Lately, I have been playing with the newer enhanced clip-on thermal imagers like the Optics 1 ECOTI and Jerry-C. Before that, I used the Optics 1 AN/PAS-29 COTI. While there are not that many clip-on thermal imagers for head-mounted night vision devices, there are at least a couple more out there. NIVISYS has a version of the AN/PAS-29 COTI they call TACS-M. Well before the TACS-M, they had another device called TACS (Thermal Acquisition Clip-On System) and performance wise it is similar to the AN/PAS-29 COTI.
Not All Clip-Ons Are COTIs
The NIVISYS TACS is chunky compared to other clip-on thermal devices. Take a look at how big it is compared to the Jerry-C.
As you can see in the photo above and the one above this, the TACS uses a projector to input the thermal image into the objective lens of your night vision device. However, it is offset from the thermal sensor body.
The NIVISYS T.A.C.S. is about as big as a FLIR Breach. Imagine taking a FLIR Breach, remove the rear eyepiece and add a fiber optic periscope at the other end of the battery compartment.
How Does The TACS Compare To A PAS-29 COTI?
This is the ultimate question since performance wise they are similar. Both are 320×240 resolution and project a 20º thermal image. Both are powered by a CR123 battery. As I said before, the T.A.C.S. is thick. It is almost like the COTI without the germanium lens and thermal sensor and gluing a FLIR Breach (without an eyepiece) to the side.
Since the TACS is a large boy, it weighs more. With a CR123 a PAS-29 COTI weighs 5.2 oz. The TACS? A hefty 7.7 oz. Just a reminder the ECOTI weighs just 3.8 oz with battery installed.
Just like the other clip-on thermal imagers, the TACS uses a mount that clamps over the objective lens infinite focus stop (the ring just behind the objective lens) on your night vision device.
Due to the eccentric design, the mount does not sit normally. Take a look at the image below, the TACS mount is on the left and the COTI mount is on the right. The TACS mount is oriented this way for vertical orientation of the thermal periscope projector.
Both the COTI and TACS use a quick-release latch system but they are very different.
The COTI, ECOTI and JerryC both use a lever style latch system to clip onto their respective mounts.
The TACS has a rotating collar with a hook. You need to grab this ring and spin it clockwise if you are wearing the TACS, or counterclockwise if you are looking at the front of the TACS.
Due to its size and offset design, the TACS is very noticeable and sticks out like a sore thumb.
Controlling the TACS is a lot simpler than the PAS-29 COTI. The TACS on switch is the gain knob, just like the COTI and Jerry-C, however, it is positioned at the back of the device. And just like the COTI, you can push and hold the power/brightness knob for non-uniformity correction calibration.
There are two buttons on the bottom of the TACS and they control polarity and thermal modes.
How Does The TACS Perform?
As expected, it performed similarly to the PAS-29 COTI. The images are very similar and detection seems similar. Although I have not had the opportunity to truly test them at long-range distances for detection like I did with the ECOTI comparison.
One feature that the TACS has over the other clip-on thermal devices is that the objective lens can be turned and sort of focused. Even though the manual says the lens is not to be turned. It is probably due to the fact that the lens can be removed entirely by unscrewing it off the housing.
Just like the COTI, the TACS has two polarities (black hot and white hot) as well as three thermal modes; Full Thermal, Patrol, and Outline.
NIVISYS T.A.C.S. Wrap Up
The NIVISYS TACS is over a decade old. The instruction manual has a 2010 date printed on every page. I think this NIVISYS thermal was a cheaper alternative to the PAS-29 COTI. I have seen websites selling the NIVISYS TACS for over $4,000. Before the COTI was discontinued it fetched around $6,000. However, that is no longer the case. The COTI is now sold for around $3,000. This NIVISYS TACS was purchased used for under $2,000 and aside from the extra weight and fewer options than the COTI, it performs similarly. If you want thermal fusion and can find a used Thermal Acquisition Clip-On System for under $2,000, then you should pick it up. Assuming 2 extra ounces is worth saving at least $1,000 to you.