What is a Red Flashlight Used for in the Military?

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

what is a red flashlight used for

Red light flashlight have been used for hunting, by first responders and the military. Generally speaking, people from these sectors use red flashlights because human eyes can transition from darkness to light faster with red lights than with white ones.

Continue reading to learn all about the red LED light meaning, and the benefits of red flashlights in the military. This guide on what is a red flashlight used for also lists common uses of red light for civilians or non-military.

4 Reasons for Using Red Flashlights in the Military

Check out the four main reasons why the military use red flashlights:

1. Improving or preserving night vision


Every military branch has shifting schedules, with half working at night. A red flashlight or headlamp is used instead of white light for positions that require guarding or patrolling a place at nighttime.

Red flashlights are necessary to improve night vision whenever the need arises or inside caves, tunnels, and underground places.

The human eye has a refractory period (the time it takes for the eyes to adjust when bright lights go dim or vice versa). This period is usually between 20 and 30 minutes.

If you’re a soldier already using red lights for night vision, your eyes no longer need to go through this adjustment. The red light preserves your night vision.

Military personnel that patrol in groups won’t blind each other with light spots.

2. Send Signals (Emergency, Distress, Identification)


The red light can send a variety of signals between military members. Depending on the role, location, and branch of the military, the red light could mean:

  1. Signaling to a comrade that they’re not the enemy.
  2. Signaling to a fellow soldier their location
  3. Signaling to civilians or fellow soldiers not to shoot
  4. Signaling distress or SOS when no other alternative (such as flares) is available

In the Army and Navy, pilots use red lights all the time. Their aircraft are designed with red lamps that signal airports and other aircraft during emergencies. Sometimes, if the aircraft’s light systems fail as well, red LED flashlights are the best alternative.

3. Camouflage better, even at night by minimizing light profile


A tactical flashlight with red light works best when stealth is required.

In the military, they refer to this as minimizing a soldier’s light profile or signature.

On the field, the tendency is for soldiers to use a flashlight at nighttime. It’s impossible to navigate rough terrain, read a map, look out for fellow soldiers, or communicate with commanders without a light.

However, using white light would increase the chance of them being spotted by enemies. Red light is ideal because red light doesn’t travel as far as white light, which means you wouldn’t be easily spotted by the enemy or give away your location.

The human eye is not designed to catch or detect red light as easily, especially in dim environments. Using a red LED flashlight, either by hand or overhead, can save a soldier’s life.

4. Avoid animals while out in the wild

Some military members are assigned to the jungle, desert, or other environments that animals call home. Some of these animals are not as friendly. They may even be dangerous.

The bad news is that any dangerous animal that sees you hiding in the dark could get aggressive quickly. At night, this happens when they see a white light and feel threatened. Many campsites even warn about the potential dangers of nearby animals.

The good news is soldiers can use red LED flashlights instead and avoid agitating wildlife.

Other Benefits of Red Filtered Flashlights


Civilians also love using a military flashlight with red lens even if they’re not serving. It’s an amazing tool for the following:

  1. Hunting – The next hunting season won’t be as challenging, especially if you hunt at night. The red bulb offers the hunters nighttime vision, which doesn’t scare game as easily as white light.
  2. Stargazing – If you’re new to stargazing, use a red flashlight for prepping your space. Pitch-black darkness helps you see stars and constellations. Still, the red flashlight gives you enough light to move around or adjust your equipment without disrupting your surroundings.
  3. Camping – LED red flashlights shine in dark circumstances, so it’s helpful to bring them with you when camping. And because of the LED light’s lower-temperature color, insects wouldn’t be attracted to the light as much as a blue or white light would.
  4. Stopping traffic – Red flashlights are a must-have as part of your car’s emergency kit. You’ll never know when you’ll get into an accident on the road and might need this to signal for help.

Even if you need an ordinary flashlight for outdoor activities, choosing a red LED flashlight not only reduces light pollution, but also guarantees a longer-lasting flashlight.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the military use red flashlights?

Red flashlights improve night vision while keeping the profile of soldiers relatively unseen. Red lights are also used in sending signals (usually in an emergency setting).

Why do pilots use red flashlights?

Pilots use flashlights with red filter as chart lighting in the cockpit. When flying at night, pilots are guaranteed better night vision with red flashlights.

Red light also signifies distress or emergencies.

Is blue or red light better for night vision?

Red has been traditionally used for warning or emergencies, which is why it’s surprising to know that red is actually better for night vision than blue lights because of red light’s non-glaring features.

With blue light, you may have to strain your eyes or squint to be able to see more clearly.


The red flashlight is just one of the many tools members of the military use at night.

Some soldiers use headlamps (worn on top of the head) that work similarly to a traditional red beam flashlight but are used hands-free. Others prefer to use these flashlights by hand.

The purpose of military red light torch flashlights is similar between branches. As a civilian, you can even copy how military flashlights are used in the dark and incorporate the tool into your hunting, stargazing, camping, and other activities.

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