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Cats Eyes™ Night Vision Goggles

Technical Information

Catalogue No: C0676
Category: Head-Mounted Equipment [HMD/NVG/Glasses]
Object Type: Module/Sub-Assembly/Component
Object Name: Cats Eyes™ Night Vision Goggles
Part No: 229-039676-01
Serial No: K0656C0043
Manufacturer: GEC Avionics
Division: Unknown
Platform(s): AV-8B
Year of Manufacture: circa 1990
Dimensions: Width (mm): 137
Height (mm): 180
Depth (mm): 160
Weight (g): 610
Location: Rack RAA15 (HMDs) [Mezzanine Store]

SN K0656C0043


This is a complete set of Cats Eyes™ Night Vision Goggles made by GEC Avionics.

In July 1981  work was started in the Company Research Laboratory, FARL, to investigate design concepts for Night Vision Goggles for fixed wing aircraft application. The Cats Eyes™ NVG system allows for the combination of both a direct visual and an intensified image to be presented to the pilot's eyes. The two images are combined in a 1:1 relationship and complement each other. The Head-Up Display is seen through a direct visual path, and it is not degraded by unnecessary image intensification as it would be with conventional NVG systems. Additionally, the direct vision path through the optical combiner arrangement makes monitoring of cockpit displays and instruments considerably easier while the ability to scan either side of the combiners enhances peripheral vision and ensures better spatial awareness. The direct vision path also removes problems normally associated with light to dark transitions as the intensified image becomes progressively more noticeable as the direct visual image fades.  The FLIR image on a HUD is viewed directly and by a simple IR tracker the Image Intensifiers can be turned off whenever the HUD image comes into the field of view of the Cats Eyes™.

The folding of the Cats Eyes™ optical system results in a circular 30 degrees field-of-view with some clipping of the image in the lower right and lower left.   The system is compact and rugged, and the restrictions on head mobility imposed by the depth of conventional NVG systems are avoided. While the system incorporates a single handed quick release mechanism for the helmet interface, it can be configured to include an automatic separation system on ejection and designed growth will enable it to accept the latest image intensifier technology as it becomes available. The benefits of the system have been extensively proven in low-level night attack flying trials, which used a fully integrated NVG-compatible cockpit and Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) generated head-up display imagery, together with a head-down multifunction display.

In March 1982 a demonstrator was produced which had a field of view of 45deg horizontal and 30deg vertical and achieved all the design targets with a low head mounted mass and minimum moment about the pilot's head. Favourable evaluation lead to the manufacture by the Airborne Display Division of flyable prototypes. A story from the early trials was that a set of Goggles was sent up to the Harley Street Institute of Opthamology for tests on the peripheral vision while wearing them.

Cats Eyes™ NVG were sold to the US Marine Corps for the AV8-B and performed well in combat during the 1990-91Gulf War.


This is a story from Chas Atkins who was an apprentice in the 1954 intake with John Goodhand, Jim Crick among other names. Chas worked in several divisions as a tool and mechanical. Design draughtsman before joining Alf Harrison’s outfit, Kent Drawing, then latterly ADD model shop with Dave Marvel. Chas even remembers his Clock Number 153.

Chas was a founder member of the Elliott Model Flying Club in 1964 and he still has a model aircraft that he first flew almost 50 years ago in the front carpark of the Company

Circa 1970, I left the drawing office and joined Dave Marvell in ADD Model Shop. The first job I undertook was to make a prototype of Night Vision Goggles. Australian Staff Ellis was the Project Engineer, liaising with model shop technicians, myself and Ernie Morton. Staff  did a rough sketch of what he had in mind, that consisting of an attachment for the pilot’s helmet which held the goggles on a  swivelled bracket so that they could be tipped upwards, out of the line of normal vision. I did what little machining was required and shared the sheet metal components manufacture with Ernie Morton. Upon completion of the attachment, Staff brought down a pair of night vision optics for fitting to the bracket. The wiring and miniature battery installation were  done by ADD Model Shop wiring bay, the foreman, if my memory serves, was Jack whose surname was Whall (or something like that).

When all was ready, Staff told us to try them out, but it had to be done in complete darkness, I had a simple solution, the gents toilet had no windows, and was pitch black when the door was shut, so, adorned with the helmet and goggles, myself and some of the lads shut ourselves in the gents and switched on the goggles. I was amazed- I could see everything quite clearly, albeit in a greenish hue. I reported back to a delighted Staff Ellis who had one of his colleagues pose for photos whilst wearing the goggles. I wonder if that historic photo is still in the archives?  For me, it didn’t end there: Many years later, I worked on the now advanced NVG’s, this time with engineer Ed Cheesman. That is a long story, and probably continues to this day.  Of interest: The late Ernie Morton served his time at Short Bros, Rochester, working on Sunderlands and Stirlings. He had remarkable sheet metal skills, nothing seemed to faze Ernie. 

Happy memories, Chas Atkins.      

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