Active Camouflage Material Shows Promise At Hiding From Infrared Or Visual Detection

An invisibility cloak may seem like science fiction, but despite that, many scientists and engineers have put much time into developing the concept, pushing it closer to reality. A device which detects the nature of its surroundings and changes its own properties to blend in may be complex, but a multitude of examples in the animal world show that it’s not impossible to achieve.

A team from Seoul National University recently developed a flexible material designed in part as a flexible “cloaking” material. We’ll take a look at the underlying concept behind such devices below, and look at how this work furthers the state of the art in the field.

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Plasma “Ghosts” May Help Keep Future Aircraft Safe

Air-to-air combat or “dogfighting” was once a very personal affair. Pilots of the First and Second World War had to get so close to land a hit with their guns that it wasn’t uncommon for altercations to end in a mid-air collision. But by the 1960s, guided missile technology had advanced to the point that a fighter could lock onto an enemy aircraft and fire before the target even came into visual range. The skill and experience of a pilot was no longer enough to guarantee the outcome of an engagement, and a new arms race was born.

An F-15 launching flare countermeasures.

Naturally, the move to guided weapons triggered the development of defensive countermeasures that could confuse them. If the missile is guided by radar, the target aircraft can eject a cloud of metallic strips known as chaff to overwhelm its targeting system. Heat-seeking missiles can be thrown off with a flare that burns hotter than the aircraft’s engine exhaust. Both techniques are simple, reliable, and have remained effective after more than a half-century of guided missile development.

But they aren’t perfect. The biggest problem is that both chaff and flares are a finite resource: once the aircraft has expended its stock, it’s left defenseless. They also only work for a limited amount of time, which makes timing their deployment absolutely critical. Automated dispensers can help ensure that the countermeasures are used as efficiently as possible, but sustained enemy fire could still deplete the aircraft’s defensive systems if given enough time.

In an effort to develop the ultimate in defensive countermeasures, the United States Navy has been working on a system that can project decoy aircraft in mid-air. Referred to as “Ghosts” in the recently published patent, several of these phantom aircraft could be generated for as long as the system has electrical power. History tells us that the proliferation of this technology will inevitably lead to the development of an even more sensitive guided missile, but in the meantime, it could give American aircraft a considerable advantage in any potential air-to-air engagements.

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Ask Hackaday: How Did They Shoot Down A Stealth Aircraft?

It was supposed to be a routine mission for U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Darrell P. Zelko, a veteran pilot of the 1991 Gulf War. The weather over the capital city of Serbia was stormy on the night of March 27th, 1999, and only a few NATO planes were in the sky to enforce Operation Allied Force. Zelco was to drop 2 laser guided munitions and get back to his base in Italy.

There was no way for him to know that at exactly 8:15pm local time, a young Colonel of the Army of Yugoslavia had done what was thought to be impossible. His men had seen Zelco’s unseeable F117 Stealth Fighter.

Seconds later, a barrage of Soviet 60’s era S-125 surface-to-air missiles were screaming toward him at three times the speed of sound. One hit. Colonel Zelco was forced to eject while his advanced stealth aircraft fell to the ground in a ball of fire. It was the first and only time an F117 had been shot down. He would be rescued a few hours later.

How did they do it? How could a relatively unsophisticated army using outdated soviet technology take down one of the most advanced war planes in the world? A plane that was supposed be invisible to enemy radar? As you can imagine, there are several theories. We’re going deep with the “what-ifs” on this one so join us after the break as we break down and explore them in detail.

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Stealth Camper Van

Sometimes you need to sleep where you’re not supposed to. In this case, [MisterE] wanted to cut the costs associated with his climbing trips. He took a 2001 GMC Savana cargo van and turned it into a stealthy mobile living space. The project is from back in 2008 and we almost waved off from featuring it. But when you start to look at all of the creative space-saving solutions in the hack we think you’ll agree it’s worth a look.

Since he’s a climber that means time in the mountains, which can be quite cold. The sides and floor of the van were insulated to about R19 before the build work itself started and there’s a small wall-mounted heater. For comfort, a fouton was a must for sleeping but also for its double use as a sofa. For style the only choice here was bead-board to cover all of the walls. There is a small kitchenette that is mainly just a sink (we’ve seen running water in vehicles before). A couple of extra batteries power all of the electronics: audio, laptop, etc. When asked, [MisterE] confirms that he added hidden storage areas for his more pricey gear. Total cost on the project came it at $11,500. About nine for the van and the rest for improvements.

He mentions he blew an inverter because of grounding issues while starting the van. As long as he turns it off before start-up he’s fine. Shouldn’t there be a better way to build protection into this? Please leave a comment after the break and let us know what you’d do differently.

[Thanks Mac]

The Future Of Annoyance

ae83_phantom_keystroker_v2

[Garrett] posted about ThinkGeek updating the Phantom Keystroker to support random capslocking. You may remember that [Garrett] built the Stealth USB CapsLocker for April Fool’s day. The tiny device would randomly turn on the victim’s Caps Lock. This update to the commercial product has inspired him to refresh his own design. He suggests few possible options: random inserts, erratic volume control, or random sleeps. He’s also planning on making it more accessible to hacking. What would you add?