back to article Sweden rolls out invisible infrared tank

Engineers in Sweden have announced the development of a prototype tank which is covered in "pixels" that enable it to disappear from thermal images – or to disguise itself as something else. The "Adaptiv" system, funded by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), covers the test vehicle in hexagonal panels whose …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Isn't that a picture of Mrs B.J. Smegma

    of 13, The Crescent, Belmont?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Picture: How future visible-light versions of the stealth tank might look in action.

    pardon me Sir, i don't see any marks on the grass. is this picture an accurate reproduction - or is it hovertank ???

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Picture

    No. 5 The Larch

  4. I know better

    Other applications

    Can this be used for other applications? Like sneaking past my manager on Friday afternoons?

    1. Britt Johnston
      Happy

      re other uses

      If you switch into reverse, it saves washing the car

    2. zen1

      re: Larch

      Genius. Pure genius! Thank you, you made my day.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's the tree

      "Alternatively, the pixels can be manipulated to present the appearance of something other than a tank" - Can't you see it? It's disguised as a tree

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Who said..

      Those Monty Python boys had no sense of humour - BJ and smegma in the same name.. so rude!

      1. Armando 123
        Coat

        Ah

        Corporal Svenson has learned the first lesson of not being seen: do not stand up.

    5. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Or:

      How not to be seen

    6. lpopman
      Headmaster

      titular correction

      I think you'll find it's No. 1 - The Larch

      /me shakes head at all of the upvotes...

      1. Guido Esperanto

        comedy 1 - 0 pedantry

        It would appear 21 people min got the reference, and 21 people either couldnt be arsed with the pedantry or actually thought the reference was still funny.

        Wheres Big Billy Goat Gruff when you need him?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          We've been here before...

          http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2010/11/21/base_station_results/

  5. /dev/null
    Stop

    Hmmm...

    Given that a tank is likely to be warmer than its surroundings (OK, maybe not if it was in a desert during the day), then. essentially, they're covering their tanks in lots of little hexagonal fridges?

  6. BorkedAgain

    April already?

    Where'd the rest of the year go?

  7. PaulR79
    Thumb Up

    Covered in pixels

    If this is covered in pixels you could switch this over to the car industry and you can customise your car with a quick play in Photoshop or your image editing software of choice. No more expensive paint or fixes for small scratches. Instead you can pay for expensive pixel panels.... oops.

    1. annodomini2

      at a guess

      Peltiers

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      title

      Who cares? Summer's almost here!

    3. Marvin the Martian
      Paris Hilton

      Fridges? Peltiers?!

      It's obvious that there is a net heat production for any type of cooling (and Peltiers are some of the least efficient), and on top of any engine heat.

      So either this also has a giant tank of liquid nitrogren or so, or it only works on a non-running tank and non-sunny days (as the heat would build up too)...

    4. ridley

      T59's in the Thar desert

      I can confirm that tanks left in the desert all day get "very" hot.

      After using a T59 tank in the Thar desert, 54 degress C in the shade, all day it really was not advisable to climb onto the tank without gloves.

      As for going inside to fix some kit, it was not a very pleasant experience.

      TBH the thing that struck me most about the T59 was how small it was inside. I know the Chinese are usually quite small but I had to be very careful when in the gunners seat that my shoulder/right arm didnt get too close to the breech when firing.

      As to a commander getting in and buttoning up behind me, I am 6ft 6in, then to say the least it was "cosy" and you became very "intimately" acquainted, as did the driver's head to your crotch.

      I really do hope the modern ones are a lot bigger inside.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Piccie LOL

    Ron's eel.

  9. Paul C
    Coat

    The really neat part

    They're flat packed for deployment, and the tank crews assemble them in an hour with a hex key and a small hammer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Devil

      Ahh..

      The Trundlovaa.

      Bloody thing only has Swedish assembly instructions and always has a bit missing.

  10. KevinLewis
    Devil

    Council planning...

    Could this be used to fool your local council into thinking their draconian planning and building regulations have triumphed, when in fact the owner's got exactly what they wanted?

  11. MJI Silver badge

    Messed up post try again

    Is this actually needed for tanks?

    They are not exactly quiet nor small.

    As BAe Systems tank is the most well armoured and most potent - would it matter?

    Would it adversly affect the armour?

    1. Jake Rialto 1
      Coat

      True...but

      As a Mr M Gaddafi, lately of Tripoli found out, fast jets, armed drones and helicopter gunships will nail any conventional force vehicles they can see, if allowed to operate with impugnity overhead.

      I imagine that the guys bringing death from above would be using the mark one eyeball in conjunction with the thermal imaging on the targeting systems to visually locate and identify a target, then ruin its day.

      May not be so good against millimetric radar though....Here's a Swedish newspaper link with a few snaps of a CV90 with some slapped on the side and the effect. http://www.nyteknik.se/nyheter/fordon_motor/bilar/article3246446.ece

      Would it affect the armour....no.

      It may have an effect on the suspension and the wallet, based on the weight and the cost.

      (zips up kagool)

    2. seven of five

      Quiet and small

      The CV-90 actually is (rather) quiet and small(ish). This is not a full MBT but rather a light tank (~30 tons, a 40mm Bofors and tiny silouette). And diesel engines (unlike gas turbines) can be frightenly quiet, nothing like sneaking in the woods and stumbling into one of these which has been lurking, observing and ...waiting.

      Had a Leopard do this to us, snuk up upwind, couldn´t hear or smell him until he cracked a tree. Would have been far to late by then...

      1. DAN*tastik
        Boffin

        @ Quiet and small

        If they are huge and loud, switch on the little external fridges round the edges a to give it a Pacman shape, huge speakers blasting "WHATEVER INNIT WE CAN DO WHAT WE WANT INNIT WHATEVER" in a loop and the enemy will think they are being attacked by an army of teenagers coming to loot their country. They'll be waving their white flags even sooner than if they thought they were real tanks

      2. Argus Tuft

        battlefield hacking

        according to the swedish article linked by Jake Rialto 1;

        "In order to be able to be controlled as pixels in a TV, they sit together in an electronic network, where each one has its own IP number."

        so now you just need to hack the tanks' LAN and turn it bright fluro pink :)

  12. Mondo the Magnificent
    Coat

    Other applications

    Like making a Range Rover Sport appear like a little electric car to avoid the congestion charges

    Boris wouldn't see that one coming...

  13. Elmer Phud

    nukes are us!

    Can't see it?

    One large bit of ordnance will do the trick, some bright spark will come up with a huge cluster bomb - make it clusters of panit balls and no more hidey-hidey tank.

    1. John Macintyre
      Mushroom

      Give it 6-12 months...

      and that'll be the next BAE systems project - anti pixel-tank guns....

    2. annodomini2
      FAIL

      Title we don't need no stinking title

      LIDAR

      1. Ru
        Facepalm

        We don't need no stinking EMCON

        Or, you know, the ability to see our oponents when it is raining. Or they're in vegetation. Or its a bit dusty out.

      2. relpy
        FAIL

        LIDAR...

        Only if you desperately want them to know where you are too...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Joke

          You could always fake your location

          using LieDAR...

    3. Filippo

      re: nukes are us!

      Paintball nukes! Awesome!

    4. Guido Esperanto

      the good bad and the title

      "Boris wouldn't see it coming"

      not if it was imaged to look like a big red C on the floor....

      maybe just let it fire when his heat signature is in range :D

    5. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Or the reverse-

      To keep the riff-raff at bay.

  14. Desk Jockey
    Joke

    Interesting picture

    Wandered out into the field and took a randomn photo of some grass and trees? Stealth is a 'relative' thing as you can't exactly make a 60 ton tank completely invisible and even a deaf person is going to 'feel' it coming at over 200 hundred yards away! Until they get rid of those gas turbine engines and drop the weight a little, that is never going away.

    Lewis must be slipping, he seems to be praising a BAE invention? Granted, not a British BAE one, but BAE all the same. Maybe he has needed to go and lie down after this article?!

    Now thermal reduction on a warship and disguising it as a fishing trawler is a great idea. Might just give those Type 45s a sporting chance against super sonic sea skimming missiles, assuming the Russkies did code it to have a smart warship identifier seeker rather than a 'kill anything it sees' one... Or is it only the Western powers that are that considerate?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pixels?

    Woe betide them if the tank's rectangular with rounded corners.

    1. Paul_Murphy

      That's ok

      They can use interpolation, anti-aliasing, interleaving and other tricks to give the appearance of another object, smooth or sharp edged.

      I'd like to see someone hack the system to make other shapes: a shark, maybe, or a dinosaur would be cool :-)

      ttfn

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who will they ever fight

    Judging by youtube what you want to blow on on a thermal camera is a 4x4, if it's tank then that doesn't make much difference.

    Unless they plan to invade somewhere by stealth, where the enemy only has thermal imaging and everyone is blind. Seeing a tank parked up even while it;s not firing is going to raise questions.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Death from Above

    Given most tanks are killed by air-to-ground, I'm not sure this is all that useful.

    As pointed out, 60 tonnes of gas turbine powered metal is pretty fracking hard to conceal. Stealthing it to make it look like a car/truck? Em.... probably sounds cool to the guy in the pub, but seriously? Whats the point? Look at recent conflicts. UK forces put big flags on top of jeeps etc so as not to get blasted by passing 'friendly' aircraft (not gonna point the finger at any nation in particular here...) You think fighter aircraft are going to pass up an enemy vehicle because it looks vaguely like a (very odd shaped) truck on IR?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Nah - been done already

    > An Adaptiv-clad CV90 light recce tank will be exhibited at the DSEi armsbiz expo in London later this month.

    Big deal. Last year they exhibited a tank using the Nevah-seen-nuffin (tm) engago disapearo system, and no-one noticed. Might have been because the "sales team" were exhibiting the battledress version, of course.

  19. TeeCee Gold badge
    Happy

    Tanks in disguise?

    "...present the appearance of something other than a tank – for instance a car or truck."

    Or a huge and fearsomely beweaponed alien robot of course.

    1. Mike Richards

      Surely it should be disguised as the very lovely Paris?

      The porn potential for this invention should not be overlooked - Swedes and squaddies being what they are...

    2. Suburban Inmate
      Black Helicopters

      I think I didn't see that before...

      Didn't Jaguar do that with a one-off XKR? As I remember it passed it's arctic tests with flying... err... colours.

  20. Graham Bartlett
    Mushroom

    Monty Python: How not to be seen

    This is Mr Nesbitt of Harlow New Town. Mr Nesbit would you stand up please.

    <pause>

    Mr Nesbitt has learnt the value of not being seen. However he has chosen a very obvious piece of cover.

    <bang>

    ARRRGGH!

    1. Andus McCoatover
      Windows

      You beat me to it!

      Bugger!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC 13:17

    She has chosen a very obvious piece of cover.

  22. Gianni Straniero
    Happy

    Instead...

    ... just look for the vast cloud of dust the machine has kicked up

  23. Ray 8
    Mushroom

    hmmm Counter nuke

    the yanks will develop new tech to counter it and then use it to obliterate anything that moves with 100 square mile radius (civilians included)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Darnit!

      You've discovered our dastardly plan to kill all the world's civilians!

      What now... What now....

    2. Armando 123

      Heh

      Yeah, but we'll test it by trying to take out Detroit. No one will notice, apart from the lack of stench.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Alien

        Take out Detroit?

        Have you been there in the last couple of years? Detroit has already taken *itself* out. As far as I can tell, it now consists of the airport (which is very nice, by the way), the MGM Grand (which is spooky), a couple of weird hotels stuck in the wastelands, and Cobo Hall, which just flat out defies description. You see the dudes driving around on those tiny little scooter / transporter things, all over the place, and it's like those movies where a high-tech civilization has fallen to ruin, and is now inhabited by little creatures that run around without really knowing what they're in or why...

        No offense to the guys working there. They're pretty cool. I'm just sayin'.

  24. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Alternatively...

    Paint it pink and install a SEP (Somebody Else's Problem) field.

    (Apologies to DNA)

  25. Mike Richards

    How goes the invisible shed?

    Why no mention of whether this Swedish boffinry can be applied to man's best friend - his shed (self assembly naturally)?

    1. Suburban Inmate
      Black Helicopters

      Take it a stage further....

      The other day a friend and me were speculating how a similar system could be applied to an garage-sized outdoor building to mask the thermal outbut of a 10 Killowatt, ummm... "server" farm. <cough>

      1. BorkedAgain
        Thumb Up

        That's a nasty cough you have there, Mr Inmate...

        You taking anything for it?

  26. Aldous
    Stop

    don't need to be blind to miss it

    i think some commentards are missing the point. the modern tanks biggest enemy in "traditional" warfare is the attack helicopter. this system is designed so that an apache flying at night by thermal/ir will class it as a truck which can be multipurpose could even be civilian, maybe rules of engagement state no firing on anything but T-72's. its not some magic camo but it would have its uses.

    As for being blind try spotting a black/olive drab thing at night somewhere with no lighting i.e desert, steepes etc its hard to do in the uk because of all the light pollution but you'd be suprised how crap human vision can be. sure you'd here it but i have a feeling this thing is for spoofing aircraft that hunt on IR and not people on the ground.

    of course this assumes a type of warfare that's pretty much unlikely to happen anyone with an attack helicopter/tank fleet big enough to warrant this has too much to loose (economically etc, china's not going to attack you America ffs) by going into a big tank vs helicopter war and 3rd world nations using surplus soviet tanks wont be able to afford it and don't have the air capability anyway

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      what happened to...

      Sticking a painted canvas and wire frame over the top if you want to make it look like a truck instead of a tank?

      Fooled the Germans in North Africa.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Boffin

        RE: what happened to...

        "....a painted canvas and wire frame...." The Jerries were reliant on the old Eyeball Mk1, aided by a bit of photo-recce. But modern thermal imagers and infra-red cameras can "see" through such contraptions. Same goes for the traditional camouflague netting. A much better solution is to make static decoys with heat sources that look both visually and thermally like a tank with it's engine idling. That ruse was very successfully used by the Serbs to keep NATO guessing in the former Yugoslavia. I presume the next step will be droid vehicles with thermally-enhanced visual signatures and fake armour to roll ahead of your real armour and draw the enemy's anti-tank fire, so the following tanks can then nail those AT assets.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        One point

        Ze Germans didn't have Attack Helicopters with FLIR

    2. ecophreak

      there's also avoiding being blown up...

      Quite a few anti-tank missiles use infrared to track the target quite useful having a low infrared output in those situations I'd imagine...

  27. joshimitsu
    Childcatcher

    so if if is covered in adjustable temperature panels...

    they would be called hexels?

    Or...

    Heat Emission Repressive/Productive Evasion System.

  28. MrT

    Aw, look at that frail old lady walking along with her shopping trolley...

    ... leaving two massive tank tracks in her wake.

    Solomon J Solomon would approve.

  29. Fr. Ted Crilly
    Angel

    Pah thermoptics

    Been done years ago, Just ask Major Kusenagi, had her napper torn off by a cloaked spider tank.

    Sadly the cavalry arrived just to late with the standard issue big gun.

    halo 'cos Well she is erm, a nice bit of anime.....

  30. OrsonX
    IT Angle

    How do you store heat?

    Assuming your tank is hotter than its surroundings, how do you store heat to conceal its presence? Assuming that you can't (I don't think so) then what's the best way to get rid of the excess heat to conceal its true shape? Perhaps you could lazer* it away.

    *the solution to everything!

    1. peter 45
      Flame

      Nail on head

      The heat has to go somewhere.

      Idea 1. IR cool one side (facing the enemy) and send heat to other side.

      idea 2. Switch on only for short periods, like when enemy detected (missile launch detected, laser targeting detected, ESM etc).

      Idea 3. Drag really hot radiator behind (like ESM systems on aircraft) to distract missile aiming system.

      In reality, not a clue where the heat goes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @OrsonX

      Easy - you find the nearest PC gamer (you may have to look for a while) and stick his CPU / GPU heatsink / fan / water cooling system on top of the tank. Make sure to use the right thermal putty, and - problem solved!

  31. Richard Scratcher
    WTF?

    I can't see anyone actually using this crazy system

    So it must be working.

  32. Youngdog
    Trollface

    Even for a tank..

    ..getting this thing off the ground will take a lot of effort

    To quote Douglas Adams;

    "..making anything invisible is so infinitely complex that nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a billion it is much simpler and more effective just to take the thing away and do without it..."

  33. Herby Silver badge

    Why not for passenger vehicles?

    As I watch _Top Gear_ (yes, we even get the UK version in the colonies) I wonder if this will be available. It would be wonderful to get away from those vile speed cameras. Now if this combined with radar absorbing material to get away from those pesky "smokey shooting pictures" highway patrolmen.

    A wonderful application if you ask me!

  34. KjetilS
    Boffin

    Impressive price

    From the nyteknik article (http://www.nyteknik.se/nyheter/fordon_motor/bilar/article3246446.ece):

    "Projektet har hittills kostat runt 13 miljoner kronor," which translates to "The project has so far cost around 13 million SEK" (or £1.25 million/$2 million).

    If this was made in the US by one of the large defence contractors, it would probably had cost 10 or 100 times more.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Thats not a Sweedish Tank thats a US one.

    I know cos I've seen it before:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/10/invisibilty_will_soon_be_within_our_grasp/

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Figured out how it works

    Either an array of Peltier modules (cheap, not so low powered) or vacuum thermoelectrics.

    The latter are very recent but much like OLED hex panels are obtainable if you happen to have the appropriate deep pockets and a hotline to the manufacturers who are happy to sell the prototype run of units for "extended field testing"...

    Rumour has it that these can be printed by the thousand using broadcast power to recharge the wafer thin batteries inside, so that they don't need wiring.

    Maybe now we know why the UFOs are always the same shape.. Disks make an excellent flat surface to mount visual stealth panels on.

    AC/DC

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Vacuum Thermoelectrics?

      Pretty sure I've got a couple of them in an old amplifier... no UFOs around here, either!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    interesting

    Lets flip this over, it can make a tank appear like another object (slashdot were suggesting cows etc) on ir signatures which most devices trying to kill them in low light situations use.

    And its small and hardly consumes any power, double coolness.

    What if you made a autonomous version that made a cow look like a tank? you could *really* freak the enemy out with a herd of these for very little cost. Or be the tank in the middle of the cows reliant on them having to eliminate the cows before even finding you.

    Cow based tank decoys. I feel sorry for the cows if any mil types read this...

  38. Antoine Dubuc
    FAIL

    Wash Often

    Yes, you'll need to wash it very often... this is such a waste of money as it stands. One bullet and the system is down. One splash of mud, and there'll be plenty, and the system is down.

    This is for the lab, not the field.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      mud?

      mud should be a problem.

      Teh tank will then look like a muddy truck.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    SMIDSY!

    Driving round a battlefield in a tank invisible to the Yanks?

    Make a tank invisible to an IED - now that would be worth having.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      re: SMIDSY

      That would be a hovertank. But that is just fiction. Or if someone manages to do a skirted hovercraft with a 105mm on top... Not that the skirts would be too 'armored'... but the IED thing would be sorted, as you hover above it.

      But I remember Hobart's funnies flayer tank for minefields disarming.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        But that is just fiction.

        Not really. Prototype air cushioned tank was built by Transmash in the old Soviet times. Had no armour though...

  40. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Physical limits

    Presumably a tank is normally somewhat warmer than its surroundings since it has a dirty great engine in there to power it. Hence the use of thermal imaging to spot it. So to cool its exterior you need to pump heat into the interior or, equivalently, prevent the interior heat from escaping against the natural thermal gradient. That includes all the heat that'd normally come from the engine cooling system and exhaust which I imagine must run to quite a large number of kilowatts.

    Seems to me that's going to make it pretty hot inside - and with no heat escaping, the temperature will just go on rising indefinitely. Well, until something melts anyway.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Tanks...pah think bigger....

    anyone seen the Royal Navy's latest steath aircraft carriers and stealth Harriers?

  42. ridley
    Coat

    If this does work....

    Then it must be pretty damn clever.

    I worked on thermal imagers in the early 80's and you could tell by looking at the tracks on the ground which ones had been made by a tank going past several hours before, as opposed to days, and which direction it went. The temperature differential that could be seen was tiny.

    I suspect they have got better since then.

  43. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Playmobil?

    Could you show how an invisible Playmobil tank might look?

  44. IsJustabloke
    Thumb Up

    I refuse to enoble a simple forum post!

    All Hail Kane and the Brotherhood of Nod!!

  45. rciafardone
    Coat

    That is so cool...

    letters... there you go now it contains it.

  46. D@v3
    Thumb Up

    reminds me

    somewhat of the Mirage tank from Red Alert 2 / 3

  47. D. M
    Alien

    Romulan technology?

    This clearly wouldn't work. How did romulans do it?

    1. Brian Miller

      Romulans used spray paint ...

      on the Enterprise's cameras. The best way to look black against a black background is to blind the other fellow so he doesn't know it. (when that failed, they used cardboard painted black with white dots on it. The fingers on the edges gave it away, though...)

      Since everything is running to missiles and Mogadishu "technicals," I don't see the point in disguising machinery that's on its way out. The current threat isn't direct, it's from IEDs and plain old terrorizing the populace.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    Misunderstanding

    I'm amazed at the level of misunderstanding in the comments. In a tank to tank conflict seeing the tank accurately is key because sight is still used for targeting. To counter that most tanks have smoke generators. And to counter that most tanks have IR sights so you can still see (albeit degraded slightly) when in a big smoke cloud. If you can throw smoke and then IR cloak, it could reduce the range that the enemy can engage to less than the range at which you can engage. Queue up a duck shoot. You aren't trying to sneak a tank up on someone, you are just trying to make targeting it very hard. It is the same thing with stealth planes. You don't mind if someone sees you, or even to a certain extent if they hear you (although stealth planes are designed to be quieter than non-stealth versions). What matters is whether the missile shot at you can get a lock. Which crucially means it sees you on either radar or infra-red.

    For those who point out that these days more tank kills are done from aircraft, please explain how the aircraft get their kills. It is actually through the same means, either visual sightings or IR sighting primarily. Again, if the tank blows smoke and cloaks in IR it could significantly reduce the accuracy of aircraft. You will still lose tanks, but a lot less than before when targeting was accurate.

  49. Yeah Right 2 Silver badge
    Holmes

    Oh look...

    ...it's an old police call box.

  50. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Joke

    Seems like a lot of trouble to go to....

    over a few invading raccoons!!

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/08/24/raccoon_menace/

  51. micheal
    Black Helicopters

    Old hat

    In the 90's New Labour made over half the UK forces and equipment invisible, that's why we're still fighting in Afghanistan

    Oh sorry, that was DISSAPEAR completely, not invisible

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