March 16, 2004 (by Eric L. Palmer) - The 310th Fighter Squadron stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, has provided Night Vision Goggle (NVG ) training to 60 percent of the pilots who fly the Air Force's primary fighter, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Next month, the 310th will begin training all F-16 pilots in the use of NVG's.
Quoting an article in The Arizona Republic
Flying with the goggles is no easy task. Depth perception suffers because there is no peripheral vision. The goggles have a 40-degree circular field of vision, so pilots have to continually turn their heads to see to the sides.
The goggles work off ambient light from the stars, the moon and cities, and the tiniest light shows up, which can be too much of a good thing. Excessive light can blind a pilot. If there's absolutely no light, the goggles won't work.
Shooting stars can startle a pilot, and novice night-vision goggle pilots have been known to follow a star thinking it was their flight leader. Bad weather can render the goggles useless, leaving pilots to resort to their instruments.
The 310th trains about 150 F-16 pilots a year to use night-vision goggles, which have been utilized in both Iraq
wars, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
The pilots who train with the goggles are experienced fliers. Under the 310th's guidance, they begin with basic night-vision goggle classes and train until their graduation flight, when they typically must fly in a four-ship formation, battle their way through two opposing fighters, hit their target and then fight their way out through another attack.
The pilots train solely on the night-vision goggles for three to four weeks. They immerse themselves in academics, practice on simulators and fly eight sorties using the goggles.
The goggles are better than they were just two years ago. Now a pilot has 20/25 vision with them; it was 20/50 with the previous generation of goggles. The Air Force is also testing a night-vision visor that will allow peripheral vision.