Striking images of the US military training at night reveal the surreal colours of war

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth MerriamNighttime flight operations aboard the amphibious transport dock ship Green Bay.

Fighting in the dark has always been a difficult task in warfare, but soldiers, sailors, and airmen today can conduct their operations at night almost as well as they can during the day thanks to the invention of night vision.

Whether on the decks of an aircraft carrier or destroyer, in the deserts of the Middle East and Afghanistan, or in the skies above it all, warfighting doesn’t stop at night.

Photos captured while the US military performs nighttime training provide viewers with a unique look into the world of war. Military equipment, as well as the troops themselves, takes on distinct colours when seen outside the light of day.

Here are some striking photos of the US military operating at night:

A C-130 Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron conducts a night flight mission over Yokota Air Base in Japan.

US Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe

Aircraft land aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise during nighttime flight operations in the Arabian Sea.

Capt. Thomas Bernard, a 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules pilot, performs a visual confirmation with night-vision goggles during a training mission over Japan’s Kanto Plain.

US Air Force/Osakabe Yasuo

Canadian special operations regiment members call in close-air support from their US Air Force allies at Hurlburt Field in Florida.

US Air Force/Senior Airman Matt Bruch

A US Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft with the 107th Airlift Wing fires off flares during a night-formation training mission.

US Marines with Task Force Southwest observe their surroundings while at a security post for an advising mission with 1st Brigade, Afghan National Army 215th Corps as they conduct Operation Maiwand 12 at Camp Shorserack in Afghanistan.

US Marine Corps/Sgt. Conner Robbins

Afghan and American special-operations troops destroy a Taliban weapons cache during a night operation in Ney Meydan, Sar-e Pul province, Afghanistan.

US Air Force

Spc. Michael Tagalog, a US paratrooper, fires a Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle from an observation post in Afghanistan’s Pekha Valley.


The F-35 Integrated Test Force is completing a series of night flights, testing the ability to fly the jet safely in instrument meteorological conditions where the pilot has no external visibility references.

US Air Force

US Marines with Task Force Southwest fire a 120 mm mortar as a show of force at Camp Shorab in Afghanistan.

US Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Melissa Karnath

An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron 32 lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado

Sailors recover combat rubber raiding craft with Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit during night operations in the well deck of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam D. Wainwright

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Kevin Williams directs an F/A-18C Hornet from the Warhawks of Strike Fighter Squadron 97 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate

Capt. Jonathan Bonilla and 1st Lt. Vicente Vasquez, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey pilots, fly over Tokyo after completing night training.

US Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe

A 25 mm machine gun fires during a live-fire exercise aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall.

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsea Mandello

An AV-8B Harrier with Marine Attack Squadron 311 lands on the USS Essex. The pilots of VMA 311 were conducting night carrier landing qualifications in preparation for the 31st MEU’s Certification Exercise.

US Marine Corps/Cpl. Garry J. Welch

A Marine special-operations team member fires a M240B machine gun during night fire sustainment training in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

US Marine Corps/Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Knighthawks of Strike Fighter Squadron 136 prepares to launch from catapult two during night light operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared M. King

A Marine from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit provides cover during a platoon assault exercise at Arta Range in Djibouti.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Erik Cardenas

Senior Airman Stephen Clark and Airman 1st Class Matthew Pfeffer, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J loadmasters, on the open ramp of a C-130J Super Hercules flying near Yokota Air Base, Japan.

US Air Force

Capt. David Hirt, left, and Maj. Stephen Piantarnida observe the terrain using night-vision goggles during an air-support exercise as part of a weapons and tactics course for instructors at Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in Arizona.

US Department of Defence

LAV-25 Light Armoured Vehicles from Charlie Company, 1st Light Armoured Reconnaissance detachment, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fire on fixed targets as part of a combined arms engagement range during sustainment training in D’Arta Plage in Djibouti.

US Marine Corps/Cpl. Jonathan R. Waldman

Soldiers secure an area in view of the aurora borealis during night live-fire training as part of Exercise Spartan Cerberus at Fort Greely, Alaska.

US Department of Defence

A Marine special-operations team member fires an AK-47 during night-fire sustainment training in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

US Marine Corps/Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

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