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ADAPTIV - active IR camouflage by BAe Systems
by IKE 09-Sep-2011 21:58

BAe Systems, one of the biggest defense contractors in the world just presented a system of modular components that appears to be capable of completely hide or modify at will an object’s thermal infrared signature. As you can see in the video below the ADAPTIV as it called, acts as an invisibility cloak in the IR spectrum and the results are very similar to a sci-fi film.---

Today military vehicles of every kind use several methods to conceal their IR signature. The most usual is the clever design of every heat generating part in order to avoid heat spikes that can reveal the vehicle. For example the engine outlets of attack helicopters have large heat diffusers where tightly packed thin metal plates disperse the exhaust gas heat. Other methods are specialized paint and coatings or use of nets and special fabrics with low heat conductivity. However this new system raises IR concealing to a whole new level.


ADAPTIV use a modular array of independent hexagon plates. These modules can actively alter their temperature separately by using commercial grade semi-conductors. These are devices that exploit a thermoelectric effect and by using electric current they can reduce the temperature on one of their sides while increasing it to their other. This active IR camouflage draws electric current and modulates the temperature of every plate either above or below the temperature of the environment. The plates are controlled in a way similar to the pixels of a computer screen. As you can see in the video above, not only they can blend a vehicle to the environment but can ‘light’ it as a whole or actively project the shape of something else, or even signs or text.

The system has various and numerous applications. It can be integrated in land, sea or air vehicles and if it is light enough for a medium sized helicopter it can be applied almost to anything. Land and sea vehicles will have no problem providing the necessary electric power. Even in aircrafts there is a strong trend towards having more electric power on board. The new Boeing 787 use electrically operated subsystems instead of air-bleed and the new generation of stealth aircraft, manned or unmanned will need electric power for their AESA sensors or even for non-kinetic direct energy weapons.

Of course the heat isn’t vanished, it is just concealed. When each thermoelectric plate reduces the temperature outside, it also at the same time increases its temperature inside That increase is from an energy point of view slightly larger than the energy equivalent of the respective decrease. So there is a need for carefully designed heat management. By presenting it as a fully modular system one can assume that ADAPTIV must be air-cooled or maybe the generated heat is too small to cause trouble.

Stealth aircraft like the new F-35 or F-22 apart from heat diffusers they use their onboard fuel to dump heat. In essence they are like flying thermos bottles and especially in F-35 there is a minimum amount of fuel needed if only but for cooling purposes. The use of active electronically controlled heat exchange devices may debut with these relatively low energy plates but can be expanded to more hot areas, like engine nozzles.

More info: http://www.baesystems.com/../Adaptiv/..

(images and video: BAe Systems)

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