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Tanks Test Infrared Camouflage Cloak

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the progress-in-our-war-against-the-deaf dept.

The Military 309

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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309 comments

And presumably this can be defeated by... (1)

__Paul__ (1570) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312368)

...shining a light on them?

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312384)

Go ahead and do that as the enemy - then please post results.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312450)

Go ahead and do that as the enemy - then please post results.

If it works, you think I'm going to tell you? For free? You must be new to this whole warfare thing. One of the rules is "Don't give anything away for free."

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (1)

P01d4 (867778) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312622)

Unless its bullets.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (4, Funny)

gadzook33 (740455) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312638)

He means you're going to die.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312676)

You must be new to this whole warfare thing. One of the rules is "Don't give anything away for free."

Such as your position by shining a light on the enemy.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312742)

Boom! Headshot!

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (2)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312770)

Yeah, you just shot my precious light bulb! What, did you think I would be right next to it?

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312760)

Heaven forbid that you give away the position of a light. Hint: you can be some distance away from the light.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312386)

ergo giving the enemy position away

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312394)

Yes, but this would also give away your position.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (4, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312460)

Using a searchlight is far more likely to tell the enemy your position than to tell you the enemy's position because any searchlight will leak some light off-axis and it takes far less light to spot a light source than to use a light source to spot a target.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312782)

And searchlights can't be operated remotely.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (5, Informative)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312536)

Look, I'm sure this seems logical to you. Take it from a former Armored Cav officer, what you are describing makes about as much sense as running under a Saturn 5 and lighting the fuse with a Bic to send it to the Moon. The army did threat analysis based on video footage of enemies that actually tried to use visible search lights in various battles from just post Vietnam to Desert Storm, and the number they came up with is that once night vision came in, it deceased the average life span of the enemy to about 0.3 seconds (yes, 3/10ths of a second, and no, I'm not exaggerating). It's actually been doctrine for most modern militarys since WW2, long before light amplification gear became standard, never, ever do this stupid thing in armor vrs. armor combat, and Night Vision didn't make it more feasible but much, much less.
US Main Battle Tanks have a working range of around four miles. Fire up a searchlight that can even reach that far and it will take several seconds to warm up, then you need time to search with it. The user, and every other armored vehicle it is in a group with, will all die before they see what is killing them.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (0)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312578)

Fire up a searchlight that can even reach that far and it will take several seconds to warm up, then you need time to search with it. The user, and every other armored vehicle it is in a group with, will all die before they see what is killing them.

Of course, that assumes that you're near the light when you fire it up. You set the light up on a pole, drive away, and fire it up by remote control. The enemy can shoot at the light all they want. They won't hit anything.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (3, Insightful)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312642)

The enemy can shoot at the light all they want. They won't hit anything.

Except, perhaps... the light? Rendering your expensive remote-control light useless.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312690)

But you then are also able to see your enemy's location.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (1)

mywhitewolf (1923488) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312812)

not without that light.

not really (1)

publiclurker (952615) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312774)

For the cost of a remote control light, you just showed that those "cows" out there need some further investigation with high explosives.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (2)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312794)

I suspect that remote-control lights are cheaper than tanks.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312780)

and better yet with that tank firing (at an unmanned spot light) you could pinpoint it using a number of different cheap methods (muzzle flash, noise triangulation).

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312590)

Out of curiosity, if turning on your own light is so overtly suicidal, has there been any work on some sort of disposable system(a balloon, a compressed-gas launched parachute-projectile, etc) that would quietly move a moderate and unpredictable distance from the user, and then unleash the actinic glare of whatever chemical light source is currently in vogue in the correct direction?

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312616)

yes, there are launched flares on parachute that make it look like the sun just went to high noon. But you'd have to be suspicious of something to launch one, and then everyone loses cover of night advantage.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312656)

its called a parachute flare dummy.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312694)

I was thinking something a bit more directional: ie. same principle as the parachute flare; but with some mechanism for the operator to designate a target or area to be illuminated before launch, so that the blindingly-light-of-a-false-noon would only apply to your opponents(and their now thoroughly freaked-out night sight gear)...

Parachute flares, if memory serves, substantially predate armored vehicles, possibly even internal combustion vehicles of any sort; so I was curious about anything developed in the contemporary 'highly sensitive optical instruments on expensive but extremely dangerous armor' period... With modern vehicles in the multiple millions a pop, I imagine that selective-illumination systems in the hundreds or thousands per shot might be seen as viable, and that kind of budget might give you room for things more interesting than magnesium-on-a-string.

Re:And presumably this can be defeated by... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312674)

I see what you did there.

Nerf tank invisibility: OP (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312374)

Tanks could soon get night-time invisibility

They should totally give this to healers, too.

fire soulskill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312380)

CmdrTaco forgot to fire soulskill. Get enough votes together to get him off slashdot!

Just imagine... (5, Funny)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312396)

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

How do they cool them that much? (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312510)

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).

Re:How do they cool them that much? (2)

currently_awake (1248758) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312546)

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.

Scratching head ... (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312588)

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

Anyone could glue a cow-shaped heating pad onto the side of a cold tank.

Re:Scratching head ... (3, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#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...

No, I think it is different. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312726)

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 out because of the air currents. In other words, it spews exhaust all over the place.

Putting the magical invisibility armour on the FRONT of the tank is NOT going to do anything hide the massive amounts of heat pouring out the BACK of the tank. It's physics.

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.

Yeah. That's why I said that it is probably limited by the amount of freon the tank carries. Any electrical system trying to do that would need some place to dump its own heat.

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...

Only if it is already cold (and then anyone can glue a cow shaped heating pad to it).

Any other situation and you run into the laws of thermodynamics.

You cannot destroy heat.
You need something colder to absorb it
or
You need some way of moving it away.

Re:Scratching head ... (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312696)

In the early Iraq war dug in and camoflaged tanks were detected easily after sunset due to their sun heated barrels.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312648)

sneak up on the enemy with your hybrid tank in electric mode.

LOL! M1A1's curb weight is around 67t. If you consider that you need to add at least 25% of weight to implement an electric drive train capable of moving that thing, you're up to 80t. That's a secondary issue. The main issue is price. Brand new M1A1 can be parked in your drive way for $8.0M. But if you want an electric option, that will result in tremendous price increase, which will not enable these tanks to be cheaper than $35M, if you'll buy a lot of a thousand (Otherwise you'll have to shell out for the R&D).
Considering that you're going through all that trouble to potentially increase invisibility only before the first shot is fired, you'd doom the tanks to live out the fate of B-2 bomber (couple of them made, no real use, except threatening the Ruskies).
The main workhorse of the army is in line with the economy of the warfare. Meaning you need to spend less money than the enemy and have more of the money to spend than them as well. It all comes down to what we lost VS. what the enemy is losing. That's why there are still Humvee's, B-52s and A-10s.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312552)

Obviously, this is not for the situation of charging tanks. Simply going by sound cue would be enough to identify said talks. But this is superior camouflage for nighttime when operations are over, or to stalk prey for a few minutes.

For example, have a few hundred liter tank of water on board to absorb heat, temporarily, during critical moments you need to reduce your heat signature.

Then again there is the comments about futility of war requiring these sort of tech in the first place.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312708)

the good thing is we get to use this cool stuff in years to come.

i remember a physics teacher in highschool noting that the only two 20th century inventions of note that weren't applications of military tech were the microwave oven and velcro (which was from the space program).

now, i doubt the accuracy of that (magnetrons were invented for radar IIRC), but it makes a good point.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312556)

You make the tank tow a giant heatsink shaped like a tank.

Then, only the heatsink gets blown up.

Thank you, I will take my ten million dollars now.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312568)

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 a refrigerator. There is no way around it.

So either this story is complete BS, or they aren't describing some very important parts of it.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312584)

To clarify: today's solid-state cooling units run off of electricity. So unlike mechanical coolers they do not generate heat themselves... but creating the electricity to drive them creates more heat that what they remove from their immediate environment.

There is no way around that unless you can manage to violate at least a couple of the laws of thermodynamics.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312662)

While a tank produces more heat than a cow, the thermal shape and distance above the ground is very similar to an Abrams which is why cows are hit every year with TOW missiles at Ft. Hood. The crew that hits a cow and anyone else that pisses someone off higher in the chain of command has the privilege of working cow cleanup detail. The government apparently compensates ranchers very well for any cattle killed. As for cattle being there in the first place, that has to do with agreements made decades ago with the neighboring ranchers. The presence of cattle is also why the TOW missile fiber optic has to be cleaned up when finished.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312796)

"While a tank produces more heat than a cow, the thermal shape and distance above the ground is very similar to an Abrams which is why cows are hit every year with TOW missiles at Ft. Hood. The crew that hits a cow and anyone else that pisses someone off higher in the chain of command has the privilege of working cow cleanup detail. The government apparently compensates ranchers very well for any cattle killed. As for cattle being there in the first place, that has to do with agreements made decades ago with the neighboring ranchers. The presence of cattle is also why the TOW missile fiber optic has to be cleaned up when finished."

The shape and elevation may be similar to a cow, but the intensity ("brightness") is not. That was my point. An old-school TOW missile is not very "smart", by today's standards. But I can see how such a system could fool exactly such relatively low-tech devices.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312720)

Um, no. Even solid state heat pumps are nowhere near 100% efficient. The potential energy gained by increasing the heat gradient accounts for only a fraction of the electricity consumed. The rest is converted into heat. In other words, they generate considerable heat themselves.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312818)

"Um, no. Even solid state heat pumps are nowhere near 100% efficient. The potential energy gained by increasing the heat gradient accounts for only a fraction of the electricity consumed. The rest is converted into heat. In other words, they generate considerable heat themselves."

Go back and read again. That's what I said. Basically, but not exactly. I was not talking about "heat pumps", but solid-state "direct cooling" units, which do indeed cool their immediate surroundings. Geez, guy, they've been around for years. If they actually generated heat in their own immediate area, they would be completely useless in those cheap "plug in to the cigarette lighter" coolers you can get at discount stores. But in fact they don't, and they cool just fine.

BUT... my original point: they still end up creating a net increase in heat, because of the amount of electricity they use. However, most of the heat is released elsewhere, at the power source, which is why they can be used to cool things.

Re:How do they cool them that much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312804)

Stirling engine to turn the heat differential from the exhaust back into electricity (at a loss, of course, but really you're just trying to dump the heat)

Re:How do they cool them that much? (1)

ebonum (830686) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312702)

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

Re:How do they cool them that much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312718)

peltier panels

Re:Just imagine... (1)

dmgxmichael (1219692) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312542)

Moo?

Lesson from this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312398)

Treat every cow you see through your infrared security system as a tank. If you're right, you're saved, if you're wrong... hamburgers?

Re:Lesson from this? (1)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312504)

Treat every cow you see through your infrared security system as a tank. If you're right, you're saved, if you're wrong... hamburgers?

Given the amount of explosives required to blow up a tank, I am going to make an educated guess that the same amount of explosives used on a cow would not leave much behind. Most of the meat would be blown high in the air and scattered. So maybe you could make sliders out of it, not "real" hamburgers.

Re:Lesson from this? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312516)

Treat every cow you see through your infrared security system as a tank. If you're right, you're saved, if you're wrong... hamburgers?

Tender stake [wikipedia.org]

Does this help at all in Afghanistan? (1)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312404)

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

Re:Does this help at all in Afghanistan? (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312436)

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.

Re:Does this help at all in Afghanistan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312730)

What, exactly, is it that is bad about preparing for wars you have empirical evidence to indicate can happen?

Re:Does this help at all in Afghanistan? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312784)

What, exactly, is it that is bad about preparing for wars you have empirical evidence to indicate can happen?

Nothing. Just costs a lot when you try to prepare for everything. Nucs, Carrier battle groups, B1s, B2s, F22s, F35s for the big nasties. Littoral combat ships, helicopters, helicopters, helicopters, planes, trucks, trucks, bombproof trucks, soldier proof trucks for the little guys. AWACS, satellites, boosters, XB-37, the Space Shuttle (oopsies) Lots and lots of people. We spend, I think, 7 times more on military pieces parts THAN THE ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD COMBINED

Time to take a break folks. Put the power back on the shelf for a bit. Let the rest of the world beat themselves up by and for themselves just a little.

Or perhaps, maybe, spend some of that money actually helping people. Yes, raw military might is often the sole determiner of whose left, but it seems timely to suggest that the US might try 'shock and awe' in some other arena. People (as opposed to the typical tin pot despot we tend to support) might actually like us for a change.

Re:Does this help at all in Afghanistan? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312484)

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 with sophisticated armor, tank-killing helicopters, or man-portable rockets more sophisticated than RPG retro classics...

Re:Does this help at all in Afghanistan? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312710)

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.

Made of a material... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312410)

... that will obviously be broken at the first sign of a combat environment. Small arms fire and smaller explosive charges (RPG's, frag grenades, etc) would more than likely break large swathes of those nifty and expensive panels. Suddenly that small cow has several large patches of bright heat signature.

I'm all for fighting the technological enemy that doesn't exist anymore, but let's at least be practical about it, please DOD?

Re:Made of a material... (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312474)

If you had bothered to read the fine article, you'd have seen this tidbit:

"Earlier attempts at similar cloaking devices have hit problems because ... they were insufficiently robust," said Adaptiv project manager Pader Sjolund at BAE Systems in a statement. By contrast, he explained, Adaptiv panels add to the armour on a fighting vehicle.

In other words, they have made similar panels before, but these are the first to be durable enough to actually double as part of the tank's armor. I'm sure they'd break if hit by an RPG, but the point is not to get hit by the RPG in the first place. By that point, they already know you're there, and the RPG would have wrecked your reactive armor anyway.

Re:Made of a material... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312522)

Stop putting the "coward" in "anonymous coward".

All you have to do is purchase your system with BAE 4-hour gold support(additional charges may apply). Whenever you are hit by small arms fire, explosions, rocks kicked up by the vehicle in front of you, or any of your camoflauge hexagons is exposed to temp>100 degrees C for too long(which causes TECs to start to break down), just whip out your satellite phone and put in a support call! Your rep should be out there in no time, with a supply of replacement panels.

Many cows died to bring us these results. (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312412)

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.)

Re:Many cows died to bring us these results. (1)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312440)

Ok. Put it on cows to make them look like tanks.

my cloak of invisibility... no make smart does. (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312420)

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 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. And yes, I think driving up and down streets filled with camels and rusted out cars in a state of the art armor-protected semi-truck is going to get noticed "Ah, they're looking for our guns again."

Re:my cloak of invisibility... no make smart does. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312464)

well, your cry for no longer needing tanks is true, until your enemy fields any. and then you need them again. It turns out there are a lot of tanks in the world, and some are near as good as the US version.

fighting a guerrilla war and pretending thats the only war you're going to ever fight is pretty stupid. we need both techs.

Tanks are old school. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312496)

well, your cry for no longer needing tanks is true, until your enemy fields any. and then you need them again.

Nope. That's what drones are for.

It used to be helicopters that were the "tank killers".
Then it was the A-10.
Now (and into the foreseeable future) it is unmanned drones.

Tanks are expensive and drones are cheap.

Re:Tanks are old school. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312596)

but drones can't hold a battlefield. Only feet on the ground do. Otherwise we could win any way, ever, just by having an air force. I think history shows us otherwise, though.

Re:Tanks are old school. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312646)

but tanks are amoung the first things our air force take out. and this "asymmetric warfare" thing that slashdotter like to harp about only works because we are merciful. if we were utterly ruthless and treated it as say the Romans did, that wouldn't work at all. but the evil fat cats with our lawmakers in their pockets actually like long protracted war, good for defense contract shareholder value.

Re:Tanks are old school. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312654)

Anyone who can field tanks can also afford 1) cheap anti-drone missiles, and likely also 2) good enough tanks that the smaller drone arms can't hurt the tank. Probably they'll also have 3) a lot more tanks than we have drones (the satellite links can only handle a few drones at a time), and of course they'll use 4) the same tactics that work against manned bombers anyway (such as hiding under bridges).

Unless you want to counter with big drones full of stealth tech and big bombs. But then drones are no longer cheap...

Hell, I looked it up. Even the current crappy drones cost a few million dollars each ($4.5m, says wiki). An upgraded US Abrams tank is only $6.2m, and that high for a tank.

Also, re: the grandparent post: "We use fast armored personnel carriers that can survive an IED strike."
That would be funny if it wasn't so sadly wrong. The IEDs being used often kill people in anything weaker than a tank - and sometimes will disable actual tanks. The troops returning with fewer limbs than they left with aren't losing them to bullets.

But, further, the "we don't use tanks anymore" sentiment is absurd. Sure, they're not so badass for fighting against urban insurgency. But how often have we had to do that without first fighting a more conventional war (in which tanks excel)? We still need the tanks for the "real" war part, and to figure out something else for the aftermath.

Re:Tanks are old school. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312672)

It was, is, and always will be infantry. Not the dumb guy in front of you out in the open. The other guy you didn't see who threw the anti-tank grenade.

Re:my cloak of invisibility... no make smart does. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312666)

While a troop of super technological super stealthy tanks yields a great tactical advantage, this advantage is absolutely neutralized when your enemy can manufacture 50 not-so-good-but-good-enough-to-kill-you tanks to your one. All you need is defense in depth and eventually the numbers work in your favor. The US always seeks out an expensive technological approach to try to solve problems. While this can work sometimes, it sometimes results in hundred million dollar state-of-the-art planes that can't fly.

Re:my cloak of invisibility... no make smart does. (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312684)

Tanks aren't the best way to stop conventional military conflicts. The internet is. If we want to stop China, Iran, or whoever the big boogeyman is from dropping bombs on us, we should be dumping them with wired and wireless communication as well as investing in the needed infrastructure. It would be orders of magnitude more cost effective.

Re:my cloak of invisibility... no make smart does. (1)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312520)

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.

Re:my cloak of invisibility... no make smart does. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312562)

which would be..... waiting for the bang

Re:my cloak of invisibility... no make smart does. (1)

centuren (106470) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312564)

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.

Re:my cloak of invisibility... no make smart does. (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312772)

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 (coincidentally, where I am typing this from). 20 years ago, some VERY large conventional armor battles were fought (coincidentally, right where the recent ones were).

Armor is a very important part of the combined arms team (as a former Infantryman and current Artilleryman, it pains me to say that). The conventional army that neglects to advance its armor corps does so at its own peril.

Our Army has a bad habit of always getting ready for the last war. I'd hate to walk into North Korea all ready for the Taliban or the 1920 Martyrs Brigade. It turns out though, that an Army ready for the North Koreans can fight with insurgents with only minor modifications.

Now: cue the crowd opining on how things really work in Iraq even though they've never been there.

How do they mask exhaust? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312444)

Or is this system only effective when the engine's off?

Re:How do they mask exhaust? (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312660)

Okay, recent Cavalry Scout here.

Or is this system only effective when the engine's off?

Thermals don't look like they do in movies, or the cherry picked pictures they show on the news. For starters, you're not zoomed right in... you're trying to pick something out against a sea of fuzzy blobby shapes.

And for the ones I've seen, exhaust doesn't show up. I guess if a track was sitting around warming some object up there would be a hot spot against all the background crap. But I suspect that unless you're using them in cold areas, it's going to be hard to increase the sensitivity to catch something by its exhaust without being overwhelmed by the additional noise.

And, really, a system like this would be for those cases where you decide to stop briefly. After all, if you're going to sit around for a while, you're going to dig in and camouflage anyway.

Re:How do they mask exhaust? (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312678)

cow farts?

Interesting... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312446)

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 what you'd call efficient heat pumps. The fact that they work at all feels like magic; but the heat coming out of the hot side is considerably more than the heat being pumped from the cold side... In IC cooling scenarios, a couple square inches of Peltier can easily consume 100watts. I'd assume that this system, with its much greater surface area, and lower deltaTs on average, wouldn't be that bad; but unless BAE has made some real strides with TECs, nontrivial power is going to be involved(amounts varying depending on what is being emulated and how much the trick differs from the vehicle).

How do you dump all the waste heat from such a system? "looks like a cow" is stealthy. "Looks like a cow, with a thermal exhaust plume that suggests it contains a running AGT1500 and a collection of main battle tank support systems" is less stealthy...

Re:Interesting... (1)

abelb (1365345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312480)

Exactly. One would think the laws of conservation of energy would apply. I wonder if the panels are powered at least partially by the waste heat from the tank.

Re:Interesting... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312566)

My (totally uninformed about the actual system; but moderately familiar with TECs) speculation would be that the thermal cameras provide the control system the data it needs to calculate what the tank "should" look like, to blend in with ambient. That(with the option of mixing in a pattern, like "cow" or "car full of innocent children") would be converted to a target temperature value for each of the camouflage hexagon units.

Each hexagon module, in turn, would have a thermal sensor on the outer surface and a TEC layer. If the target temperature is higher than the real temp, fire up the TEC with the exterior as the hot-side until real temp = target temp. If the target temp is lower than real temp, reverse polarity and run the TEC with the outside as the cold side until you hit the target.

TECs can be run to generate energy(if a sufficient thermal delta exists between hot and cold side); but that would only be of use to the modules that are reliably cooled from the outside and reliably heated from the inside, and that don't need to do any active concealing(you can put power in, to maintain a thermal delta, or you can pull power out by breaking down a thermal delta; but you can't have both...) Given the shitty efficiencies of even the nicer commercial units, this system is going to be a net draw on the vehicle's electrical system, and will probably end up producing a thermal exhaust that needs to be obfuscated however engine exhausts and AC system hot sides currently are.

Re:Interesting... (1)

linatux (63153) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312530)

What does the average cow-fart look like in IR?

Re:Interesting... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312640)

Statistics on cow-fart volume, mass, and composition seem hard to come by; but I'm assuming that they'd show up as a brief, rapidly expanding, cloud of internal-body-temperature. Anything that could pick up a human should pick one up as well.

Considerably smaller than the output of anything much more than a toy engine, though...

Re:Interesting... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312724)

The solution is obvious, we need to breed larger cows.

Time to dig out an old technothriller from 1989. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312456)

Dean Ing, Ransom of Black Stealth One [amazon.com] .

The best way to make something invisible is to look in the same direction your observer is looking, and draw a picture of what you see on the side of yourself that faces the observer.

Prohibitive on a lightweight low-power aircraft with the materials and computational power available in 1989, but the gap between technothriller and public availability is holding consistent at about 20 years.

FBI ponders the situation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312476)

Surely next, the FBI will want something dangerous as hell which can pose as a little child. "Oh no! That's not a little boy, it's a 10 ton armored vehicle with guns and a cage!!!"

The best way to save your tank and your life... (2)

guybrush3pwood (1579937) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312488)

... is to stay home. Simple as that.

Re:The best way to save your tank and your life... (3, Funny)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312550)

You hate freedom!

Re:The best way to save your tank and your life... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312582)

!In the Soviet..Communist..Socialist Rus..Chin..Swed something something nogot nogot freedom hates you, if we all agree of it doing so, together

Re:The best way to save your tank and your life... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312664)

we don't make weapons, we make freedom dispensers!

Re:The best way to save your tank and your life... (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312628)

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.

Re:The best way to save your tank and your life... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312732)

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.

LOL no (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312502)

Cars don't have the land-speeder force-field (pre-remastered) effect IRL.

Just imagine the mocking potential. (4, Funny)

Commontwist (2452418) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Why do I see 2 tank tred marks and a warm area... (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312594)

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 (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312612)

Target that belch and fire!

Pixels (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 2 years ago | (#37312614)

About 1,000 pixel panels...

Better wait for the 2 kilopixel model.

BBC huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37312748)

Well atleast its nice to know that america isnt the only country guilty of wasting millions of dollars on useless military tech

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