British defence contractor BAE Systems, in collaboration with the Swedish Defence Material Administration, has created and successfully trialled a technology that renders tanks invisible to night-vision goggles and infrared scopes.

Adaptiv is an "invisibility cloak" that projects images from the tank's surroundings onto panels on its exterior, allowing it to blend into the background, or allowing it to look like a different object, such as a 4x4 vehicle or, even, a cow. It works well enough to confuse spotter planes or ground troops from over 300 metres away.

The system, though, can only work at night, as it is only currently effective with infrared light. The panels on the outside use hexagonal pixels that can rapidly change temperature, therefore foxing night-vision apparatus, but not the naked eye. Therefore, it is not usable in daylight.

Previously, technology such as this was not capable due to high power consumption, but now BAE is confident its new system is much more efficient: "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 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."

BAE believes that the system could be ready for military use in as little as 2 years time, and that it could have other applications: "We can resize the pixels to achieve stealth for different ranges," says Sjölund. "A warship or building, for instance, might not need close-up stealth, so could be fitted with larger panels."

Pic: jimflix! / Flickr