Review: 150 Million Candlepower Militay Xenon Arc Battlefield Illuminator (AN/VSS-3A)

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Review: 150 Million Candlepower Militay Xenon Arc Battlefield Illuminator (AN/VSS-3A)
150 Million Candlepower Military Xenon Arc Battlefield Illuminator. (Model # AN/VSS-3A) This probably wouldnt be considered a budget light by most, but considering what I paid its the least expensive cost per lumen solution of any light I have ever owned.
 
From the manual:
 
ANVSS-3A Battlefield Illuminator
 
Technical Characteristics
 
Type of light – Visible or infrared
Type of lamp – Xenon short arc – 1 kilowatt
Output candlepower – 50 million minimum
Beam width:
Compact – 1.0 +/- 0.5 degrees
Variable – 1.0 to 7.0 degrees
Voltage – 22 to 28 VDC
Current - 58 amperes
Power – 1,600 watts
Cooling system – Air to air heat exchanger using intake/exhaust blower
Reflective system – Metal parabolic mirror
Focus-defocus method – motor driven
Searchlight control – Provide by control box and remote control
Reflector - 14"
150 Million Candlepower Xenon Arc Battlefield Illuminator. This probably wouldnt be considered a budget light by most, but considering what I paid its the least expensive cost per lumen solution of any light I have ever owned.
 
From the manual:
 
ANVSS-3A Battlefield Illuminator
 
Technical Characteristics
 
Type of light – Visible or infrared
Type of lamp – Xenon short arc – 1 kilowatt
Output candlepower – 50 million minimum
Beam width:
Compact – 1.0 +/- 0.5 degrees
Variable – 1.0 to 7.0 degrees
Voltage – 22 to 28 VDC
Current - 58 amperes
Power – 1,600 watts
Cooling system – Air to air heat exchanger using intake/exhaust blower
Reflective system – Metal parabolic mirror
Focus-defocus method – motor driven
Searchlight control – Provide by control box and remote control
Reflector - 14"
 
The manual contains dozens of potential death and injury warnings in relation to possible electrocution, lamp explosion or permanent blindness if improperly used.
 
If you’re interested in how I used this searchlight, read on...
 
Several years ago, I bought a used boat from a retired US Coast Guard Captain. As luck would have it, he equipped it with a used Carlisle and Finch xenon arc searchlight, which was mounted on the bow pulpit (extreme nose of the boat). a joystick operated the pan/tilt mechanism from the helm and it punched a hole through the darkness with about 10 million candlepower. This was perfect since I did a lot of camping and boating on the California Delta waterways, which encompassed about 1,500 miles of navigable interconnected water ways. I also used it to do a lot of night time scuba diving in Monterey Bay. One day while putting the boat back on the trailer, my girlfriend backed into the boat with the trailer winch and struck the bow pulpit, smashing the fancy C&F searchlight to pieces.
“No problem”, I thought to myself. Id just buy a new one. Well, it turns out that C & F sells these for about $25,000 and used ones could not be found anywhere. Even worse, this was a 12 volt C&F light which had long been out of production. All they were currently making were 24 volt systems. After experimenting with various ultra high powered incandescent searchlights and other outdoor lighting arrays, I was very displeased with the results and began the search for a military xenon arc version. I got lucky one day while I perused a government auction web site and came across 3 battlefield illuminators. These had a nominal output of 50 mcp @ 22 VDC but topped 150 mcp @ 28.2 VDC, were driven by a 1000 watt xenon arc lamp and were designed to be mounted above a large army tanks main gun for night time hunting.
Here's a photo of the lamp after I removed it from the searchlight:
engineering schematic:
This searchlight was created before the advent of the thermal imaging systems that sophisticated modern aiming and surveillance systems use today. The searchlight had an infrared mode that the gunner could view through an IR night site. The light was mounted just above the tank gun and was bore sited with the barrel. It had a variable focus reflector that moved the bulb assembly in and out of the reflector assembly via a motor mounted rack and pinion. At the same time, another motor drive would warp the reflector and reshape it to prevent any donut holes from appearing in the beam, regardless of where the bulb was in relation to the reflector. This was controlled by a remote at the gunners station. The entire light’s internals were mounted on a forged aluminum superstructure that used vibration proof elastomer mounts to fasten it inside of a ballistic hardened aluminum case with huge gaskets and clam shell buckles to clamp it all shut. The case had an air to air heat exchanger built in that used fans inside and outside of the dry zone so the light could actually be submerged for short periods and still survive. It even included an hour meter inside the case so you could see how many hours of operation were on the lamp. If the arc lamps weren't replaced every 300 hours, they could violently explode, sending glass, shrapnel and parts through the front of the lens and blow up the reflector and internals. Optical Radiation Corp. made the replacement lamps and priced them at well over $1000 a piece. That’s why I bought 3 complete searchlight kits to start with for only about $500 a piece. They were new old stock that had been sitting around in a government warehouse for several years.
 
Putting it all together:


 
The 1st hurdle was coming up with mounting system. My friends ski boat towing system gave me the idea of a super heavy duty stainless steel mount that could be quickly deployed and stowed. Even better was that I could buy the exact model I would need straight out of a marine catalog. I had to build a mounting system to attach the searchlight and had a machine shop do most of the lathe work while I cut the mounting plates to attach the mount to the bastardized ski tow system. I’ll spare you all the details but the final product looked and functioned as if it were part of the original searchlight package. Battle ready!
 
2nd was to find a way to aim the huge light electronically from the helm. I found a state action advertised at a prison. They were getting rid of several very expensive heavy duty pan/tilt units that were used for mounting large heavy close circuit surveillance cameras. I found one brand new in the box that was rated to carry a +100 lb. payload. The light weighed 62 lbs. and had a 14” lens and reflector system so I was very fortunate to find that particular pan/tilt unit to handle the weight and bulk of the light.
 
3rd was a way to power the light. The boat operated on a 12 VDC system but the light required 28 VDC max and drew nearly 60 amps! No wonder the darn thing was so bright. I created a secondary mounting system and attached a massive Balmar 28 volt military heavy duty marine alternator that could sustain 100 amperes continuous. A programmable digital charging controller was needed to ramp up the current and maintain it precisely.
 
4th was a battery storage bank and power switching solution. I used 6 Trojan T-105 6 volt deep cycle batteries. These are typically used in golf carts and electric fork lifts. From my scuba diving trips into the blue waters off the Pacific NW, I noticed how much better my boat handled rough swells at high speed when it was loaded heavy toward the aft end with all the scuba gear. The batteries and charging system added about 500 pounds to the rear, giving the boat a much more stable ride through the waves and didn’t noticeably slow it down on the top speed. The batteries were serial wired in pairs to produce 12 volts. Bank #1 was dedicated to the stock 12 volt alternator and used as a backup in case the main system bank failed.
Bank #2, the main bank of 4 could be switched from two 12 volt parallel switched banks into one serial switched 24V bank. I provided for a huge buss fuse when I designed the switching panel in case a mistake was made while switching. This would prevent a massive battery explosion from ruining anyone's day who might be fiddling with my battery switches. Luckily, it was never put to the test.
When the main bank was configured for 24V operation, I transferred power from that bank to the 28V alternator and energized the voltage regulator to activate the system. When the main bank was in 12V mode, power was transferred to the stock alternator after all the batteries were topped off and the 28V alternator was disconnected. As an aside, I could stay tied on the anchor without needing to run the engine for several days and have enough power to run all the electronic accessories on the boat. Most importantly, if we broke down, the fridge would keep running for days to keep the beer cold.
 
5th was powering the pan/tilt which required 120VAC. A large power inverter that I connected to the main bank handled this chore and also allowed me to run the electric stove in the galley and cook.
Photo of the helm:
I fabricated a bracket and used an automotive lift strut on the front of the unit to eliminate any backlash to the tilt gear system when the boat struck a wave or encountered an impact (which would be happening constantly). The entire system could be mounted and deployed in about 15 minutes using wing nuts, bolts and cannon plugs. The main control box was mounted on a bulkhead in the living quarters and the remote was mounted to the helm.
The remote armed the system and energized the intercooler. The next position ignited the light. Once the light reached operating temperature and was then turned off, the intercooler would remain on to cool the bulb and turned itself off once a cooler temperature was reached. Another switch activated and deactivated the infrared filter. The filter was rather well thought out. Inside the light, when the filter was active, a motor drove a specially coated glass cylinder outward that encapsulated the entire bulb. The coating on the glass cylinder allowed only the IR light spectrum from the bulb to penetrate the tube, which made the light invisible to the naked eye. When this was mounted to the tank, the gunner would swing the turret around at night looking for the enemy. When a target was selected, the lens would be brought into tight focus to put out a laser like beam up to a range of about 3 miles. When the beam was on target, the gunner would send the round and kill the target... similar to laser aiming systems used on hand held fire arms. Of course range and elevation still had to be contended with by the gunner.
 
How did it all work?
It took about 2 years to come up with all the parts, fabricate and figure out how to mount and power it. It was actually a lot of fun conquering so many disciplines in fabrication and engineering... if you could call it that. The first time I fired it up, the boat was on the trailer during broad day light. The searchlight ignited on the first try. I aimed the light at my house from 50 feet away and was rather disappointed with the output. It was like shinned a 3A driven XML at something in direct sunlight from 3 feet away. The beam was certainly visible and massive but wasn’t that bright because it was overwhelmed by the sun... till night fell. In the moonless night, I fired it up again and was absolutely shocked with what I saw. Not only at the sheer amount of light but the huge range the light had. Aimed skyward and at maximum focus, the beam remained concentrated all the way to its very limit and had a sheer cutoff where it terminated at about 3 miles altitude above me. At that time, I was in the testing and adjustment stage for a while and ran the unit on the battery bank alone. The unit drew about 60 amps and caused the 24V pack to sag to around 22V while in operation. Run time was rather limited. All that changed when I completed the charging system, fired up the engine and brought the massive 28 volt alternator online. To the naked eye, the perceived light output about quadrupled while the range remained roughly the same. It was actually brighter in sheer intensity than any sky searcher I had ever seen anywhere, probably because the beam remained very tight in diameter all the way to its cutoff. Then I played around with the electronic beam angle controls... more oohs and ahhs! It was like a huge remote controlled Maglite gone wild, but the beam remained perfect and uniform without hotspots at any focus setting. We hooked up to the truck and headed off for the delta. While getting under way in the water, I initially fired up the light at wide angle lens setting but failed to realize it was aimed to close to the bow to light much farther than 100 yards in from of the boat. It didn’t matter, the sheer reflection off the water light up the entire area like a football stadium all around us... the water was also glowing brightly beneath us. Well, as you could imagine, we stayed up many many nights playing with this damn thing (cruising from bar to bar on several occasions). Over the years, we exceed 300 hours on the 1st unit and it never blew up. I could imagine that the tank crews had just as much fun as we did with these lights when they weren't in battle with them.
The California Delta was an exciting place to explore.
 
Since then, I've had a 10 mcp aircraft metal halide arc lamp but sold it for an ungodly amount of profit to someone that couldn’t live without it (also a 28V system).
I later struck a deal with a gentleman that refurbished Vietnam era Huey UH1 helicopters and sold them to the Mexican government border patrol. He had read about my lighting systems on a scuba forum and other boating periodicals and contacted me for details. After meeting and hanging around his hanger, I came up with a simple belly mount to equip his fleet and we both profited. Since the lights and control systems weren't mounted until the Mexican government took possession, the aircraft were legal to fly within US airspace while enroute to Mexico, where they were later remounted and deployed. This worked out very well for all involved until my parts source ran out of searchlights.
I was told that these units sold for upwards up $50,000 USD at the time they were produced. They were masterfully engineered examples of analog electronics, precision crafted lenses, light weight, waterproof for a quick dunk and could take a serious beating.
 
If I had to do it all over again, I'm not so sure that I would consider thermal imaging. The newer technology has made it to the consumer market and my friend has one on his yacht. Although its impressive to hang around the helm at night and play with the various features and modes of a FLIR, its still not nearly as impressive as a blinding white xenon arc extending 3 miles in front of the boat; seemingly scorching everything in its path. I have absolutely no doubts what-so-ever that onlookers from the ISS could easily spot its beam in the night sky if aimed at it.
 
Years later, my interests changed so I traded the boat and searchlight for something else that I enjoy tinkering with.
Edited by: sb56637 on 09/02/2017 - 12:37
33696933
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a vss 3 drooooool

cd520
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I would love to see some beamshots of that puppy!!!!

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there are a couple beamshots on cpf 

for example
 

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Can you cook on it? I bet you can...

Who needs sun anymore?

kragmutt wrote:

They're gonna send you a green redcat with a black LED.

2100
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Very nice bro.  At least you'd have a real good use for this puppy, which is great!

 

Stylish ones : http://www.francis.co.uk/technical.asp#panel-3

Performance ones : http://www.francis.co.uk/technical.asp#panel-5

For me PBCP is good but i'd prefer metal halide as i'd like a thicker beam with lots of lumens as well as throw.  Eg i'd much prefer TK70 95k lux 2200 OTF 5 mins than SR90's 120k lux @ 1m and ~1300 OTF 5 mins. As you can see the metal halides are not outdone by the xenon short arcs.  But it can be argued that the differences in the systems bulbs are not there, eg the metal halides are very close to xenon specs/built.

Happy playing, i am still searching for "my kind of light".

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The lights you linked are for full displacement ships and wouldnt survive in a high impact environment.

The VS3 was by far the least expensive part in the entire project, but I sure got my use out of it and often used it to its fullest potential. Also, watt per watt, metal halide wouldnt provide the range necessary in this application, nor would the bulb survive the constant high impact loads a high speed boat, aircraft or moving tank delivers to it. The VS3 can be a flooder as well; I mentioned it in the review, but it has a variable focus that actually moves the bulb in and out electronically as well as warping the reflector shape to provide for the best possible flood beam. Of course everything has a price, and at $50,000 in 1970's dollars, it was very expensive to produce. It still remains a favorite today for military enthusiasts that enjoy collecting armored vehicles. I have a friend that flies helicopters equipped with Nightsun's best, and the VS3 has a superior beam pattern in flood mode.

I found an interesting link on CPF. This guy was only running at about 1/4 - 1/3rd the potential of his VS3 because it was powered by batteries. Check out post #9 after he corrects his camera for white balance and watch the other hand held HID lights fade to black. As has been mentioned many times before across the internet, a camera cant capture the real experience and power of the VS3. To put it into perspective, its probably at least 10,000 times brighter than the SR90 in measured candlepower (U.S. military defined as: light on target in center beam @ maximum usable range).

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Oh wow! That entire rig looks like a lot of fun. But if you only show a glimpse of the engine in the pictures you simply have to give us details. 350 V8? Ford or Chevy? 4-valves/cyl twin overhead cam or pushrod? Is that a carb or an air filter I see? Or is it diesel?

Truly incredible write up, and a sweet job on this project. And bonus points for the beautiful scenery. Automatic frontpage and sticky for this article. Mind if I move it to the "spotlight" category?

Thanks again!

P.S. You forgot to post the link to this light on DX.  Silly

Budget Light Forum ...where Frugal meets with Flashlight!

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FlashPilot wrote:

. Also, watt per watt, metal halide wouldnt provide the range necessary in this application, nor would the bulb survive the constant high impact loads a high speed boat, aircraft or moving tank delivers to it.

Wow, your small vessel is subjected to high-impacts? In what sense?

OT a bit and just for knowledge....Not really sure about that range part, technically/theorectically speaking, the MH range also have "short-arc" versions as well, i sure did not know this till recently.   Ignoring the accuracy of the specs (they are pretty close, as Ushio/Philips/GE also have similar stuff), 240000 lumens for 8mm arc length = 30000 lumens /mm.  But basically the lines are somewhat blur at this juncture, because as you can see such bulbs which are used for advertising/stage don't have a lot of hours as well.  With a 18" aperture, you can get like 0.6-0.8 deg divergence which hangs around with the tank lights.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APbk6vcZR5E  If one is after such things for fun, it is 850 bucks shipped to here for a 5kW version, but it is big. A UPS would make it movable. (I don't think that is expensive, people can pay 2.5k for a PH50/Maxabeam!). Has even CE certification.

 Anyway, if you want another one (and since you said that it is the cheapest component LOL!), there is another on sale at CPF right now, in the Spotlights and HID section.

You can get such bulbs on aliexpress.  Someone made a 1.5kW bike light.  Comparison with dealextreme's SSC P7.   (this belongs to Siamese on CPF)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVz8P9H8nME

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um7oRyHt_1s

asd

 

 

2100
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But seriously, on a bobbing boat, i'd really prefer say 5 deg beamwidth than 1 deg beamwidth.  Luckily the tank light is focusable.   Laughing

 

PS. Your 1kW bulb has a 3.5mm arc gap.  Interesting, thanks a lot for the diagram!  Compare with the HMI 2500W used in the stage/advertisement lights. 

Edit, just saw your 150 million CP figure.  That's impressive with 1.6kW power (1 deg?) and approx 15" aperture, the front is 16" square.  If you look at the Francis FH560 model with 22" aperture (big), it is 2.5kW and 141 MCP. So converted to 1.6kW is 90 MCP if you hit the dimmer.  But you get 3 deg beamwidth to play with, due to lotsa lumens....the downside is it's a bit bigger.   To get twice the throw, you need 4X the CP.    90MCP and 150 MCP is something like a 3 XM-L and a TK35.  LOL!  Sealed

http://www.francis.co.uk/_includes/docs/pdf/datasheets/___FH560_2500w.pdf

Not saying which is better or what....just pointing out the technical differences on paper.  Just last night we had like 50 over these 100-250 MCP spotlights shining during our National Day parade just 1.5km away from my house.   It probably has a few billion MCP when one cluster of 20-30 shine at a spot during a particular program mode.

You mentioned NightSun, those lights has a bad central donut in flood.  So they are like spot only. I know, definitely VSS-3 wins (i think I have seen some beamshots couple years back). Expensive stuff with a 11" aperture! http://ils.spectrolab.com/sx-16_enhanced_prez.html

 http://www.spectrolab.com/DataSheets/illumination/Searchlights/SX-16%20040309%20REV%20D.pdf

 

I think ma_sha is aiming to break the 100 MCP mark in a portable set (!!) as in you can actually carry with 1 hand easily, but it is put on hold temporarily as i think he changed job and thus needed to shift to a new house.  Now the record is 56 MCP.

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Howly s#$t Shocked I have beamshots for comparison 8) (mouse over - mouse out to see the difference)

 

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Very good.

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Lol SashiX.

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sb56637 wrote:

Oh wow! That entire rig looks like a lot of fun. But if you only show a glimpse of the engine in the pictures you simply have to give us details. 350 V8? Ford or Chevy? 4-valves/cyl twin overhead cam or pushrod? Is that a carb or an air filter I see? Or is it diesel?

Truly incredible write up, and a sweet job on this project. And bonus points for the beautiful scenery. Automatic frontpage and sticky for this article. Mind if I move it to the "spotlight" category?

Thanks again!

P.S. You forgot to post the link to this light on DX.  Silly

Sick light. It says 5.7 4V on the valve cover so that would make it a Chevy 350 push rod 2 valve per cylinder 4 barrel carb, great motor.

I am already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.

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Truly impressive!

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2100, thanks for the information. While your comparisons, conjecture and thoughts are interesting, this light wasnt made in China, nor is it a consumer or commercial level product. After seeing literally hundreds of different short arcs in operation, I have no doubt that it delivers exactly as the mil spec documents rated it. There was an earlier model tank light, the AN-VSS-1, which was absolute massive, heavy at over 200 lbs., and utilized a 2.2kw short arc.  The much smaller and technically superior VS3 walks all over it in terms of the amount and quality of light delivered on target. It was designed for one thing in mind and that was for putting a 105mm shell directly on target during night hunting. At over twice the wattage and size reflector, the VS1 still didnt have the range of the VS3. Thanks for the heads up about another unit for sale, but at this time in my life I have no use for another one. If you're thinking about setting up one of these behemoths, please consider that they require an APU or constant power source other than batteries to deliver maximum output. Most owners run them on a pair of deep cycle batteries and will never know what they are missing by not investing in the APU.

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SashiX wrote:

Howly s#$t Shocked I have beamshots for comparison 8) (mouse over - mouse out to see the difference)

 

Thats about how it was! Unfortunately, I no longer have the beam shots to post, but Im sure we all get the idea.

2100
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FlashPilot wrote:

2100, thanks for the information. While your comparisons, conjecture and thoughts are interesting, this light wasnt made in China, nor is it a consumer or commercial level product. After seeing literally hundreds of different short arcs in operation, I have no doubt that it delivers exactly as the mil spec documents rated it. There was an earlier model tank light, the AN-VSS-1, which was absolute massive, heavy at over 200 lbs., and utilized a 2.2kw short arc.  The much smaller and technically superior VS3 walks all over it in terms of the amount and quality of light delivered on target. It was designed for one thing in mind and that was for putting a 120mm shell directly on target during night hunting. At over twice the wattage and size reflector, the VS1 still didnt have the range of the VS3. Thanks for the heads up about another unit for sale, but at this time in my life I have no use for another one. If you're thinking about setting up one of these behemoths, please consider that they require an APU or constant power source other than batteries to deliver maximum output. Most owners run them on a pair of deep cycle batteries and will never know what they are missing by not investing in the APU.

Yeah, as flashaholics would call it, its definitely a pocket rocket.  LOL!  Bro, don't worry I know what "Mil-spec" means, I have spent 2.5 years full-time in the Air Force, and after that 10 years of reservist (each year you get to go back to base for 2-3 weeks, up to 40 days a year but my vocation does not requirement it to be that lengthy), i fully discharged just 3 years ago.  (Yippee!)   South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore require mandatory army training for the guys.

 I have been following the 60" carbon arc thread since 2006/07, problem with such things is that the user better prays that nothing gets blown because it is "mil-spec".   1 pair of deep cycle marine batts is not sufficient.

The good thing about those advertisement spots is that you can run them off a server UPS.  So while that route is not so glam, as high-end, and is bigger, it is definitely cheaper, easier and gets the job done through sheer power.  (i think they can do up to 15kW now)   I don't have 10k to spend on lights due to other hobbies and also commitments plus i want to retire by age 45-50, but 800 bucks shipped for a 200 MCP advertisement spot made-in-china is definitely doable.  Laughing

But the sad thing is, all this is on paper and pretty unattainable, it is not about the money, it's about the space (storage) as I live in an apartment.  And I did some photography jobs for yatchs as well as on yatchs (small 55-70 footers), it is extremely expensive to operate a boat, if you do not have 50 million, can just forget about such luxury stuff here. It costs a little over 400k to own a BMW E92 M3 here!  I think the base spec in the US it'd be about 52k.

 With the really short short-arcs, focusing precision and reflector quality is very important.  That is how Ra's Thor got to the 50 MCP mark with just 100W and 9" aperture.

2100
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Hey bro, nobody asked this, how much did the ramping system, batts, lights cost ya?  It'd be good if you can do a breakdown, probably the light is the least expensive.

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E1320 wrote:

sb56637 wrote:

Oh wow! That entire rig looks like a lot of fun. But if you only show a glimpse of the engine in the pictures you simply have to give us details. 350 V8? Ford or Chevy? 4-valves/cyl twin overhead cam or pushrod? Is that a carb or an air filter I see? Or is it diesel?

Truly incredible write up, and a sweet job on this project. And bonus points for the beautiful scenery. Automatic frontpage and sticky for this article. Mind if I move it to the "spotlight" category?

Thanks again!

P.S. You forgot to post the link to this light on DX.  Silly

Sick light. It says 5.7 4V on the valve cover so that would make it a Chevy 350 push rod 2 valve per cylinder 4 barrel carb, great motor.

Thanks guys. I wasnt sure it would be appropriate to post the searchlight here and Im glad you enjoyed the reading. Looks like I'll have to dig through my other lighting projects and post some more of the sick things Ive completed in the past. The light was more fun than I ever could have imagined, but then I had the proper application to make full use of it. Setting one up on a stationary tripod didnt quite cut it for the long-term fun, and using it while the boat was on the trailer became boring very quickly. But cruising on the water at night while at speed through narrow waterways... unrelenting smiles (and often sheer terror) from everyone on board.

The engine started life as a Chevy 350 small block and ended up at 405 CID. The build sheet was extensive, which replaced almost everything but the original marine block. It included full "blueprinting" and balancing of all internals, aftermarket heads, roller cam, 11.5:1 pistons with reshaped domes, ceramics, extrude honed porting to the cylinder heads and intake manifold, billet stroked crank and rods, block punched out .090" over, multiple spark ignition, knock sensors with alcohol injection. Although intended as a torque monster (525 lbs), it delivered 445 hp on the dyno and roughly 405 through the propeller, so about 1 hp per cubic inch actual to the water... not bad. The best part was it could sustain 5700 rpm all day long and not fly apart.

The vette I linked at the end of the first post started life at 345hp, which delivered 301hp on a chassis dyno. It currently delivers about 560 normally aspirated hp to the rear wheels and is a continuous work in progress. My friend owns one that currently puts down over 850 hp to the rear wheels with twin turbos and alcohol injection and can smoke the tires (street tires) at speeds over 100 mph. With slicks he runs high 9's in the quarter with IRS. Mine is set up for road racing so Ive never ran the quarter... yet.

Then there's the airplane... Tongue out

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2100 wrote:

Hey bro, nobody asked this, how much did the ramping system, batts, lights cost ya?  It'd be good if you can do a breakdown, probably the light is the least expensive.

Searchlight kits complete and still in the sealed crate from a military service depot and resold at public auction ranged from about $500-2000. When the military rebuilds them, they are set back to factory spec and the hour meter will read about 1 hour. I got the $2000+ (custom built to spec) alternator directly from a Balmar distributor in trade for a complete searchlight kit. -(The guy mounted his light on a tripod on the back deck of his home overlooking a tall sheer cliff on the WA coast... cool stuff). The alternator in itself was a work of art. I think the batteries were about $150-200 ea (x 6). The 28V charging controller about 400, the link monitor & shunt 200, over 1000 in marine grade switches and wiring, pan tilt 3000-5000 (good luck finding a good used one of this size), mount by the time it was done 1500, and well over 500 hrs of head scratching and fabrication. 3kw class A sine wave marine inverter 1500. You can probably add at least another 1000 in miscellaneous parts and equipment. Then there's the high dollar stuff; engine and hull mods required to turn that big alternator and still run the boat at "fun" speeds... dont ask. Wink The idea was to have the largest reasonably trailer-able boat that could provide as much utility as possible so Id want to use it often. Execution of the "Work hard/play harder" theory.

The US military had 4 cylinder gensets that ran 2700 rpm and noisy as hell (opposed flat 4 configuration almost the size of a VW bug engine) that output 28V@100A. I almost bought one of those massive units to hog up the passenger compartment until I finally found a source for custom alternator. There was also a generator and installation kit to mount and power one of these from a jeep, etc., but collectors are unwilling to part with them since they usually still own the jeep, APC or tank they came with. Also, since I didnt operate at constant RPM, I needed an alternator (not generator) and full battery standby when I was below about 1200 rpm. Im not aware of any plug-in commercial DC charging systems (electric forklift charger, etc) that can output 100A @28V that dont require 3 phase 377-440VAC input. I went the "light weight" route on my installation, which still added about 600 lbs of equipment to the boat.

A few thoughts for anyone who read this far: If you get serious, I wouldnt attempt a short-arc unless I could buy at least two complete searchlight kits with all of their accessories. You will need spare parts because NOS military off-the-shelf parts are specialized and very expensive or usually unavailable. Just keep in mind that accidentally illuminating a persons face within 200 meters while in spot mode for only a moment, stands a very good chance of causing permanent eye damage to that person. So judicious forethought of setup, configuration, how and were you will use this, is paramount above all else. Also, these units WILL eventually explode. The VS3 case is billet aluminum and is supposed to contain the explosion, but the blast, shrapnel and shockwave will likely rip outward through the lens and destroy most of the internals. Anything near the front of this thing when it lets lose will probably get fragged in a major way. If the aluminum case or clamps fail during an explosion, then you have a bomb going off in your face, no matter where you might be standing. These lamps are under many more ATM's pressure than your usual short arc tube. No one that I am aware of currently makes a replacement that will fit or work, even with extensive mods. Just improperly handling of a VS3 lamp (and short-arcs in general) while removed from the searchlight can kill you if it explodes... and they do explode. I took extraordinary measures when I removed mine to clean and photograph it when I was seeking replacements to keep on hand. Also for your best information, find a forum where people collect armored military vehicles... not flashlight forums. Speculation and assumption is also very dangerous and can kill you and others near you. Get your facts and know them.

And of course - I will accept no responsibility for any deaths, injuries or destruction of property in the advent that you use any of this information, weather stated or implied. YellWink

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2100, yeah its a definite miserable affliction, but logistics are half of the fun. I keep thinking about how boring this rock would be if there were no night cycle. Its even more fun spreading the illumination contagion to others. This hobby has probably broken families and caused long drawn out divorces.

There was a time in my life where I was trying to find a way to supplement my income by doing searchlight advertising with a pair of these. The price was (and still is) reasonable for what you get, but I couldnt secure enough clients to make it worthwhile. In retrospect, I would have been quite happy to have simply broken even as way of feeding my sickness. LOL! Im so happy to have scratched that itch and now be quite content with flashlights and household lighting.

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Yeah, I know it is extremely tedious and in the end it might not even work. That is why I am not even looking at this way, anyway I am not so hardcore.

I actually have a HP R5500 UPS which is not in use, coz we purchased extra by accident. Along with 4 ERMs (external batteries, the internal ones in the UPS lets you rip full power for just 5 mins)....all in the company, not used at all.  Could easily power the darn made in china searchlight (really plug and play) and have mobility.  

http://h18000.www1.hp.com/products/servers/proliantstorage/power-protection/rackups/r5500xr/index.html

Actually you don't need carbon arcs. Nowadays the smaller xenons can operate in groups with DMX, like i mentioned in another thread which was deployed on our National Day. But probably very  tedious to setup and calibrate to operate as a "single unit" so as to point at a few particular spots.  But then you get disco modes.  Sealed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aySFA_KAw_k  (the lights are actually brighter, the scene is underexposed) 

I didn't manage to search youtube for a cloud pointing video for that, but a few weeks ago I did see it able to light up some pretty high level clouds few kilometres up when they are all programmed to point at 1 particular spot, the wispy kind not those low-mid level 1-2km stuff which is easy.

 

 

 

 

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Wow, that officially takes the cake for most impressive DIY project. Awesome. Smile

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2100

Thanks for the video. Singapore has a very beautiful skyline at night. Synchronized advertising with combined searchlight arrays have probably been around for 20+ years in the US. Although impressive in localized areas for putting on dazzling downtown shows, even when culminated they still dont have nearly the sheer range of the old ge sperry carbon arcs. Setup and maintenance is a chore but it was something Id have enjoyed doing at the time. I cleaned a mirror and lens on one while at a circus and it was no more difficult than cleaning a large window. I think the operator thought I was crazy for asking but I needed to know for myself. The carbon rods are self feeding and it does its job well. The largest part of maintenance was keeping the old generator engine going.

I remember many years ago being a computer operator working in the basement of a massive corporate data center. We tended an IBM 3090 MVS mainframe and thousands of square feet in peripherals and communications equipment. The UPS room consisted of 10,000 lead acid batteries larger than car batteries and provided the center with 50 minutes of standby, at which time a diesel engine & generator that stood 2 stories tall would kick in to supply a constant load. My crew had the honors of performing the hardware diagnostic tests, including transferring full power to the UPS every month. Id have to blame them for making me the gadget freak that I am. Today, Im on the applications side and enjoy clients with deep pockets that depreciate their hardware and replace it every four years.

 

Oxy, thanks! Construction of that project nearly became my life's work for about 2 years.

2100
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Haha....yeah I think those big searchlights just caught on big time last year over here. The local astronomers are complaining though!  Big Smile

 I mean i am aware of advertising searchlights being used here for quite long as I do photography and they do use them for product launches/opening of pubs indoors and outdoors etc...but just not very big ones as in maybe a couplle of 2-3kW rented from the event company that's about it. What they are limited by is not the $$ or size, but rather the electrical feed, ie 240V 20A.  This affects the sound as well, either that or you get a lot of 13-20A circuits and extensions.

The 1.2kW "small moving head" disco type ones are popular because they do pack a punch and are very versatile to deploy in all sorts of jobs, hey no sweat just plug 2 to a 240 13A socket here in a regular hotel ballroom, lay your control cables and you are ready to Rock n Roll. Just that it is like a fat 10 deg beamwidth, similar to what you get from a XM-L with a 40mm reflector, hence a 1kW XM-L.  LOL!  Definitely not to the scale that you see at Las Vegas.  I hope it is not insensitive for me to say, but the 9/11 "Tribute in Light" is impressive as well.   That 2011 National Parade was probably the biggest searchlight show that was ever put up here. They had to use a whole farm of gensets to power them, no joke.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU_qK-XvTwQ&feature=related  (yeah I know, the hotspot is huge, so lux is not there, but the ones i have seen last week is setup to add up to be much tighter and brighter hotspot)

 

OT and you probably have seen it on youtube, but for the benefit of others.... Carbon arc searchlights http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qDc1MIKnMo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zqLAin9HHs&feature=related

We will never get them here, because trailers are not exactly allowed here on the roads, i mean not for ordinary citizens.

 

Each 60" Carbon Arc is probably 2 billion CP max if i remember correctly, and of about 12kW.  Those Made-in-China big ones can go up to 10kW from what I see on alibaba (they claim 15kW though), but you can never be sure of the mirro reflector/ballast/bulb specs, read cheap ass MIC bulbs vs expensive GE/Philips/Ushio bulbs.  But anyway the biggest here on Francis searchlights it is Polaris/Stardrift/Moonraker http://www.francis.co.uk/_includes/docs/pdf/datasheets/__polaris-moonraker.pdf 

7kW, 1.5 deg, 10 lux at 10km. 28" aperture and 25" mirror.  So that means 1 billion CP.    Exact cumulation is very difficult of course, this is not an exact science setup like those 600 concave mirrors trying to melt 1kg of steel in 1 second hotter-than-the-sun stuff you see on Discovery channel.  LOL!   I think about 50pcs of those 5-10kW individual lights, maybe not as big and bad ass and high performing / collimated as the Francis biggest ones, but still easily packs a bigger punch than a single carbon arc. Of course it is an absolutely unfair comparison, 50 vs 1 and extremely large-scale commercial vs personal hobby, and nobody is preventing one from getting 2 or 3 carbon arcs.  LOL!  But I think it has never been done before now, though during WWII it'd have been a usual sight!  (ie WOW!)

 

The good thing about Carbon arcs vs the regular HIDs that we come across is - carbon arc lives!  The sound and jumping arc.

 

Interesting experience on your mainframe/DC and UPS infra.  Yeah I have been to the genset room and battery room before, but just as a guest as I am not directly in charge of operations. 10,000 SLAs is WOW, hehe.... I actually tried to count and gave up, just a rough estimated I guess they have about 150 to 200 x 2V cells on each rack and about 12 racks. They do that for both IT as well as telephone switches, as I work in the biggest telco in this part of the world. They don't pay too well though, hey what is new?  Big Smile

They use bigger gen sets in the Air Force/Army though....

 

BTW, you met BVH/ShortArc, and those guys in CPF before?  (or are you guys too far apart in USA)

 

 

2100
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Hey I found a cool site! : http://ancientskyscraper.com/85601.html

http://www.victorysearchlights.com/victory4.html

Light Output:
The average multi-beam has 2 or 4 Xenon lights, but each of the lamps are only 2KW to 4KW in size. Beam output is 208 to 332 million candle power for each lamp.
Our Carbon Arc light output is 12KW at 800 million candle power

 

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A few interesting facts about the original WWII GE Sperry carbon arcs:

Searchlights were produced for military use from 1932 to 1944 at a cost of $60,000 each!

Lamp Type: Carbon Arc (no light bulb!)
 
Candle Power: 800 Million
 
Effective Beam width: 5' plus
 
Effective Beam length: 5.6 miles
 
Effective Beam visibility: 28~35 miles
 
Generator Power: 15 KWV nominal - 16.7 KWV max. (15,000~16,700 watts D.C.)
 
Powered By: Inline 6 cyl. "Hercules"
Flathead Engine
 
Generator Engine Fuel: Gasoline (can also be run using Kerosene or Gasohol)
 
Combined Weight: 6,000 pounds (3 tons, or the weight of 3 Ford Mustangs combined!)

The beam is made by 2 carbon rods, one positive and one negative, arching within the focal point of a 60 inch parabolic mirror. As the rods "burn" they are automatically fed into the light. The rods last approximately 2 hours and are then replaced.

The flame that is visible during the lights operation, is not actually the source of the light, rather, it is a by-product, produced as a result of the electricity arcing between the 2 rods.

The flame is the rod slowly burning away as it is fed into the light. The arc draws 150 amps continuously at 78 volts and burns at over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The power is supplied by the D.C. generator which was designed specifically for this purpose.

More interesting facts from this reputable source here.

I would be very surprised if any single modern short arc searchlight could deliver anything close to 20% of the Sperry's performance as measured in actual candlepower in direct comparable tests (amount of light on target at maximum range). Im not talking about bloated Chinese advertising but decisisive military proven field studies. Just as the most powerful SST-90 flashlights probably deliver only about 1:10,000 the candlepower of a properly powered VS-3, the Sperry is likley at least 5,000 times more powerful than the VS3.

You're right, they are a lot of fun to watch in operation. The electrical sizzling of carbon being burned, the small traces of smoke rising and the blue arc that can be viewed from the sides. Its all quite exciting and appeals to my gadget oriented nature.

Luckily, Ive only been a member of CPF for the past few years. Had I followed the advice of others from that forum, my VS3 project likely wouldnt have been as safe, robust or reliable as it had turned out, nor would I have met the proper collectors of military hardware that are authoritarians on the subject to provide factual installation guidance with ZERO conjecture.

 

 

 

2100
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Problem is that i have seen the 5-10kW units, but not the Carbon Arc.  Laughing

Actually the "farm" managed to light up cirrus clouds so that is comfortably over 20000 ft, could be 30-40k ft. So seriously I don't know how bad that can be.   But operated singly for these Chinese stuff, there is probably no fight of course. The 60" aperture of the carbon arc does mean something in addition to the precise mirror, this really helps to "lift" the ~ 12 lumens per watt efficiency of the carbon arc.  

The Francis searchlights is actually reputable internationally, ISO certified and distributed worldwide, it is not the "CCC" that we'd come across.  So I tend to believe their figures to be quite belivable. As you said they are used commercially, a quick check shows that they are used on big commercial freighters, Defence and Law Enforcement like Prisons etc.     I know what are you talking about the military and all that stuff (I was in the Air Force before), but there is still a limit.

Pls don't get me wrong bro, I know how those Chinese stuff work and how reliable they are with my HIDs. But they still work based on the technology, and even if clobbered together "haphazardly", they still get the goods delivered.  60" aperture + precision mirror is great, but still < incandescent efficiency of ~12 lm/W means that the 12kW power is cut down a lot in terms of sheer lumens even if you manage to collect and focus that in a crazy manner.   Of course I know your passion and many other collectors the passion is really is in this and really look forward one day in which someone can do a direct A-B shoot out between those lights.     There is no mistake what a farm of those can do....the comparison is just "totally unfair" of course, may I stress again.  Smile

PS, how long is the arc length of the 60" carbon arc?  This info is very useful to me as well.  Again may I stress, i am just interested to know all these stuff for knowledge, am sure everyone is.   Smile    Eg, for hifi, i like my LP and single ended tubes, there are some NOS tubes which i really like, and i also like my pro-audio stuff.  I have 2 pro subs from this company :  do check out the youtube link, it is quite interesting as the claim is "worlds largest subwoofer" (pls don't that that literally, of course) and yes they do deal with the military doing other projects like infrasonic Sonic Boom generators. Of course the commercial offerings are not like that, but the tech (bass horn) is there and not new http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zbf3bzpgml8

FlashPilot wrote:

Id love to play around with this beauty. What a lovely pair she has. Tongue out

 

Way cool!  Will never happen here though...sigh. 

 

 

2100
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And lastly, a 20kW Xenon arc, 1.3 billion CP

http://www.brettpeabody.com/

Interesting, I know some short arcs have low lumens efficacy (ie the Maxabeam) but its lower than i thought for these high-end ones, it is 40 lumens per watt.

http://www.thehenryford.org/imax/about.aspx

the lamp
The lamphouse on top of the IMAX projector utilizes two 15,000-watt liquid-cooled, short-arc xenon lamps. The lamps weigh 10 pounds each, and are nearly two feet in length. Costing more than $6,000 each, the lamps have a life expectancy of only about 1,200 hours of operation and are replaced 4 times per year. Because of the extreme high-pressure xenon gas inside the quartz glass envelope of the lamp, projectionists must wear ballistic safety gear when changing out a lamp. If dropped, the xenon lamp would explode with the destructive force of a hand grenade.

The average luminance of one of these xenon lamps is approximately 1.6 billion candles per square yard--about equal to that of the Sun as viewed from the Earth's surface! The lamp has a light output of approximately 600,000 lumens. NASA uses this same type of lamp at the Kennedy Space Center to illuminate the Space Shuttle at night on the launching pad.

During normal operation, the clear quartz glass envelope of the lamp has a surface temperature of about 1,300 degrees. To prevent the lamp from overheating, it has coolant "jackets" that allow cool distilled water to be pumped around the electrodes at the flow rate of 8 gallons per minute and a pressure rate of 100 psi. In addition, an exhaust fan removes 1,200 cubic feet of air per minute from the lamphouse. The xenon lamps operate at 37.5 volts DC, and 400 amperes of current.

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Let's say you're in San Diego, California and you want to roast marshmallows in nearby San Rafael................

 

Small blue switch on the back for " Low Power Mode "  gives 18 Lumens of light for 46.7 years on a single charge.

 

Handy " Diffuser Attachment "  ( not included ) makes a perfect " Night Reading Light " for the entire State of Delaware.

 

Amazing light and the  "mouse over" picture and giant Laser effect of the beam are very impressive.

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