UK defense contractor BAE Systems says it is developing “electronic ink” technology that can camouflage military vehicles, rendering them essentially invisible.
"Highly sophisticated electronic sensors attached to the tank's hull will project images of the surrounding environment back onto the outside of the vehicle, enabling it to merge into the landscape and evade attack," reports The Telegraph of London.
"The electronic camouflage will enable the vehicle to blend into the surrounding countryside, in much the same way that a squid uses ink to help as a disguise."
The technology’s optical system makes people and objects invisible to view with video screens that show the landscape behind the item being hidden. Unlike traditional paint camouflage, which is designed to match a specific landscape, the “e-camouflage” uses a type of electronic ink to make the hull of a tank change constantly as it moves.
A "display system within the structure of the vehicle" is used to project bright, high-definition images of the terrain on the other side of the vehicle, according to company literature.
"We also have a way to protect that structure from battle damage, and that's obviously key," BAE Systems spokesman Mike Sweeney said in an interview with MSNBC’s Cosmic Log.
Other optical camouflage wraparounds have been reported in recent years, but none has reported this kind of display, Sweeney told Cosmic Log. "Pretty much all the systems that have been cooked up so far all use a projector that picks up the background," he said. "Where they differ is in how the image is then displayed."
He described the display system as “something like a flat-screen television” but added that he did not know how that worked on non-flat surfaces of the vehicle.
7 Vehicles in Testing
BAE is testing the technology with seven military vehicles—some manned, some robots—fitted with heavy artillery. According to Homeland Security Newswire in the U.S., the vehicles “will be able to conduct dangerous missions in hostile areas, clear minefields and extract wounded troops under fire.”
A prototype is expected to be available in four years. BAE scientists hope the new technology will be available for the British Army fighting in Southern Afghanistan and in future conflicts.
A brief for the project seeks a vehicle using the system weighing under 30 tons and with the effectiveness of a main battle tank.
The electronic ink technology is part of BAE’s recently unveiled Future Protected Vehicles program, aimed at “innovative technologies and concepts for short-, medium- and long-term exploitation into future lightweight land platforms," the company says.
Other technologies include microwave weapons, floating electro-magnetic armor, and a type of mechanical "sweat" that reduces thermal signature. The company has also developed other stealth technology, including liquid battle armor.