; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Monday, January 10, 2011

Battlefield Tech Focus on Deception, Deterence and Minimal Trauma

telegraph - Armoured vehicles will use a new technology known as "e-camouflage" which deploys a form "electronic ink" to render a vehicle "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.

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.

Unlike conventional forms of camouflage, the images on the hull would change in concert with the changing environment always insuring that the vehicle remains disguised.

In Helmand, for example, all armoured vehicle have desert sand coloured camouflage, which is of little use in the "Green Zone", an area of cultivation where crops are grown and the Taliban often hide.

Up until recently such concepts were thought to be the stuff of science fiction but scientists at the defence company BAE Systems now believe battlefield "invisibility" will soon become science fact.

Scientists at the BAE hope the new technology will be available to use with the British Army fighting in Southern Afghanistan and in future conflicts.

The concept was developed as part of the Future Protected Vehicle programme, which scientists believe, will transform the way in which future conflicts will be fought.

The programme is based around seven different military vehicles, both manned and unmanned, which will be equipped with a wide variety of lethal and none lethal weapons.

The unmanned vehicles or battlefield robots will be able to conduct dangerous missions in hostile areas, clear minefields and extract wounded troops under fire.

The vehicles include:

* Pointer: an agile robot which can take over dirty, dull or dangerous jobs, such as forward observation and mine clearance.

* Bearer: a modular platform which can carry a range of mission payloads, such as protected mobility, air defence and ambulance;

* Wraith: a low signature scout vehicle;

* Safeguard: an ultra-utility infantry carrier or command & control centre;

* Charger: a highly lethal and survivable reconfigurable attack vehicle;

* Raider: a remotely or autonomously controlled unmanned recce and skirmishing platform – similar in design to the "Batmobile"

* Atlas: a convoy system which removes the driver from harm's way.

BAE's Future vehicle project is, in part, a reaction to the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) 'Capability Vision' for armoured vehicles, designed to spur development along different paths from the MoD's previous research.

Commanders are aiming for a prototype within four years and an experimental operational capacity by 2013.

The brief is for a lightweight vehicle, weighing 30 tonnes, powered by a hybrid electric drive, with the same effectiveness and survivability of a current main battle tank.

The UK's current tank, the Challenger 2, weighs 62.5 tonnes, and runs a 1,200hp V12 diesel engine.

Britain's current fleet of armoured vehicles are also close to approaching the end of their service life and armoured vehicles designed specifically for use in Helmand, such as the hugely successful Mastiff, may be inappropriate for use in other operational theatres.

Scientists at BAE are also looking at a number of revolution battlefield inventions which will increase troop protection as well as making the vehicles more lethal.

One concept being developed is to develop technologies, which will cut the use of fuel on the battlefield. In Afghanistan, the cost of fuel is 50 times that of the pump price.

All fuel currently used by NATO troops comes in via road convoys which are often attacked by insurgents which are responsible for 80 per cent of US casualties.

Scientists are close to developing a form of transparent armour - much tougher than bullet proof glass – which could be used in turrets of on the sides of armoured vehicles which would improve the situational awareness of troops inside.

Also being developed is a technology known as "biometric integration which uses advanced algorhythms to analyse crowds and to search for potential threats from suicide bombers by analyzing suspicious behavior in groups or individuals.

Electronic scanners would search for suspicious behavior, inappropriate clothing or individuals on wanted lists who can be identified through facial or iris recognition.

The information would then be displayed on screen within vehicle or handheld vehicles carried by dismounted troops.

Hisham Awad, the head of the Future Protected Vehicle project said: "The trick here is to use machines to do what they are best at (and humans are not) - ploughing very quickly through dull, repetitive data to strip out the overwhelming bulk which is of no use and would take a long time and enormous human resources to process.

"Then you can quickly bring human intelligence to bear where it excels - making life-or-death decisions based on 'real time' information on suspicious activity flagged up by the machines."


newscientist - Marauding pirates could soon find themselves up against a new long-range laser weapon, designed to leave them blinded, bewildered and all at sea.

Although the laser will not necessarily repel determined aggressors, it should let them know that they have been spotted while still at a distance and that their quarry is ready for them.

"This is very much a non-lethal weapon," says Bryan Hore of BAE Systems in Farnborough, UK, where the system was developed. By taking into account the range of the target, as well as the atmospheric conditions, the system can automatically regulate the intensity of the laser beam to ensure there is no lasting eye damage, he says.

Sight for sore eyes

While the effects are not permanent, the light should leave pirates at least wishing they had worn an eyepatch or two: from as far away as 1500 metres the effect of looking at the beam is like accidentally looking at the sun, says Hore.

"Sunglasses wouldn't help," he says – in fact, wearing them would only exacerbate the effect. That's because the glasses would not affect the green laser light – chosen because that colour is particularly irritating – but the laser would appear even brighter contrasted against the darkened background.

"It's a warning shot," says Hore. "[The pirates] are looking for targets of opportunity," he says.

The metre-wide beam can target the entire vessel and its crew. "They tend to be 6-metre skiffs," says Hore, so the beam can be scanned across the entire vessel. This would make it difficult for the attackers to target their weapons, which are usually AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, he says.

Piratical practice

According to antipiracy organisation the International Maritime Bureau there were 430 pirate attacks last year, an increase of 5.6 per cent on the previous year. In a bid to develop a suitable non-lethal weapon to help fend off this threat, BAE Systems studied pirate behaviour. The conclusion, says Hore, was that an automatic weapon was needed, one that would not put any of the crew at risk, and one which would distract suspected pirates rather than harm them.

The system has been field-tested from ranges of up to 1.2 kilometres, but using optical sensors rather than human subjects. But if it gets backing for commercial development it could be made available in as little as a year, he says.