Contractor Rolls Out Invisible Tank

By Eric Beidel
A new camouflage coating can make tanks vanish from the view of infrared cameras.

BAE Systems’ Adaptiv product consists of a series of hexagonal tiles, or pixels, that are installed on the exterior of a vehicle. These pieces remove heat from the surface of the vehicle, dropping its temperature as much as 70 degrees and making it vanish from heat-seeking sensors. Officials compared the function of the tiles to that of a refrigerator or cooler.

Scientists also have proven that they can take a heat signature from another object and transfer it to a vehicle that needs to be protected. In a demonstration at a recent international arms show, a tank appeared to be a civilian car when seen through an infrared camera.

It takes about 1,500 pixels to cover a vehicle. The company is working on making flexible tiles for helicopters and ships. Officials said they can also add armor to the tiles. While project manager Peder Sjolund wouldn’t say exactly how much weight the cloak, with or without armor, would add to the vehicle, he said it wouldn’t be enough to affect performance.

The research into the technology began in the 1990s when a Swedish study found an alarming number of sensors in use during conflicts. Today’s enemy likely has access to infrared cameras, BAE officials said.

“It is impossible in the future to be undetected,” Sjolund said. “So it’s better to be unclassified.”

If the vehicle is up against a building, it can become a wall. In the desert, it looks like a pile of stones. If adversaries are looking down from above, the tank “will melt into the ground,” Sjolund said.

Topics: Science and Engineering Technology, Land Forces

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