This is why America needs to rethink how it 'owns the night'

Warfighting is not a 9-to-5 job. War is waged at all hours of the day. While getting into a firefight in broad daylight means you won’t need to sling NVGs over your face to see clearly, it’s arguably more convenient to raid compounds when the enemy has their pants down — figuratively and, occasionally, literally. The two tools that make night raids possible are night vision goggles and the PEQ-15, which is basically a rifle-mounted IR laser-pointer that can be seen through NVGs.

Until recently, America and its allies have been unrivaled in nighttime operations. Now, the Taliban Red Group has been spotted using stolen and black-market NVGs while they overrun checkpoints and police bases. Retired Army Col. Steven Bucci of the Heritage Foundation told Military Times that this was, in his view, “kind of inevitable.”

Taliban Red

The Taliban Red Group finally learned how to use eBay. (Photo by Al-Emara)

“When we do these kinds of missions, we basically try and buy [local forces] the same kind of equipment they already have,” Bucci said. “But, you know, we are trying to upgrade these folks and give them an advantage, so we do introduce them to things like night vision devices and maybe longer range optics for weapons, and you run the risk that they’re going to fall into enemy hands.”

Keep in mind, NVGs and weapon-mounted IR lasers are still hard to come by for the Taliban Red Group and even more so for the average terrorist. And the gear that they do acquire is typically far below our “lowest bidder” quality.


Your goggles may be a PoS at times, but they’re leagues better than the ones used by terrorists. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Evenson)

But this does throw a wrench in the well-oiled system that America and its allies have grown accustomed to fighting within. Just knowing that even one terrorist might be able to see what our warfighters see means a huge change of strategy is coming. NATO’s reliance on IR markings for everything from helicopter landing sites to troop positions will need to be adapted.

The easy solution here is for troops to maintain light discipline for IR, just as they do with every other light used during night operations. Though the darkness of night may no longer be an impenetrable concealer, we maintain the technological edge over those getting their first glimpse behind the curtain.