If two countries have soldiers at war and both have infrared high power laser pointer night vision goggles, can’t they see each other’s location? Yes, this is a good question. Since I retired in 2003, because these things are common, my information is a bit limited. In Korea in the mid-1980s, we had passive night vision, called “starlight” and very large heat. Can be used for goggles or very bulky but easy-to-manage weapon sights. Starlight magnifies the light a lot, maybe millions of times.
North Korea has the first-generation active night vision device, which means they need infrared spotlights to illuminate the target. When we conducted night ambush patrols to prevent terrorists from infiltrating the DMZ, I handed over my NVG (AN/PVS5) to my security personnel so that they could monitor our flanks and rear. My NVD rifle scope (AN/PVS2 or AN/PVS4) was given to my main shooter.
For a 10-person patrol, there are only 4 NVDs, and we are considered to be well equipped. I may have a Dragon night vision goggles, but this is the combined heat/guidance device of the Dragon anti-tank missile. It weighs 30 pounds. During a patrol, North Korea was spying on us. My security officer said that their infrared lights were clearly visible and aimed at the top of our heads.
The civilians (unauthorized) sitting there will only see the darkness. The device can easily see very tiny light sources, such as the xmit LED on a civilian radio or the tritium capsule in a watch or compass. These light sources light up like flashlights. Heat detection sees the change in heat. They work during the day and night and cannot detect light unless they generate heat.
War stories from Afghanistan and Iraq describe soldiers using NVDs to watch American infrared green laser converge on targets during combat. The civilian red dot sight has an LED reflection on the objective lens. This can be seen from the wrong end. I just received a catalog of a gun dealer. They are selling starlight weapon sights.
I also saw a very compact thermal rifle scope, which is actually smaller than the AN/PVS 4 rifle scope we had in the 1980s. These are manufactured or sold by ATN, and I believe it is manufactured in Russia. The cost of a thermal oscilloscope may be $2,000. US dollars. Obviously, big countries like Russia or China can issue NVDs to their troops or hand them over to their agents.
I am curious what the US military doctrine is about protecting our soldiers from enemy NVD. 2ID ambush patrol waiting for EENT (sunset), 1984. The soldier (me) in the upper left corner has AN/PVS5 hanging around his neck. You can clearly see the AN/PVS4 rifle scopes on the two M16A1s.
By the way, the big shiny lens above the blue laser pointer device with dual lenses is the hot night sight of the TOW2 anti-tank missile system. Unlike the Dragon, it is just a thermal imaging sight. It no longer needs a separate battery or gas cylinder like TOW1, it can consume TOW2 power, which is equivalent to the size/weight of the M60 ammunition box, or vehicle power supply. The thermal sight must be aligned to align with the day sight of the TOW2 system. It can be seen over 4000 meters. I just added this to show how far thermal imaging has come since the 1980s.