In many a sci-fi, the villains (and sometimes the good guys) have glowing lenses attached to their gas masks to help both identify them and provide a useful target for the protagonists. The obvious reason any (kinda) moderately sane military would do this was stated before hand, identification. However, I feel that it is far too obvious of a identifier since the enemy would also know where you are.

Intimidation? Sure, but looks aren't stopping a bullet from spewing your brains out once people adjust to the look, especially if they're professional soldiers.

One other possibility is that they are infrared lights for inbuilt cameras to detect. The issue is that infrared is normally invisible and doesn't require such large lens in the first place. Just a single infrared LED would do.

So with all this in mind, why would militaries have glowing lenses for their troops?


  • Need to be visible to regular people

Similar to this:

A soldier searibg a gas mask with glowing eyes

  • $\begingroup$ Do the lenses need to be actual lenses? You could have a helmet that obscures the face and fix two flashlights to the helmet near where the eyes would be. Helmet-mounted tactical flashlights are already used in modern combat, and depending on how they are fixed, they could give the impression of "eyes" when turned on. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Oct 22, 2022 at 21:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Video games and Hollywood do it for reasons that have everything to do with the game interface or telling a story and nothing at all to do with Real Life military applications. You appear to be trying to crowbar a story element into a viable military element. Is that correct? If so, what are your goals and expectations? Without them your question violates the help center's "all answers have equal value" prohibition and the help center's recommendation against brainstorming. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Oct 22, 2022 at 22:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Because it looks boss, of course. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Oct 22, 2022 at 23:15

4 Answers 4


Because stealth doesn't work

In this sci fi world, advanced scanning technology makes stealth infeasible for the average trooper. Perhaps very advanced special troopers can do it, but not your average grunt. Heat scanning and computer analysis means you can't hide. It makes more sense to openly advertise your presence to avoid friendly fire incidents and enable coordination, so most soldiers have colour coded eyes.


High visibility battle-dress predominated across most militaries for most of history up to the 20th century. Duplicate the conditions: the last few times the military fought a major conflict, the killing power against that enemy of a small group of infantry in enfilade was small; and the enemy was not able to effectively engage point targets at distances much greater than the distance at which any infantryman, however clothed, was easily spotted by that enemy.

For example: maybe their last few generations of war were against Starship Troopers bugs, or they have Dune shields that block all fast projectiles.


They already had a bunch for rescue / salvage work.

helmet with light


Really it makes sense to have your hands free if you are doing stuff in the dark. Lights on goggles are just as good as lights stuck on the side of your head! And if what you are doing is trying to find people you are unlikely to be shot because the people see you. They will yell to bring you over when they see you.

And these are fine strong helmets and the lit goggles all have fresh batteries in them. They have hardly been used! What, we should buy a bunch of new stuff because people don't like the lit goggles? You don't like them, then turn them off. Oh, you left them turned on, did you? It is because you like them, isn't it. You can admit it. They are pretty sweet. The rescue folks thought so too.


It's a visor helmet

The aliens use a light-weight interferometric sensor technique to enhance the contrast of their eye sight. For example they can see where you look at, from 500 meters away. The only disadvantage of this enhancement is that the device requires a second light source, which is quite bright and visible. They take that drawback for granted, the advantage of having 140+ eyesight day and night is much more valuable than the disadvantage of visibility. They'll see you first, anyway..


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