its performance until today. So many troops now are using it that some aspects of its use have been declassified, said Dr. R.S. Wiseman of the Army Electronics Command, chief developer of the scope.
In one of its earliest tests, Dr. Wiseman said, the scope led to a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor for Second Lieut. Robert Hibbs of Cedar Falls, Iowa. Lieut. Hibbs was the leader of a 15-man night patrol from the First Infantry Division near Laikhe, South Vietnam, on March 5, 1966.
Using the scope, Lieut. Hibbs saw a Vietcong unit approaching and was about to fire on it. Then another Vietcong unit appeared. Lieut. Hibbs led his 15-man patrol between the two enemy units and fired on the second one. It returned the fire, whereupon the other Vietcong unit, thinking it was being attacked by an enemy, fired back.
The key element of the scope is a tube that intensifies light. Light rays enter the front of the tube through a bundle of tiny glass fibers. On the back of this fiber lens is a chemical film that emits electrons when light strikes it.
The electrons pass through a 15,000-volt electrical field. This accelerates them, thus strengthening the force of the electron beam. The beam passes through two more sets of glass fiber lenses and light-sensitive films and is further strengthened each time. Finally the electrons strike a phosphorous coating it produce a light image like that on a television screen.
The Army spent $25-million developing the starlight scope. Dr. Wiseman said. The cost of the individual units, he said, now ranges from about $2,000 to $5,000 depending on size.