Night Vision Technology And Devices in German Armed Forces (WWII)

Advancements in science and technological progress in 30’s Germany allowed two companies AG (or AEG — Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft) and Zeiss (or Leitz) to develop first IR gear — Infrarotstrahlung (IR) and Ultrarotstrahlung (UR).

In 1936, AEG was ordered to start the development of infrared night-vision devices and in 1939, first successful prototype unit for use with 37mm Pak 35/36 L/45 anti-tank gun was constructed. In autumn of 1942, unit for use (infrared headlamp with viewer ZG 1221) with 75mm PaK 40 L/46 anti-tank gun was constructed. After the World War II started and until 1944 Wehrmacht equipped over three hundred night fighting Panthers with 200-mm infra-red searchlights FG 1250 and a BIWA (Bildwandler — image converters) with effective night viewing range to 600 meters.

Panther-mounted Infrarotstrahlung Night Vision. Also known as secretive "Solution A".

Solution A – Sperber (Sparrow Hawk) was made up of one 30cm infrared searchlight (with range of 600m) and image converter operated by the commander – FG 1250.From late 1944 to March of 1945, some Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf G (and other variants) mounted with FG 1250, were succesfully tested. From March to April of 1945, approximately 50 Panthers Ausf G (and other variants) mounted with FG 1250, saw combat service on the Eastern Front and Western Front. Panthers with IR operated with SdKfz.251/20 Uhu (Owl) half-track with 60cm infra-red searchlight and Sd.Kfz.251/21 Falke (Falcon). This solution could be easily mounted on any type of armored fighting vehicle.

Picture above: System mounted on Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf G with Sperber/FG 1250.

In mid 1943, first tests with infrared night-vision (Nacht Jager) devices and telescopic rangefinders mounted on Panther started. Two different arrangements / solutions were created and used on Panther tanks.

Picture above: System mounted on Sd.Kfz. 251/20

There were also larger 200mm IR searchlight and scope for driver mounted on Sd.Kfz. 251/20.

Picture above: Infrarot "Uhu" (Owl).

Solution B - SdKfz.251/20 Uhu (Owl) – Second more complicated arrangement / solution was "Biwa" (Bildwandler), which provided driver (installed on the front hull), gunner (installed on the mantlet in front of the gun sight) and commander (as in Solution A) each with one 30cm infrared searchlight (with range of 600m) and image converter. Various variants of Panthers were converted and mounted with "Biwa". It was reported that tests were successful, but there is very few combat reports from the Eastern or Western Front. Due to the lack of evidence,existence of Solution B is still questionable and even considered a hoax.

Among other things searchlights we intended to assist Nachtjäger —night-hunters — elite army grenadiers outfitted with StG44 (Sturmgewehr 44) ZG 1229 Vampir storm rifles and ground nigh vision weapon sights.

Picture above: ZG 1229 Vampir.

Various units received IR Panthers including 116th Panzer Division (3rd company of 24th Panzer Regiment, Western Front, Summer of 1944), Sixth SS Panzer Army (Hungary, early 1945), Panzer Division Muncheberg and Clausewitz.One combat report is by a veteran of 1st SS Panzer Regiment of 1st SS Panzer Division "LSSAH", who states that few Panthers equipped with infrared night-vision devices possibly from 116th Panzer Division were used in 1944/45 during the Ardennes Offensive.In April of 1945, Panthers equipped with IR equipment (solution B) joined Panzer Division Clausewitz and in mid April near Uelzen destroyed entire platoon of British Comet cruiser tanks. Also on April 21st of 1945, same Panthers overran an American anti-tank position on the Weser-Elbe Canal.Most of those reports can’t be confirmed and are questionable.