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Friday Night Lights: Raytheon AN/PAS-13E HWTS

For this Friday Night Lights, we have a rather uncommon thermal device. If you served in the U.S. Army you may have come across some of these. The Raytheon AN/PAS-13E HWTS (Heavy Weapon Thermal Sight) is a thermal scope for some heavy-hitting weapons. The Friday Night Lights series is brought to you by ATN Corp, manufacturers of night vision and thermal optics like the THOR LT. As with all of our sponsored series, Friday Night Lights will continue to bring you unbiased news and reviews from a variety of companies.

Thermal Weapon Sights @TFB:

Raytheon PAS-13E HWTS

For full disclosure, I do not know much about this thermal device. My friend owns it and reached out to me to see if I would be interested in reviewing it. Obscure thermal weapon sight? But of course!

The PAS-13E is rather simple at first glance. There are not that many controls.

  • G (gain control and menu access)
  • C (calibration)
  • Z (zoom)
  • AGC + (Auto Gain Control and increase brightness, gain or levels)
  • – (decrease brightness, gain or levels)
  • W/B (white hot or black hot)

The PAS-13E is powered by 4xAA batteries. You are supposed to use lithium AA batteries but alkalines will work. According to Wikipedia, the HWTS will run for 6.5 hours.

The power switch is on the right-hand side. Turn it clockwise to turn it on. If you continue rotating the power switch it will go into Emergency mode.

The HWTS has an eyecup however it is not just for your comfort or to help block out glare when you use it during the day. The eyecup acts as an electronic eye shutter. Night vision devices like the PVS-14 have a rubber eye shield. It is a smaller version of the PAS-13E but it has a rubber flap that is split down the middle. As you push your face into it, the rubber flaps are pressed out of the way and you can see through your PVS-14. The PAS-13E has a similar design however instead of a physical rubber flap, it is electronic. To turn on the rear display you have to push the eyecup forward. When you pull your face away from the eyecup, the eyepiece display turns off. According to my friend, the Emergency mode is supposed to keep the rear display on all the time but it does not seem to work on this unit.

I was able to hack the PAS-13E with a small rare earth magnet. (the silver rectangular brick). The eyecup completes a circuit to activate the rear display.

From the scant information I could find online, Raytheon produced their line of thermal weapon sights in 1998. However, this PAS-13E HWTS appears to be of the newer versions made in 2006. More than likely used for the GWOT. There are three models of thermal weapon sights: LWTS, MWTS, and HWTS. Light, medium and heavy. This one is the HWTS. It is a standalone thermal scope built for some larger firearms. The HWTS has 5 different reticles for specific firearms.

  1. M16
  2. M2
  3. M24
  4. MK19
  5. M107

When you select the reticle for the weapon you want to use, you can press the Z button and the PAS-13E will zoom in from 5x to 10x and the reticle changes.

Using The PAS-13E

The MWTS is made for a different set of firearms. One of which is the M3 aka Carl Gustav. It has a special feature. You can connect the L3 AN/PSQ-23 STORM (Small Tactical Optical Rifle Mounted) laser range finder to the PAS-13E MWTS and when you rangefind your target, the reticle will adjust for the proper firing solution.

Photo by US Army

Photo by US Army. PAS-13E on the left, L3 STORM on the right.

Photo by US Army

That building is 530 yards away.

Notice anything different with this thermal image? It is green. I am not sure why Raytheon went with a green palette for their thermal image. It looks a lot like green phosphor night vision.

I am surprised by the detail from this building.

Below is a perfect example between night vision and thermal. Below I am using my Bushnell spotting scope with PVS-30 for night vision.

Look at the photo below, can you see the animal?

With my Luna Optics ELIR illuminator, you can sort of see a dark shadow.

Below I zoomed in with my iPhone so you can see the animal a little bit better.

Now compare that to the PAS-13E thermal image. It stands out so clearly. This is just under 500 yards away.

The photos above are not good samples of the PAS-13E. Below are more representative of the resolution out of the HWTS. Mind you these are simply my iPhone held up to the eyepiece.


While I was out in Bridle Iron South we had access to a Zastava M93 Black Arrow. Since the HWTS is designed for an M107 and MK19, it should handle a bolt action .50 BMG. So we put it on.

PAS-13E HWTS mourned on M93 Black Arrow

Since Austin R. has the most experience shooting .50 BMG, we let him shoot the M93 with the PAS-13E. We were all excited to see the M93 and the thermal sight seemed like a perfect fit but we were wrong. The problem is partially due to the design of the PAS-13E eyecup electronic shutter. As I mentioned earlier, you have to push your eye into the eyecup to activate the eyepiece which places the PAS-13E very close to your face.

When Austin R. fired the M93, the scope came back violently and he got some serious scope bite. It cut his eyebrow and he got a concussion.

In hindsight, it was not wise to use it on the M93. Austin recovered and later told me that optic would be perfectly fine on a Barrett. Also if he mounted the Barrett to Mike Pappas’ pintle mount, it would not move at all and you could shoot it with the HWTS all day long.

PAS-13E HWTS Wrap Up

The PAS-13E HWTS looks rather big but surprisingly, it is rather lightweight. Wikipedia claims Raytheon made their thermal weapon sight line lighter and according to them the HWTS weighs 3.9 lbs. I weighed this one and even with the heavier alkaline AA batteries it only weighed 2 lbs 10.5oz.

After Austin got hurt from the HWTS, I removed it and mounted it to my AR, which you see above. Zeroing it was a bit difficult since the increments do not make sense. There is a number associated with the reticle position. However, it skips numbers as you continue to make adjustments. 1, 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20 . . . Those are the numbers that show up at the bottom of the screen for the up adjustment of elevation with every press of the + button. If I go back to 0 and go down, the numbers are a completely different sequence. It does not make any sense to me and the manual does not explain what those numbers represent.

I have seen a handful of Raytheon thermal weapon sights posted on old eBay listings and other form marketplaces for around $5k-$6k. I am sure Raytheon charged the U.S. Army a whole lot more. Even though the PAS-13E HWTS is over a decade old, it is a decent thermal scope. I am not sure how practical the reticles are but the image quality is decent even though it is green.

A huge thanks to my friend for letting me borrow this obscure military-grade thermal weapon sight.

Source: https://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2021/09/24/raytheon-pas-13e-hwts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rss

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