Abstract Infrared small target in image obtained by infrared imaging sensor is usually different from the surrounding regions, which is the important region in infrared image for different applications. However, the infrared small target is dim and embedded in clutter background, which makes the small target difficult to be detected or recognized. So, it is important to enhance infrared small target. Morphological center operator could smooth important image features, which may be well used for infrared small target enhancement. To well enhance infrared small target, a morphological center operator based method is proposed. The morphological center operator is specified to suppress most of the background of the infrared image through the strategy of feature extraction. Then, the infrared small target is well enhanced. Experimental results show that, the proposed method performs well for enhancing infrared small target and the performance is better than some other methods. So, the proposed method could further improve the performance of infrared imaging sensor.