Clip-On Thermals: This Tech Could Change How Soldiers Fight at Night

Marine Raiders Conduct Raids

US military forces have learned to operate on the darkest nights, using night vision and thermal technology. US Special Operations Command photo by Sgt. Scott Achtemeier.

For two decades, night vision and thermal optics were core tools of the trade for Jamey Caldwell. The retired Army sergeant major spent over 20 years as a Ranger and operator in special mission units, where missions were as likely to be carried out in darkness as daylight. But while NVGs could turn the dark to an advantage and thermals could reveal hidden enemies behind cover and even walls, Caldwell said troops traditionally have had to choose between them, using one or the other in fast-moving operations.

clip-on thermals

The Enhanced Clip-On Thermal Imager, or ECOTI, is a thermal imaging overlay device that attaches directly to existing night vision devices. Photo courtesy of Safran Optics.

The Enhanced Clip-On Thermal Imager, or ECOTI, is a thermal imaging overlay device that attaches directly to existing night vision devices. Photo courtesy of Safran Optics.

But he thinks a new system by Safran Optics 1 may be the fix. The Enhanced Clip-On Thermal Imager, or ECOTI, is a thermal imaging overlay device that attaches directly to existing night vision devices. Users can choose between making white or black the “hot” color in the image and can adjust the brightness.

thermal imaging

ECOTI users can choose between making white or black the “hot” color in the image and can adjust the brightness. Photo courtesy of Safran Optics.

ECOTI users can choose between making white or black the “hot” color in the image and can adjust the brightness. Photo courtesy of Safran Optics.

“What’s awesome about this piece of gear is you clip it onto your night vision, and it doesn’t take over your vision at all. You still have your night vision, but if there’s something with heat, it just pops up,” said Caldwell, who now owns 1 Minute Out, a tactical training company, and is sponsored by Black Rifle Coffee as a pro bass fisherman. “It just sits on your head, you just keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll see something long before it sees you.”

An internal battery lasts approximately three and a half hours, and an auxiliary battery can extend that to 16. The device also creates a heads-up display, providing the user with navigation and route information.


This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 print edition of Coffee or Die Magazine as “Clip-On Thermals.”

Read Next: Doc’s Corner: How to Set Up Your IFAK for EDC

Dustin Jones is a former senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine covering military and intelligence news. Jones served four years in the Marine Corps with tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. He studied journalism at the University of Colorado and Columbia University. He has worked as a reporter in Southwest Montana and at NPR. A New Hampshire native, Dustin currently resides in Southern California. He wants to hear your stories and tips at dustin.jones@blackriflecoffee.com.
More from Coffee or Die Magazine
With the US and India deepening their military ties, the Himalayan mountain chain marks another geopolitical flashpoint with China.
With its iconic folding wings and six machine guns, the Corsair proved exceptionally lethal in World War II and beyond.
Letter bombs mailed to the US Embassy in Madrid and Spanish government offices triggered elevated security at Naval Station Rota.
The Air Force will officially reveal the replacement for the B-2 stealth bomber on Friday, Dec. 2.
When he was released, after 28 months as a prisoner, he thought he would face charges. Instead, he was told he’d won the highest award for valor.
A Connecticut man faces up to 20 years behind bars for trying to join Islamic State group terrorists.
The annual matchup was first played in 1890 and has since become something much bigger — and more important — than just a football game.
A blaze erupted on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, injuring nine sailors before it was extinguished.
The encounter highlighted a trend of increasingly aggressive Chinese military behavior in the region.
Marines and sailors see the landing assault ships Tripoli and America as light carriers.