I've seen military personnel using night vision goggles (NVGs). With their flight altitude, I don't think the enemy can notice them. I thought it may be due to eye strain, but other units use red lights during long jobs that need looking at a screen. Also, you should consider some fighter pilots have short missions and their eyes won't get tired from light.

I wonder why they don't use normal light. Normal light versus red light versus night vision. I never used night vision, but I don't think it's comfortable to use.


3 Answers 3


former F-18 pilot here, it's my first post here so be kind :)

NVG's are not for domestic use, they are entirely tactical. Here are some uses;

  • Night formation (Defensive/Offensive counter air missions), such that formation members can fly lights off or in night mode (which we did all the time). Most fighters have external NVG lighting that can't be seen with the naked eye.
  • Target acquisition (Offensive Strike/CAS etc) in low/no light environments (permits visual rules of engagement upgrades etc
  • Laser ID. Laser range finders and target acquisition pod lasers can be seen through NVG's, we can conduct visual 'hand-over' procedures using lasers to talk on a wingman to a target. Lasers are weapons and have their own master arm switch, just like the gun, bombs and missiles.

With NVG's, I can see formation members with low/no light dozens of miles away, which can't even be done during the day. This brings enormous tactical advantage in air-air scenarios.

NVG's are not used to see inside the cockpit.

Hope that answers your question!

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Av.SE! Thanks for posting your first-hand experience -- always great to have here. Please check back often & share your knowledge on other threads as well. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 3:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Are there any certain fighter jets that pilots who fly them becomes cocky or are there certain fighter jets pilots seek to fly. I've heard naval aviators are a bit cocky, cocky in good way of course. I've checked your profile it says Australia, do you guys also have nicknames or that's just US thing. Are there any cultural differences between AUS AF vs USAF $\endgroup$
    – baba yaga
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 9:30
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    $\begingroup$ Yes AUS pilots certainly have callsigns. There's also cultural differences. I wouldn't say one is better than the other. AUS works closely with US (our closest military ally for sure) in multiple exercises each year (we have a lot of great airspace for large exercises) so we know each others methods/tactics, and culture well :) $\endgroup$
    – RoryH
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 9:47

Fighter jets do have a normal cockpit lighting in them. Occasionally crews do use night vision goggles, not for viewing instruments, but visual reference outside the jet, and cockpit lighting can be adjusted for NVS systems. But it is not recommended for all applications to use night vision goggles only, so standard cockpit lighting is provided. In addition normal cockpit lighting is so low that it’s virtually impossible to see an illuminated cockpit from a distance.

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    $\begingroup$ I would imagine that one cannot "see paradise by the dashboard lights" when flying at night in any aircraft - it would totally ruin your night vision for seeing outside. I'm always amazed when I can see the expression on the face of a driver that I pass on the highway at night. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 1, 2020 at 12:01

The major issue for any combat pilot isn't to see what's going on inside the aircraft, but rather what is going on outside. Wikipedia has some more information on the effects of using red light, but the short version is that the red light preserves night vision while at the same time making it possible to read instruments and labels.

For a combat pilot who might need to watch for other aircraft, fly in formation or close to terrain at night preserving the normal night vision is essential. Night-vision-goggles also helps, but these work primarily by amplifying existing visible light. Adding additional light sources inside the cockpit would have the same effect as if you didn't wear them and turned up all the lights; you'd have no problem seeing inside, but wouldn't see anything outside due to the contrast.


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