A tank that hides in front of your eyes is the star of the show at Defence and Security Equipment International, the arms and technology show on now at London's ExCel centre.
The invisibility cloak tank designed by BAE Systems uses patented “Adaptiv” technology to trick the opposition's infra-red cameras and goggles. The technology is based on hexagonal panels that can change temperature rapidly, while the outer skin displays background scenery that is picked up by on-board cameras. Alternatively, the hexagons can mimic another vehicle to fool the enemy, or display identification tags to avoid friendly fire.
Project manager, Peder Sjölund explains: “Earlier attempts at similar cloaking devices have hit problems because of cost, excessive power requirements or because they were insufficiently robust. Our panels can be made so strong that they provide useful armour protection and consume relatively low levels of electricity, especially when the vehicle is at rest in ’stealth recce’ mode and generator output is low.”
The machine is being tested in Sweden by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), which funds part of the project.
Endre Lunde, defence consultant for Jane's said "There is no practical application for this technology right now, but the military have been trying to conceal the thermal footprint of vehicles for years. I don't think there will be any buyers of this at DSEi, because it is complicated to get right and the thermal footprint is just one part of a vehicle's footprint. It could be useful for big heavy vehicles, and could be used to beat specific thermal footprint-seeking weapons, but they would be no use somewhere like Afghanistan against an IED (improvised explosive device)."
BAE Systems engineers are building the hexagon technology into other applications, which can be expected to be released over the next few years.
Sjölund adds: “We can resize the pixels to achieve stealth for different ranges. A warship or building, for instance, might not need close-up stealth, so could be fitted with larger panels.”
The MoD were approached for comment on whether the UK would consider buying the BAE stealth tank, but could not provide confirm before this article was published.