Is ‘Invisibility Cloak’ for Combat Uniforms/BDUs Here Right Now? by David Crane
by David Crane
by David Crane
Over the last several months, DefenseReview has been reporting on a visual cloaking technology (a.k.a. adaptive camouflage technology a.k.a. electro-optical camouflage technology a.k.a. chameleonic camouflage technology) that’s claimed to have been developed by Advanced American Enterprise (AAE) for manned ground vehicles, UGVs (Unmanned Ground Vehicles)/Ground Robots (including weaponized UGVs like SWORDS), infantry warfighters (i.e. human beings), and helicopters (both manned and unmanned). AAE claims that it’s developed visible-light-spectrum, thermal/IR (infrared), and night vision (NV)/near-infrared cloaking technology that’s viable, i.e. ready-to-go right now for use by U.S. and Coalition forces. The reason we bring this up is that AAE has just released information on their IR/NV-Stealth 4 system, which can be incorporated into flexible materials, including clothing like standard combat uniforms a.k.a. battle dress uniforms (BDUs). AAE claims that any clothing that’s treated with its IR/NV-Stealth tech will become invisible to any/all night vision equipment/night observation devices (NVE/NODs) and thermal/IR sensors/viewers, as well as untargetable by IR laser designators sighting equipment (i.e. laser sights), when the wearer flips the switch to "On".
These are some pretty bold claims, but the AAE document on the IR/NV Stealth 4 tech states that AAE can conduct live field demonstrations for interested parties/organizations. So far, DefenseReview has only seen short video clips of certain versions of the Stealth Technology System (STS) being demonstrated. We have not yet seen it demonstrated in person. We’re hoping to get the chance to see the STS tech applied to a manned vehicle and/or a UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) at some point in the not-too-distant future–in person.
In the meantime, click on the link below to view the IR/NV-Stealth 4 fact sheet:…
IR/NV-Stealth 4 Fact Sheet (PDF Format)
Now that that’s out of the way, it should perhaps be noted that there have been a lot of stories lately about the potential use of "metamaterials" a.k.a. negative-index materials a.k.a. negative-index metamaterials a.k.a. left-handed materials for visual cloaking, a.k.a. adaptive camouflage a.k.a. optical camouflage. A number of scientists believe that these metamaterials can be used to bend/redirect light around an object covered in the material, so that the light waves literally flow around the covered object instead of bouncing off it, making it invisible. Light waves are just another form of electromagnetic waves (electromagnetic radiation), which is what metamaterials have already shown to be capabable of bending/redirecting. This electromagnetic wave redirection capability is made possible by an aspect of metamaterials known as negative refraction, in which light is refracted in the opposite direction from the natural positive refraction that all natural materials (like water, glass, diamond, etc.) create when lights hit them. So far, only, specially-engineered composite materials (metamaterials) have been shown to have a negative refractive index, or "index of negative refraction".
One example of a metamaterial is a split-ring structure etched onto a copper circuit board along with copper wires. The metamaterial that’s created exhibits negative permativity and negative permeability. R. Colin Johnson explains this, along with its relation to its potential for cloaking objects in an EE Times article.
According to David Schurig of Duke University (and formerly of the University of California, San Diego), metamaterials that can shield objects from microwave radiation will probably be available this year (2006). However, Schurig speculates that using these materials to create an invisibility cloak is perhaps ten years out. He also pointed out while metamaterial cloaks are possible, the first "invisibility devices" would most likely be rigid "shells" rather than flexible/supple cloaks. Mr. Schurig is an associate of David Smith (David R. Smith), who heads a research group on "Novel Electromagnetic Materials" (metamaterials, etc.) at Duke. Like Mr. Schurig, Mr. Smith also came to Duke by way of UCSD. Looks like Duke’s been busy stealing all of UCSD’s best metamaterials talent.
Mr. Schurig’s statement that viable metamaterial-based invisibility cloaking technology is somewhere around 10 years out makes AAE’s currently-available "Invisibility Stealth" cloaking tech all the more impressive, if it works as well as the company claims, especially since various versions of the Stealth Technology System, including IR/NV Stealth 4, can be incorporated into clothing like military flight suits, combat uniforms/BDUs, and coveralls. In fact, AAE claims that the U.S. Army Advanced Combat Uniform (ACU) BDU can be treated with the Stealth 4 tech when its sent in for cleaning by its owner! While DefenseReview hopes that the AAE Invsibility Stealth cloaking tech lives up to the hype and does everything the company says it does, we have to maintain a healthy level of skepticism until we either see it operate in person, or a reliable third-party source whom we trust validates it. Until then, we’re in a wait-and-see holding pattern.