1950's US Tanks - Why the Searchlights?

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on 8/22/2007 10:01 PM snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net said the following:
Because they didn't have night vision optics?
Reply to
willshak
I believe that these were infra-red searchlights. They shined IR light that can't be seen by the naked eye, but worked like a searchlight for the onboard IR sensors.
Don McIntyre Clarksville, TN
Reply to
Don McIntyre
Actually I believe they did have night vision goggles that the tank crew used in conjuction with the Xenon searchlights. The searchlight could be switched ( using a filter ) from a high power visible ' white light ' to an IR beam. The IR beam was invisible to the naked eye. That's where special IR binoculars used by the tank crew were used to survey the battlefield illumnated by the IR light. Yeah I know ... you thought they were out there on the battlefield using a 75 million candlepower searchlight at night. Yup, something like that would definately give away your position ... and blind you for the rest of the night. =]
Chris
Reply to
CCBlack
There's a book on the Golan '73 war that describes an IDF Cent platoon set up on hills overlooking a road in a crossfire (
Reply to
vor92
It was for night combat; the Soviet armored forces got very big into night combat using infrared lamps and gunsights during the 1950s through the 80s (this was probably from getting their hands on ex-German infrared systems such as were used on the Panther at the very end of the war), and we figured we might have to fight at night. The big searchlights came in very handy in Vietnam. I imagine the memory of Japanese night attacks during WW II also played a part.
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
I don't know if we ever got into infrared systems on tanks as much as the Russians and some other countries did after WW II; The Russians sometimes had multiple infrared illumination lights on their tanks and APCs - a large one mounted next to the main gun, and a smaller one that the crew could rotate mounted on top of the turret. Our tanks did carry IR sights that could pick up the glow of the Soviet tank IR lamps (and I imagine their hot engine decks as well if the frequency was right), but most of the pictures of our tanks I've seen seem to show the turret searchlight being in the visible spectrum - and extremely powerful to light up targets at long ranges, and dazzle whatever or whoever it was aimed at while the tank engaged it.
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
I've seen photos of them being used in the visible spectrum at night in Vietnam. I imagine if you are worried about infiltrators sneaking into the base at night, using the tank to illuminate the perimeter for your own non-IR equipped troops to fire on made sense. About the only thing they would have been carrying that could destroy the tank would be the RPG-7, and they had better hope they got a hit on the first shot, as a lot of gunfire would converge on them after the flash of the rocket was seen, revealing their position...followed in short order by the tank's main gun round. Back when my older brother was in Vietnam, they found that the proper way to discourage snipers was to respond to an incoming rifle round with a outgoing LAW antitank rocket. Even if they didn't get a direct hit, the arrival of the rocket in the vicinity of the sniper generally made him have second thoughts about what he was going to do next. ;-)
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
" snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net" wrote in news: snipped-for-privacy@r23g2000prd.googlegroups.com:
Search me! :)
cd
Reply to
Carl Dershem
Where the hell are all the old tankers?
I was on an M-60A1 Rise Passive tank in Germany in the late 70'. The tactic was to use the IR in conjunction with our passive sights, which picked up the IR as well The white light was used only once or twice the entire time I was in the unit. We used it in practice gunnery. One tank would illuminate the target for a few seconds while the others took it under fire, turn it off and move. Trying to hit a light at distance at night is tough enough. In combat conditions suddenly having a white light in your face would be a nightmare and blind you as well. We never did it for real, so I am not sure about the efficacy of this tactic, but it sounds good.
The comment about Vietnam is correct. Note that the M48-A3's used in Nam used the old white-only light and the newer (and larger) one as well later in the war. Not all tanks in your pictures from the war will have searchlights for several reasons, not the least of which was they were subject to destruction from artillery or small arms fire. I do know there were cases where the searchlights were used in the defense of fire bases.
We used the passive sights several times, but mostly at night gunnery, where a small fire was burning in a can with diesel in it in front of the target, providing enough light to discern the target at 1000 meters or so. We also used them on a field maneuver once where we ambushed an aggressor unit in a valley at close range. The passive sights worked well, but I will tell you that night gunnery under remotely real conditions was not easy. Note that Passive means the ability to use available light to see in the dark, not heat per se. I never used them enough to decide whether they picked up any frequencies of heat other than visible light generated by heat sources.
Yes, we had night vision goggles, but we used them almost exclusively for night security operations as we had passive sights on the tanks with telescopic abilities. We were border troops (2nd ACR), so we also used them on border patrols and had a searchlight scope per tank to use in security as well.
To cut to the chase, the searchlights were used on the M-48's and M-60's until the M-60A3 with thermal sights came into use, making them totally obsolete.
So, that is what I know/remember about searchlights on our tanks.
Reply to
Bluepen
Could you pick up the IR emissions of the Soviet tanks (engine heat) as well as their IR illumination systems?
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
As others have said, the active infrared systems appeared widely in the 1950's (based on systems first fielded by the Germans in limited numbers in 1944). Trouble was, once both sides had IR detectors, the first guy to turn on his IR searchlight gets shot at. In the 1970's the US went to starlight scopes (image intensifiers), which amplify ambient starlight. They were passive, which was good, but would "bloom" (screen goes all white), if there was a sudden flash of light, like a gun firing. Not so good. Finally, supersensitive infrared systems that did not require IR searchlights were developed and introduced in the 1980's (thermal sights or FLIR in aviation circles). These could see the glow of a metal vehicle heated by the sun or by its own engine, and even the heat of a human body. So the infrared searchlights and headlights disappeared again. Gerald Owens
Reply to
Gerald Owens

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