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BAE's ADAPTIV technology renders vehicles invisible to infrared

By

September 6, 2011

A CV90 Swedish infantry fighting vehicle fitted with the ADAPTIV panels (Image: BAE System...

A CV90 Swedish infantry fighting vehicle fitted with the ADAPTIV panels (Image: BAE Systems)

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Infrared imaging is used for a range of military applications - such as target acquisition, night vision, homing and tracking - which means that any vehicle with some kind of infrared "invisibility cloak" would hold significant advantages on the battlefield. BAE Systems has tested just such a technology that not only allows vehicles to blend into their surroundings, but can also let it mimic other vehicles or natural objects.

Dubbed "ADAPTIV," the patented infrared cloaking technology developed at BAE consists of sheets of hexagonal panels that act as pixels when attached to the exterior of the vehicle. These pixels can individually change temperature very rapidly and combine to display an infrared image of the background scenery captured from cameras onboard the vehicle, allowing even a moving tank to match its surroundings. BAE has also put together a library of images to display the heat signature of other vehicles, such as cars, trucks, and natural objects, such as large rocks.

Now you see it, now you don't

The hand-sized hexagonal panels are made of lightweight metal so they can sustain physical impact and provide defense against enemy ordinance. They are heated and cooled using commercially available semi-conducting technology and are electrically powered by the vehicle's systems. They are also designed so that damaged panels can be easily removed and replaced.

The individual ADAPTIV panels can be easily replaced when damaged

BAE says it has focused mainly on the infrared spectrum because this is the most important to the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), which funds part of the work. However, it has also combined the pixels with other technologies, which provide camouflage in other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum to provide all-round stealth. It plans to further develop this technology over the next few years.

"Earlier attempts at similar cloaking devices have hit problems because of cost, excessive power requirements or because they were insufficiently robust," says project manager, Peder Sjölund. "Our panels can be made so strong that they provide useful armor protection and consume relatively low levels of electricity, especially when the vehicle is at rest in 'stealth recce' mode and generator output is low."

As well as ground vehicles, such as tanks, ADAPTIV can also be used on ships, aircraft and fixed installations. The pixels can also be resized to achieve stealth at different ranges. A warship or building, for example, might not need close-up stealth, so could be fitted with larger panels to display a lower resolution image.

ADAPTIV panels could be fitted to a range of ground vehicles, ships, and aircraft

BAE conducted trials in mid-July in which one side of a CV90 Swedish infantry fighting vehicle was covered in the panels and was made effectively invisible or appear to be a 4x4 vehicle when viewed in the infrared spectrum from distances of 300 to 400 m (984 to1,312 ft). BAE will display the CV90 with ADAPTIV technology at the UK Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition later this month.

A video showcasing the ADAPTIV technology can be viewed on the BAE Systems Website.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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10 Comments

Reminds me of the armor used in the TV show Viper...

Mack McDowell
6th September, 2011 @ 10:53 pm PDT

Wow

Christopher McBean
7th September, 2011 @ 07:52 am PDT

Awesome stuff

Hope this renders all those American smart weapons useless muwhaha

Lore31
7th September, 2011 @ 10:18 am PDT

This is a cool cloaking device, but it doesn't actually make anything invisible any more than my TV makes the wall behind it invisible. Fortunately, Infra-red is often monocular so it can still be a fairly effective technology.

As for defeating US "Smart Weapons", that's unlikely. Laser guided weapons will still be fine, and any radio guided weapons will probably not see much reduced effect either. Also, the US isn't exactly engaging in warfare with countries bringing the latest and greatest to the field, so it's not like we would throw our hands up and start over - and given how much of our weapons stockpile the US is actively destroying, I think it's just as well not to have a reason to switch technology again.

Charles Bosse
7th September, 2011 @ 11:15 am PDT

Cool. But can one of the panels get hot enough to make coffee.

Slowburn
7th September, 2011 @ 12:12 pm PDT

@ Don - lol, I remember that show.

@ Lore31 - Most bombs are either laser or GPS guided...in which this would obviously have no impact.

This is a cool technology...but I don't think we can call it new.....since it sounds identical to Israel's "Black Fox".

Derek Howe
7th September, 2011 @ 04:27 pm PDT

So the signature trail left by the vehicle would have to be hidden or altered to match the appropriate returned image. So how would they be able to stop the edies of air disturbing dust particles or water that are created by the movement of the vehicle or ship, which is ultimately the giveaway that something is there.

You can't hide movement. It is not possible, unless you are in a vacume. So unless this is technology for hiding while in space it's useless. Ergo that is what they are going to really use it for. To hide satellites.

This is so for public media hype to distract the public from some other project, or hide budget being used for the real application of this technology.

Foxy1968
7th September, 2011 @ 07:39 pm PDT

Yeah people DO dumb shit with EVERYTHING....

But For some reason, I'd really like one..... Aiming telescopes or long range pointers is some legit reasons that come to mind.

Mr Stiffy
8th September, 2011 @ 12:45 am PDT

Re; Foxy1968 - September 7, 2011 @ 07:39 pm PDT

Given the low resolution of nontrflective thermal imaging this will for a while make it possible to "hide in plane sight" it will also give heat-seeking guidance systems fits for far longer, maybe even render them obsolete.

Slowburn
8th September, 2011 @ 12:35 pm PDT

Make the ship a giant LED TV screen, using the same panels as little TV's, combining them together with software. By projecting the empty sea and sky in back of the ship onto the ship's other side, it will appear the ship is not their at all. In the future ,a simple wrap will make any surface a screen, or a giant photo,etc.Make whole building's disappear into the surroundings or make one building appear as another or well you get the idea, confusion.

Thomas Lewis
19th June, 2013 @ 09:10 am PDT
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