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Review: THALES Minie-D/IR


Minie-D

Back for more Night Chenanigans? Hope you enjoyed reading about that unicorn last week. The PVS-15D is certainly one of the most unique and rare NVG I have had the pleasure to check out. I just wish I had more time behind them. Well today is another obscure NVG. I present the THALES Minie-D LPNVG. It replaced the THALES Lucie that you may be familiar with.


THALES LPNVG: Lucie and now Minie-D


Minie-D
Image From THALES

According to the chart above, the Lucie came out in 1996. It was 14 years later THALES came out with the Minie-D. Below is the Lucie next to the Minie-D

The Lucie is iconic as it was adopted by French GIGN as well as German Bundeswehr. There are some LE agencies in Europe that have the Minie-D. To my suprise the Minie-D is not that much smaller than the Lucie but it has a bit more going on than the Lucie.

One major difference between the Lucie and Minie-D is the diameter of the eyepieces. The Minie-D has huge eyepieces


The larger eyepieces for the Minie-D allow for greater eye relief. The Lucie has a 17mm eye relief. Mil-Spec Carson eyepieces, for PVS-14s, have a 25mm eye relief. The Minie-D has a 20mm eye relief. While it does not seem like it, the image the Lucie and Minie-D produces is bigger than they appear. They produce a 51º FOV image and since it is so large to your eye, you dont really see the housing in your peripheral vision. Especially with the Minie-D. I get a similar POV as when I use L3 PVS-31A, I just see the night vision image and a tiny whisper of housing shadow around the NVG image.


Close Up Of The Minie-D


Minie-D

Minie-D

The Minie-D is activated differently from the Lucie. The knobs on the front of the Minie-D housing spin but they are also buttons. A quick press of the II button and the Minie-D turns on. Rotate the II knob and you can control the gain. I am a bit paranoid about this switchology since the knob sticks out so far from the housing. It would be all to easy to bump it and turn the Minie-D on while it is in a pouch or case. I always remove the battery when I store the Minie-D because of this paranoia. The Video button is a mystery to me. I suspect it is for controlling the thermal or video you can input into the Minie-D with the right adapters. Currently it does not seem to do anything. The circular IR button is for activating the built in IR illuminator. So far it only appears to be a momentary switch. I have not found a way to leave the IR illuminator on constantly.


There is a small cylincrical magnet on the top left corner. This might interact with normal THALES mounts that use magnets to shut off power to the goggle when you stow the Lucie up against the helmet




Another feature that the Minie-D has over the Lucie is a lens cap holder. It always annoyed me how the tethered lens cap on my Lucie would just dangle from the side of the housing. THALES molded some protrusions on either side of the tether anchoring point so you can store the lens cap on the bottom of the Minie-D housing. See the images below.

Minie-D

Minie-D

Minie-D

This Minie-D has a custom 3D printed dovetail. This Minie-D came from Ukraine so I am unsure the provenance behind the custom dovetail. The Minie-D is not a common NVG for civilians to have. Even the Lucie is hard to get a hold of and I have never seen a Minie-D outside of LE or THALES employee hands. However someone had this one and had a dovetail 3D printed and epoxied it to the housing. The only thing I can think of is the NVG mount slot broke and this was easier to replace than the factory shoe.


Take a look at the image below from THALES' website. The Minie-D has a similar shoe like the Lucie, only now it is bolted onto the housing. The Lucie suffers from a similar problem like a PVS-7 since the the NVG mount shoe is molded to the housing, once it breaks you cannot mount the Lucie. Well THALES upgraded the Minie-D with a replaceable shoe. Sounds good in theory. Not sure how well that works since the previous owner replaced it with a 3D printed dovetail.


Minie-D
Photo by THALES

And here is a close up of the custom 3D printed dovetail on this Minie-D

The battery pack on the Minie-D is modular. There is a side screw that holds it against the Minie-D housing. Remove it and you can see a sealed panel with electrical contacts. I believe this is how the video and information is inputted into the display of the Minie-D.

One downside to this design is how the battery compartment is held ontp the Minie-D housing. There is a rectangular loop that the bottom ofbattery pack tabs into and then the top is bolted into the housing. The problem is what happens if you break that polymer loop? Then the battery pack is not retained at the bottom.





Minie-D On A Helmet


Due to the design of the Minie-D housing, in order for me to line up the eyepieces with my eyes, I have to position the Minie-D like the picture below. The curved back of the Minie-D hits the brim of my helmet so I can only move the Minie-D so close. This is a non-issue since the eye relief is 20mm. I actually want the Minie-D further from my eyes.

Here I am using the Wilcox G29 mount designed for the Lucie. It works with the Minie-D just fine.



A Quick Peek Inside The Minie-D

Unlike the Lucie, the Minie-D does not use 10130 image intensifiers. It uses what looks like 16mm flat image intensifiers.

Remember that sealed contact plate underneath the battery pack? There is a larger array of contact points. I believe that is how the thermal device and connectivity device input images into the Minie-D. If you look at the photo above, you can see a circuit board and what I believe is the image projector for the thermal and video data.

Augmenting The Minie-D


Minie-D
Photo by THALES

Sadly I do not have the thermal adapter for the Minie-D. It appears to be a thermal sensor bolted onto the side of the Minie-D. Accoridng to THALES it is a 336x256 resolution sensor and produces a 36º FOV image.


The IR device pictured above is one of two I have seen in phots. Below is another thermal device for the Minie-D. the objective lens is much larger and it has some sort of control knob. Possibly to control gain and palettes.

Minie-D
Photo by THALES

Unlike a COTI that relies on injecting the thermal image into the image intensifer the Minie-D has a rear projector, you can operate the Minie-D or the thermal independently. Of course you can run both and get thermal fusion.

Minie-D
Photo by THALES

THALES also makes a data adapter to input images into the Minie-D. This is similar in function as the PVS-21 CEHUD where you are inputting images and videos into the NVG. I suspect it is just an analog video signal so any device that outputs the correct video can be inputted into the Minie-D. You can see examples in the image below. Drone footage and Sophie thermal spotter.

Minie-D
Photo by THALES

Interestingly it seems the projector can display color images. However I suspect the images and video needs to be made to work with this system. The CEHUD could show almost any video I inputted into it but sources like google maps was not optimized for that output so it was hard to read text.

Minie-D
Photo by THALES

Angeniuex, the lens division of THALES, uses the same exterior dimensions of the Lucie objective lens for the Minie-D. So their 3x magnifier fits on the Minie-D.

Minie-D

Minie-D

Minie-D

The Lucie magnifier is a cool design. Unlike the US Mil-Spec magnifiers that screws into PVS-14 style objective lenses or uses a slip on adapter, the Lucie 3x magnifier has a rotating collar that tightens three claws that grab onto the Lucie and Minie-D objective lens.

Minie-D

Minie-D

Here is a screen shot from a THALES data sheet for the Minie-D. It shows the accessories. I am intrigued by the power supply pack. According to the data sheet, the Minie-D can run for 40 hours on a single AA while the larger remote battery pack can run the NVG for 130 hours. The power supply pack seems like it is for running the Minie-D with the IR thermal and powers that combo for 13 hours.

Minie-D
Photo by THALES

Final Thoughts On the Minie-D

The Minie-D is neat but without the fancy accessories it is not as good as the Lucie to me. I can upgrade Lucies with Gen 3 10130 tubes. I cannot upgrade the Minie-D since the tube is proprietary. The tube in this Minie-D is not very good and it is the first time I experienced resolution drop. Image intensifiers have center line resolution however when they are exposed to high light , that resolution drops. Typically 72lp of Gen 3 can go down to 36 lp. Photonis is proud that their tubes only dip down to low 50s. Thios Minie-D tube is so bad that the image looks out of focus to my eyes unless I look at a dark area. I tried to document this with my iphone. Trust me it is a lot more noticeable with your naked eyes.



Still I am glad to have this in my collection. Hopefully one day I can get my hands on the THALES IR device so i can unlock the Minie-D's hidden potential.

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