BAE Systems | Tanks test infrared invisibility cloak

December 30, 2011

ITN | The company behind a new so-called “invisibility cloak” says it will help protect tanks from heat-seeking missiles.

BAE Systems | Unlike traditional camouflage systems which rely on paint or nets to hide vehicles, ADAPTIV can instantly blend a vehicle into its background. The system can also be used on ships and fixed installations, allowing them to stay undetected by enemy surveillance units. With the ADAPTIV system installed, a unit has:

  • The ability to blend into natural surroundings
  • The ability to mimic natural objects and other vehicles
  • A significantly reduced detection range
  • IFF capability

Blend into the background: ADAPTIV works by using lightweight hexagonal pixels which are electrically powered by the vehicle’s systems. The pixels are individually heated and cooled using commercially available semi-conducting technology. The hand-sized pixels are made of metal, so that they can sustain physical impact and provide defence against enemy ordnance. The entire system has been designed with ease of use in mind, and the pixels are able to be easily and rapidly removed and replaced if damaged. Once mounted on a vehicle’s hull or ballistic armour plates, ADAPTIV renders a vehicle invisible to infra-red and other surveillance technology. Whether it’s day or night, whether they’re on the move or stationary, ADAPTIV gives vehicles increased stealth and greater survivability.

On-board cameras pick up the background scenery and display that infra-red image on the vehicle, allowing even a moving tank to match its surroundings. Alternatively, it can mimic another vehicle or display identification tags, reducing the risk of fratricide.

About different types of cloaking

Wikipedia | Scientific experimentation: An operational, non-fictional cloaking device might be an extension of the basic technologies used by stealth aircraft, such as radar-absorbing dark paint, optical camouflage, cooling the outer surface to minimize electromagnetic emissions (usually infrared), or other techniques to minimize other EM emissions, and to minimize particle emissions from the object. The use of certain devices to jam and confuse remote sensing devices would greatly aid in this process, but are more properly referred to as “active camouflage.” Alternatively, metamaterials provide the theoretical possibility of making electromagnetic radiation appear to pass freely through the “cloaked” object.

  • Metamaterial cloaking: Optical metamaterials have been featured in several recent proposals for invisibility schemes. “Metamaterials” are materials that owe their refractive properties to the way they are structured, rather than the substances that compose them. Using transformation optics it is possible to design the optical parameters of a “cloak” so that it guides light around some region, rendering it invisible over a certain band of wavelengths. These spatially varying optical parameters do not correspond to any natural material, but may be implemented using metamaterials. There are several theories of cloaking, giving rise to different types of invisibility.
  • Active camouflage (or adaptive camouflage): This is a group of camouflage technologies which would allow an object (usually military in nature) to blend into its surroundings by use of panels or coatings capable of changing color or luminosity. Active camouflage can be seen as having the potential to become the perfection of the art of camouflaging things from visual detection. Optical camouflage is a kind of active camouflage in which one wears a fabric which has an image of the scene directly behind the wearer projected onto it, so that the wearer appears invisible. The drawback to this system is that, when the cloaked wearer moves, a visible distortion is often generated as the “fabric” catches up with the object’s motion. The concept exists for now only in proof-of-concept prototypes, although many experts consider it technically feasible. It has been reported that the British Army has tested an invisible tank.
  • Plasma stealth: Plasma at certain density ranges absorbs certain bandwidths of broadband waves, potentially rendering an object invisible. However, generating plasma in air is too expensive and a feasible alternative is generating plasma between thin membranes instead. The Defense Technical Information Center is also following up research on plasma reducing RCS technologies. IEEE had also looked into the possibility of this device. A plasma cloaking device was patented in 1991.

Source: ITN

related news on invisibility cloaking
BBC | “Tanks test infrared invisibility cloak”