Added 9-5-02 Updated 26-6-09
Multi-Coloured LED Tactical Lights
A recent innovation in the field of personal flashlights is the use of high output LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) in place of conventional bulbs. These are available in a wide range of colours, including infra-red wavelengths.
It should be feasible to construct a small flashlight with a rotating head section so the user can select light from a choice of six colours. Such a torch would resemble as small right-angle torch powered by an AA battery.
- It would have an on-off switch and squeeze button.
- The head would be hexagonal and each face would be marked with the appropriate colour and letter in Braille. (..and before anyone asks, the side with the Infrared diode would be black!).
- There would be a clip for attaching the torch to clothing or webbing and a finger loop for a more secure grip.
A good mix of colours would be white, red, green, blue, orange and infra-red.
Such a small but versatile flashlight would find numerous uses, including signaling between units.
Recently I brought a Photon II LED light. This fits on my keyring virtually unnoticed, and resembles a car key with the shank broken off.
It occurs to me that such a mechanism could be built into something the size of a signet ring. This would give a soldier a descrete light "readily to hand" that could be used for checking maps, signalling etc.
Mike Sparks reminds us that when using a lightsource it is tactical prudent to cover it and the item you are examining with a poncho.
NSN: 62630-01-357-2175 is the stock number of a small green light that can be attached to the finger by a velcro strap. This lightsource is NVG compatible.
The latest model of Photon Micro Light, the Photon III includes various levels of brightness and strobe modes.
Tactical flashlights with multiple LEDs are now available, some also incorporating a conventional Xenon or Hallogen bulb. By varying the number of LEDs used the light level and battery life can be varied. A lens allows the beam to be changed from flood to spot. Such a flashlight would be compatible with the idea suggested above by using several white LEDs and one each of blue, orange, green and infra-red.
The Flashlight would have a flip-up transparent filter that would convert the output to red light for tactical illumination. An alternate fliter (stored on the flashlight's butt?) would convert the output to infra-red illumination.
Just behind the head of the flashlight would be a diagonal swivel that would allow the configuration to be varied from right-angle to in-line.
A trick used by some Soldiers is to use a flashlight in the barrel of an M203 to create a very directional lightsource for signaling at night. The head of our tactical flashlight should be dimensioned to allow such use.
The torch would use one or more AA batteries. It is high time that the diverse electronic items used by Soldiers standardized on a single type. It is quite possible to build a small LED flashlight that is powered by clockwork, but I see this option being more popular with survivalists than the military.
Another recent purchase has been an Inova 24/7 LED light. This offers various light options including low and high intensity white light, night vision friendly red light and various strobe options, including one that flashes "SOS" in morse. By adding a programmable element this could be the basis of a Code Strobe.
During operations in urban terrain military or police often have to operate in the dark interiors of buildings. Flashlights are very useful but have their limitations. To meet the needs of tactical units several companies offer Illumination grenades for indoor use. Most of these use several cylume lightsticks and some mechanism for bending the stick. There is a good case for creating a battery-powered indoor illumination grenade or Lantern Grenade. Advantages for these include.
Most likely configuration for the Lantern grenade will resemble a Viet Cong stick grenade. The oval head section will be covered by rubber-like transparent plastic and beneath this will be columns of red, white and infra-red LEDs. The handle will contain simple dial controls to that allow the user to vary light intensity, duration of illumination and the delay before illumination starts. The latter mechanism allows the light to activates after it has been thrown into position. The handle also allows the grenade to be hand-held, making it useful for search operations. A flat top allows the grenade to be stood up on a flat surface and the device should also be buoyant since it is likely to be used in environments such as sewers.
- Grenades can be recovered, switched off and reused many times during an operation. Rather than needing to carry a chemical illumination grenade for each room a squad need only carry a couple of grenades and can use them as many times as they need for as long as the batteries hold charge. Once a battery is exhausted it can be easily changed.
- Illumination level of a grenade can be easily varied. The type of light output from the grenade can also be varied. By using modern LED technology the same grenade can produce white, red or infra-red illumination of varying intensities.
Carlton Meyer has suggested that a Lantern grenade with a strobe option would be useful. I've little doubt that once issued such devices will find numerous other uses such as directing traffic or aircraft.