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Tanks Test Infrared Camouflage Cloak 309

Posted by Soulskill
from the progress-in-our-war-against-the-deaf dept.
LibRT writes with this excerpt from the BBC: "Tanks could soon get night-time invisibility thanks to a cloaking device that masks their infrared signature. Developed by BAE Systems, the Adaptiv technology allows vehicles to mimic the temperature of their surroundings. It can also make a tank look like other objects, such as a cow or car, when seen through heat-sensitive 'scopes. The hi-tech camouflage uses hexagonal panels, or pixels, made of a material that can change temperature very quickly. About 1,000 pixel panels, each of which is 14cm across, are needed to cover a small tank. The panels are driven by on-board thermal cameras that constantly image the ambient temperature of the tank's surroundings. This is projected on to the panels to make it harder to spot. The cameras can also work when the tank is moving."
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Tanks Test Infrared Camouflage Cloak

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  • by dakameleon (1126377) on Monday September 05, 2011 @11:13PM (#37312396)

    "Uh sir, I can see through my night vision a line of cows coming towards us at 40mph..."

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday September 05, 2011 @11:23PM (#37312458)

      Tanks produce a LOT of heat.

      That excess heat has to go somewhere. Otherwise you'll see very HOT cows moving towards you at 40 mph.

      Yet checking TFA produces:

      Its developers would not discuss exactly how the panels are heated and cooled.

      I'm thinking that this will later be shown to be extremely limited by the amount of freon carried by the tank.

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        Tanks produce a LOT of heat.

        That excess heat has to go somewhere. Otherwise you'll see very HOT cows moving towards you at 40 mph.

        Hotty cow!

        Can't they at least make a tank masquerading many cows in the same time and mimic a 40 mph stampede?
        Not that it would help, a RPG is bound to make a good defense against both scenarios (with the added benefit of a quite fresh and tender [wikipedia.org] stake if it turns out to be an actual stampede).

      • They are hot- while running the engine. If you're dug in for a defensive position you can turn off the engine. Or you can have this on the front of your tank while the back that they can't see gets nice and hot. As for cooling, modern tanks have air conditioning- provided you have somewhere to dump the heat. I suppose you could put the heat into a container of molten salts, while you sneak up on the enemy with your hybrid tank in electric mode.
        • If you're dug in for a defensive position you can turn off the engine.

          But if you turn off the engine, you don't have a heat signature anyway. No need for infrared camouflage. Regular camouflage netting will do.

          Or you can have this on the front of your tank while the back that they can't see gets nice and hot.

          I don't think a tank's exhaust works like that. I think it kind of spews all over the place.

          As for cooling, modern tanks have air conditioning- provided you have somewhere to dump the heat.

          Which gets ba

          • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:03AM (#37312630)

            But if you turn off the engine, you don't have a heat signature anyway. No need for infrared camouflage. Regular camouflage netting will do.

            You'll still have a lot of residual heat energy, as it can take a long time for energy acquired from sunlight to be dissipated at night. And metal would generally have a different heat signature at night than surrounds unless they were also metal - but the shape would be easy to make out even then.

            I don't think a tank's exhaust works like that. I think it kind of spews all over the place.

            Look at your car. Does it "spew exhaust all over the place"? No, it is directed...

            Which gets back to the original point. What to do with the heat?

            If the panels are actively cooled as well as heated, you could have the cooler panels masking the outgassing source to let it dissipate in the air before leaving the blanket.

            But basically the main point is that you can no longer see a giant tank shaped thing clearly using night vision, as most a few odd sources of heat that could be small mammals...

            • You'll still have a lot of residual heat energy, as it can take a long time for energy acquired from sunlight to be dissipated at night.

              That part of the discussion is about after the tank has cooled. When it is "dug in". And from TFA, this works best in the 300-400m range. Otherwise the enemy would have to miss the tanks driving up less than half a klick away.

              Look at your car. Does it "spew exhaust all over the place"? No, it is directed...

              The exhaust goes out the exhaust pipe. And then it rises and spreads

              • by Moof123 (1292134)

                Air has near zero emissivity, so while the exhaust pipe will light up on an IR scope like a christmas tree, the exhuast itself does not. For example the F117 stealth fighter uses exhuast redirection to dramatically reduce its thermal profile even though it is producing tons of heat. The trick is to keep an visible part of the vehicle from showing heat. I imagine that from some angle (above) that the actual exhuast port on this thing will be quite hot, and therefor not hidden, but only from that POV.

            • by fnj (64210)

              Dude, within a couple of meters or so most of the impulse of the exhaust leaving the tailpipe is spent, and it starts to diffuse generally into the surrounding atmosphere. If the vehicle is moving, there is even more turbulent mixing. In short, yes, in the big picture it does "spew exhaust all over the place." After a short jet of really hot exhaust, you have a much larger, more diffuse region where the air is generally heated. It would be pretty easy to conclude that this heat is not natural.

              Just look

          • by dbIII (701233)
            In the early Iraq war dug in and camoflaged tanks were detected easily after sunset due to their sun heated barrels.
      • Precisely. Heat doesn't just disappear, and the electricity needed to drive these panels would create even more heat than a tank without them. So... the ONLY way these could actually work, without breaking the laws of physics as we know them, would be for the tank to store waste heat somewhere that was very well insulated. And that has to be limited in capacity.

        Yes, there are such things as electric and solid-state cooling units, but those only work by creating even more heat somewhere else... much like
      • by ebonum (830686)

        No, that isn't a heat plume from a Honeywell AGT1500C turbine raising 30 feet into the air. The cow is farting.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        And all that just to evade attention of a pedestrian with an anti-tank weapon.
        When was the last time that tanks were relevant for any war in the last 50 years?
        To quote WP:
        "In the 21st century, with the increasing role of asymetrical warfare and the end of the cold war, that also contributed to the increase of cost-effective russian anti-tank weapons worldwide, the importance of tanks has waned."
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tank [wikipedia.org]

    • Moo?
  • Or is this more for some imagined future conflict with tanks rolling around China or Russia?

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday September 05, 2011 @11:20PM (#37312436) Homepage

      Or is this more for some imagined future conflict with tanks rolling around China or Russia?

      Remember, the classic military mistake is to plan on fighting the previous war. Of course, the current US military seems hell bent on not making that particular error by trying to fight every possible combination of conflict simultaneously. The weaknesses of that policy are left as an exercise to the reader.

    • My understanding is that some IEDs have IR triggers(some bodging based on COTS PIR units, I assume). The low-tech countermeasure is to dangle a running toaster from a pole, a safe distance in front of your vehicle. The low tech counter-countermeasure is to move the IR trigger approximately one 'safe distance' from the explosive...

      In theory, I don't see why this stuff wouldn't work against those(though not against the other flavors); but I strongly suspect that the sales pitch involves an enemy equipped w
      • by hedwards (940851)

        IEDs, can have all sorts of triggers depending upon the locale and the resources available. IR is definitely one, but unfortunately, the main limiting factor is ones imagination. Some switches are more practical than others are.

      • by Pikoro (844299) <init AT init DOT sh> on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:07AM (#37312940) Homepage Journal

        I actually used to be an electronics countermeasure tech in the Marine Corps. Our main job? Stop heat and radar seeking missiles from hitting our birds. Something like dangling a toaster from a pole isn't going to confuse a missile. They (the missiles) are frequently programmed in the field (via presets of course) for various kinds of targets, sometimes down to the engine IR signature frequency (think setting a missile to "AH-1" or "CH-53). Most common was to use a pair of different frequency coding disks to generate false engine signatures which would give a missile a 1:13 chance of hitting the "real" engine. Effectively, we gave the missile 12 engine signatures along with the real engine. That, combined with chaff, flares, and radar jammers, gave your average helicopter pilot a pretty good margin of safety against missiles. The countermeasures are handled automatically with manual overrides provided so things like flares can be manually launched. Basically, in every fighter movie where you hear that "beep beep beep BEEEEEEEP!" upon missile lock? That is what I worked on. Fun stuff :) Remember, you can't really dodge a missile in a helicopter...

  • make a tank look like other objects, such as a cow

    ("Many bothans died to bring us these plans." Yes, it's an attempt at humour.)

  • You know, the problem with all this cloaking stuff is... we're not fighting wars where it matters. Most of the people we're chasing around aren't in tanks, don't care much about tanks, and don't worry about it's infrared signature because their neighbors are like "holy f*ck! Do you hear the GIANT DIESEL-POWERED TANK coming?"

    Tanks are a WWII holdover. We don't use them much anymore. We use fast armored personnel carriers that can survive an IED strike. We need tech that can spot snipers and control large sec

    • We need tech that can spot snipers and control large sections of urban landscape where hostiles and non-combatants co-mingle and sometimes even co-habitate as well. The only way to spot them right now is either to wait for the bang (and we sure love those bangs), or drive around in a semi-truck with some backscatter x-ray equipment stuffed in the back that's busy giving the operators and innocent passerbys on the street cancer looking for hidden weapons.

      This isn't quite true any more. There are a number of system now in use that use sound [defense-update.com] and muzzle flash characteristics [defenseindustrydaily.com] to pinpoint and identify the direction and gun the shot came from.

      • by centuren (106470)

        This isn't quite true any more. There are a number of system now in use that use sound [defense-update.com] and muzzle flash characteristics [defenseindustrydaily.com] to pinpoint and identify the direction and gun the shot came from.

        I believe those systems fall into the "wait for the bang" category mentioned, which, of course, is less than an ideal combat situation.

    • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

      Just because we don't use tanks right this second doesn't mean we don't use tanks. If you want to throw away everything we've learned in the last 100 years of industrialized warfare because the current enemy isn't in tanks, then you are very short-sighted.

      You are right: we need tech that does all the things you listed. But you are wrong: we need tech for all the things you don't think are important any more.

      Just 8-ish years ago, some large conventional armor battles were fought in the deserts of Iraq (coinc

    • by sco08y (615665)

      You know, the problem with all this cloaking stuff is... we're not fighting wars where it matters. Most of the people we're chasing around aren't in tanks, don't care much about tanks, and don't worry about it's infrared signature because their neighbors are like "holy f*ck! Do you hear the GIANT DIESEL-POWERED TANK coming?"

      Nitpicking some details: we don't have any main battle tanks with diesel engines any more. (And, strictly, the Army doesn't use diesel; it's all JP-8, which is aircraft fuel that happens to work in a diesel engine.) That said, yes, the Bradley has a diesel engine and is loud as fuck, but it's one of those vehicles that's been around a lot longer than you'd expect because it's also incredibly versatile.

      Tanks are a WWII holdover. We don't use them much anymore. We use fast armored personnel carriers that can survive an IED strike.

      We *want* such an APC, but what we have are MRAPs, which are just big ass armored trucks and anything but f

  • TFA uses the phrase "thermo-electric devices". I'm assuming that means some flavor of Peltier(can't be purely resistive; because some of the pixels need to be cooled and some heated). If that is the case, I would be very interested(and probably not cleared) to know how they handle the heat output of the camouflage, along with the engine and other core systems.

    Peltiers are really fun devices; because they are all solid state, respond quickly, and can be driven with a simple DC current; but they aren't wha
    • by Dr Max (1696200)
      Because your not trying cool the tank any more than the surrounding air, it could be possible to generate power from the difference in tempreture on the tank and outside air. Although trying to do this fast or make it active would have to use power.
  • ... is to stay home. Simple as that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by DogDude (805747)
      You hate freedom!
    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      Of course the only reason that is true is due to some level of combat keeping bad guys out. Not supporting the way out of bounds wars we're in now, but there are bad people out there and whether they "hate our freedom" or just want our big screen TVs, factories and other resources, they are only kept at bay by men in tanks or other defenses of the time. This has been true all through history.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Right, that's the thing, you can't take land with air power. If you want to take the land, you're going to need boots on the ground and preferably something more substantial to support the ground troops. Sure you might get a few surrendering to drones, but you're not going to take and keep ground like that.

  • by Commontwist (2452418) on Monday September 05, 2011 @11:40PM (#37312534)

    Forget cows. If the enemy already knows the tanks are there and have nothing to hit them with make the tank sides look like bull's eyes just to tick the enemy off.

    Better yet, have a line of tanks, assign a letter to each, and have 'USA RULEZ' visible only in infrared.

  • Soldier: Sir, I am seeing tank tread marks and a elevated heat in-between them on the infrared scope, but I don't see the tank.

    Commander: Look to where the treads are forming and shoot your TOW missile there.
  • Target that belch and fire!
  • About 1,000 pixel panels...

    Better wait for the 2 kilopixel model.

  • I can just see how an enemy will hack the pixel array to marquee "ALL YOUR BASE BELONG TO US!" or some animated target and the poor tankies won't know it because they can't see their own thermo picture!

  • To quote HTTYD: "Blind spot, yes! Deaf spot, not so much!"

    All the fancy anti-IR plating ain't gonna do much when the sound of yer diesel engine is more than enough to let the enemy know you're coming.

    • that's why they added the megaphones that go "MOO MOO MOO MOO!"

      now the enemy will be lulled into complacency at the screeching hot metallic cows bearing down on them at 40mph

  • Presumably something like a tank generates a lot heat if it has its engine running. Where does that go without giving off tell tale signs?

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