The Future is Here: The Invisibility Cloak!

quantum-stealth-fieldInvisibility cloaks have long been considered the next frontier of modern warfare. With stealth aircraft, stealth ships and even stealth tanks in service or on well on their way, it seems like the time is ripe for a stealth soldier. But difficulties remains. Whereas cloaking planes, ships and tanks is a matter of simply coating them in materials that can obscure them from radar and thermal imagine, soldiers need camouflage that can move, bend and flex with them.

In recent years, the efforts to produce a working “invisibility cloak” have born considerable fruit. And while most of these took the form of large, cumbersome, desk-mounted constructions that were more of a proof of concept for the material being tested, they did demonstrate that the technology itself worked. This was certainly true of the “cloak” which was created by scientists at Duke University in November of 2012.

INVISIBILITY-CLOAKAnd then came news the following month that a Canadian company named Hyperstealth developed a material that renders the wearer “completely invisible by bending light waves around the target.” Known as “Quantum Stealth”, this true cloak is an apparent follow-up to their SmartCamo – a material that could reportedly adjust its camouflage markings to match its surroundings – that was released at the International Camouflage Symposium in 2010.

Unfortunately, due to security reasons, little was ever known about SmartCamo other than its reported abilities. The same holds true for Quantum Stealth, which the company has been forced to remain clandestine about due the demands of the US Army, to whom they are contracted. So until such time as it enters widespread use, the details and inner workings of the technology will remain inaccessible.

invisibility_cloak1Luckily, the University of Texas in Austin is under no such constrictions, and it is from them that the latest and greatest news comes. In addition to being composed of conventional materials, their new cloak measures a mere 166 micrometers thick and is capable of obscuring an object from multiple directions at once. And though it may not be able to render a soldier truly invisible, it does render them all but invisible to radar detection, which is the intent here.

The fabrication process involved placing a 66µm-thick sheet of carbon (or a metascreen) onto a a 100µm-thick sheet of flexible polycarbonate. The copper is patterned specifically so that the scattered light from the cloak and the cloaked object cancel each other out. This flexible sheet also allows the cloak to conform to the shape of the object, or person, and provides cloaking from microwave radiation from all directions.

invisibility_cloak_uoftNow here’s where things get literal. The researchers responsible for this breakthrough have indicated that, in theory, this cloak could be used to cloak visible light as well. After all, microwaves, infrared and visible light are all physically identical; they are just waves that oscillate at different frequencies. And their design would be more capable of doing this than any cloak composed of metamaterials.

Still, size and scale are still an issue. Whereas their new patterned material scattering technique is capable of hiding an object from multiple directions, it also inversely scales with wavelength. That means that it is only capable of hiding micrometer-scale objects from 400-800THz of visible light. Still, this is exciting news and a step in the right direction!

Before we know it, stealth troopers could be marching all over the planet, invisible to the naked eye and any means of radar detection… Holy crap, what a scary thought! Is it too late to rethink this technology?

future_soldierSource: Extremetech.com, (2)

Iran Launches Monkey Into Space (Apparently)

iran_rocketIn spite of years being under a trade embargo, Iran claims to be making some rather interesting breakthroughs. In addition to drones, long range missiles and stealth aircraft, they now claim to have sent a primate into space. According to the state news network, the successful flight involved a relatively small rocket that went straight up and down, and is a “prelude to sending humans.” Oh, and the monkey arrived safe and sound.

Whereas some defense analysts in the US and other nations worry that this was a demonstration of potential military might, others see it in different terms. For example, Jonathan McDowell – a Harvard astronomer who tracks rocket launches and space activity – claims that the exercise was merely a step towards Iran’s stated goal of developing rockets that could send human astronauts into space, a goal Tehran has repeated publicly for more than a year.

Alive, but not comfortable!
Alive, but not comfortable!

“It doesn’t demonstrate any militarily significant technology,” he said. “This is a tiny old rocket, and what’s on top is useful only for doing astronaut stuff.” Charles P. Vick, an expert on Iranian rockets at GlobalSecurity.org, went farther, stating that the report may have been a fabrication, seeing as how Iran tried and failed to perform the same launch operation back in 2011.
Naturally, there was also the propaganda value of the feet. James E. Oberg, a former NASA engineer and author of a dozen books on human spaceflight, claim that “to a large degree, it’s a fig leaf.” Apparently, such peaceful flights could take global attention off the nation’s military feats and ambitions, comparable to what North Korea does with much of its research and development programs.

In any case, the reportedly successful launch of the Kavoshgar-class rocket – which went by the name of Pishgam (trans: Pioneer) –  came amidst announcements by Iranian sources that stated they were developing a space capsule meant to hold human astronauts. “It’s based on Chinese technology,” Mr. Vick said, adding that Iran had nearly completed a large new launching pad big enough for powerful rockets that could loft warheads, satellites or people into space.

In short, we can expect little in the way of clarity and plenty in the way of worrying from western analysts over this latest development. And of course, as usual, the monkey always get forgotten in the mix! One thing that was not reported on was the brave little astronauts name. After all we’ve put them through for the sake of advances space travel, don’t the space monkeys deserve the same kind credit as human astronauts? Hell, even Russia put Laika on a commemorative stamp!

laika-stampSee? Guess you got to die if you’re an animal and want some recognition around here! Rest in peace Laika! Click on the links below to read more:

Source: The New York Times.com, Universtoday.com

The Next Big Thing: Blog Hop!

Yeah, apparently there’s this new thing making the rounds known of late. Lord knows this here internet is filled with memes, but when you get tagged as part of a new one, you gotta go play. My thanks to Casey Sheridan for being the one to tag me, and now I go on to spread the word! Of course, it behooves me to post the rules of this particular meme. Here they are:

  • Give credit to the person/blog that tagged you (already done!)
  • Post the rules for this hop (in progress!)
  • Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog
  • Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

And now, here are the author questions which I shall begin to answer in sequential order:

  1. What is the working title of your book?
    Data Miners
  2. What genre does the book fall under?
    Thriller/suspense, but with some clear science fiction elements since a lot of it is speculative
  3. Which actors would you choose to play your characters for the movie rendition?
    C.S. Lee (who plays Vince Masuka on Dexter) as Yamal Pradchaphet, Lyndsy Fonseca as Agent Righetti, and Mila Kunis as Angela Thompson.
  4. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
    A second-rate programmer by day and hacker by night finally stumbles onto a real-life conspiracy that is ten years in the making.
  5. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
    Self-published to begin with, with the intent that it will be represented at some later date
  6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
    Three y
  7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
    If pressed, I’d say Neuromancer, Cryptonomicon, and Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, the works that most directly inspired it.
  8. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
    Reading plenty of William Gibson and other thrillers about technological trends, cryptology and espionage.
  9. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
    The book explores the mysteries of the human mind, with inspirations from Arthur Koestler, B.F. Skinner, and Gilbert Ryle; the concept of digital immortality; and several ongoing questions about what really happened to the Stealth Fighter that was shot down during the Kosovo War.

And last, but certainly not least, are the five people I want to tag next. Naturally, this is 100% volunteer participation, so if you can’t join, don’t worry about it:

Rami Ungar – http://ramiungarthewriter.wordpress.com
Nina D’Arcangela – http://sotetangyal.wordpress.com
Nicola Higgins – http://nicolahigginsfiction.wordpress.com
Lesley Carter – http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com
Margaret E. Alexander – http://addictivestory.wordpress.com

Thanks again to Casey, and hope everyone has a good week!

Stealth Aircraft of the World

F-35Like many guys, I went through a period in which I was highly fascinated by aircraft, to the point that I wanted to be a fighter pilot. Years later… well, not much as changed. I still love aircraft, and sometimes entertain fantasies of flying one! Perhaps an aerospace fighter, if and when aliens try to invade us! But I digress…

Of all the aircraft that I’ve ever studied, stealth craft remain the most cool and interesting. And in honor of this ongoing fascination, I’ve decided to do a list of the world’s various stealth fighters, stealth bombers, and miscellaneous stealth craft. Due to the fact that many new ones are under development and the subject of much secrecy, I’ve decided to stick to those that are currently or have been in operation.

I present them now, in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

B-2 Spirit:
B-2There’s nothing like a classic… a big, bad classic! A strategic stealth bomber, the Spirit is one of the first stealth craft to be developed, though its entry into service was overshadowed by the F-117 (see below). A long range aircraft, the Spirit is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons. Developed in conjunction being Boeing and Northrop Grumman, development began during the late 70’s and continued into the 80’s.

It’s original purpose was to penetrate Soviet anti-aircraft defenses and deploying nuclear weapons against high-value targets. With the end of the Cold War, the program was scaled back and the B2 did not see active service until 1997. It was has participated in the Kosovo War in 99 and was deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq for conventional, long-range bombing missions.

The Spirit requires a crew of two and contains two internal bomb bays in which munitions are stored, either on a rotary launcher or two bomb-racks. The B2 was the first to carry weapons in this fashion, which results less radar visibility than externally mounting of munitions. These internal weapons bays are capable of equipping conventional bombs, cruise missiles, and nuclear weapons. However, the bomber carries no surface to air missiles or guns, relying on its stealth technology to avoid encounters with enemy fighters.

Chengdu J-20:
Chendu-J20China’s been making a lot of waves in the news lately thanks to the development of its stealth fighter program. And though they may be thirty years late to the party, they are in a perfect position to take advantage of all the latest developments. Much like all 5th generation stealth craft, the J-20 is based on the concept of a twin-engine multi-role fighter aircraft that is stealthy, not undetectable.

Beginning in the 1990’s, the J-20 was unveiled in 2011, though it is not expected to enter service between 2017 to 2019. However, China has publicized the creation of this fighter extensively as part of its modernization efforts. The source of the technology remains unknown, though some speculate that it was reverse engineered from samples taken from the downed F-117 in Serbia (see below). Chinese sources deny this, however, claiming it was the result of home-grown innovation.

And like other 5th generation craft, the J-20 has a belly-mounted internal weapons bay for short and long-range air-to-air missiles, and two smaller lateral weapon bays behind the air inlets for short-range weapons. From some photos obtained of the fighter, the armament capacity appears to be the same as the F-22 Raptor, with six weapons mounts.

F-117 Nighthawk:
F117-NighthawkThe first ever stealth craft to be unveiled, the Nighthawk will forever be known the “Stealth Fighter”, despite its ground-attack role. A single seat, twin-engine craft, the Nighthawk was developed in the late 70’s by Lockheed Martin. By 1983, it was introduced to the US Air Force but was not officially unveiled until 1988 when it began participating in military operations.

The first was in 1989 during the US invasion of Panama. However, this would be overshadowed by its more publicized role in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. There, it took part in 1,300 sorties, scored direct hits on 1,600 high-value targets in Iraq and was one of the few US and Allied aircraft to actually take part in strikes on downtown Baghdad. Throughout that war, and despite the proliferation of AAA, not a single craft was shot down.

During the Kosovo war, in 1999, the first F-117 was shot down outside of Belgrade by a Serbian missile brigade that had been experimenting with short-wave detection. This one incidents remains the only combat loss in the aircraft’s operational history, which ended in 2003 due to the introduction of the F-22 and other newer generations of stealth aircraft.

F-22 Raptor:
F-22A_Raptor_-03-4058
The original 5th generation fighter, the Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine supermaneuverable fighter aircraft that uses stealth technology in a revolutionary way. Unlike previous generations of fighters, like the F-117, that attempted to be invisible on radar, the F-22 was designed to be difficult to detect, thus affording it a tactical advantage against enemy aircraft. Hence, it was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities that include ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence roles.

Development of this fighter craft began in the early 80’s with the intention of replacing the older F-15 and F-16 fighters, largely in response to the development of newer Soviet aircraft (such as the SU-27 and MiG-29). By the early 90’s, the first prototypes were released and highly publicized, with the first test flight taking place in 1997. In addition to its internal bays, thrust vectoring, and state-of-the-art control systems, the F-22 also incorporated stealthy materials and molded surfaces to minimize radar signature.

Since it entered service in 2005, the production of F-22’s has been stalled and restarted a few times over, largely in response to the development of the F-35. In 2010, funding for further production was officially cut. Nevertheless, the F-22 remains one of the most imitated designs in the world, inspiring the Sukhoi PAK FA and the Chendu J-20.

F-35 Lightning II:
f-35s
The latest 5th generation stealth craft to be developed in the US, the Lighting II is a revolutionary design that incorporates all previous innovations in the field of stealth fighters. Developed in the 90’s as part of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, the F-35 was intended to replace the aging F-16, A-10, F/A-18, and the British and American Harrier jump jets.

Though not officially in service yet, it made its debut flight in 2006 and is expected to join the US Air Force by 2016. In total, three variants have been proposed, each designed to fill a different type of mission profile. The F-35A is a conventional take and landing fighter, the B variant incorporates short-take off and vertical-landing capabilities, while the C is designed to be a carrier-based model.

Much like its predecessor, the F-22, the Lightning II possesses thrust vectoring, meaning it can adjust the angle of its thruster to assist in difficult turns. In the F-35B model, the engine nozzle is capable of being aimed straight down and, combined with a centrally-mounted turbofan, allows the craft to hover in place and land vertically. It’s internal weapons bays, stealthy shape and materials – all of which are adapted from the F-22 – also give it a low radar signature. In summary, it is the most advanced and versatile stealth fighter yet to be introduced to the world.

Sukhoi T-50:
Sukhoi_T-50
Last, we have Russia’s answer to the 5th generation stealth fighter challenge. Beginning in the late 1980’s as a successor to the Mig-29 and SU-27, the T-50 is the culmination of Russia’s PAK FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation) program. A single-seat, twin engine jet fighter, the T-50 represents the former Soviet blocs efforts to develop weapons comparable to the Western Allies.

The T-50 made its first flight in 2010 and is expected to join the Russian Air Force by 2015/16. Much like all 5th generation fighters currently in development or in operation, it’s armaments consist of two internal bays for missiles and either one or two GSh-301 30mm cannons.

In terms of its profile, the T-50 bears a striking resemblance to the F-22. However, it has some clear differences, such as the absence of thrust vectoring. However, it also takes advantage of some of the latest in avionics technology. These include three X-band arrays planted in the front and sides of the plane, as well two L-band placed in the wings. This allows for greater detection abilities, especially where stealth craft are involved. What’s more, the new technology enables fighter to fighter information sharing.

Final Thoughts:
Pretty cool huh? Given the advance of technology over the years, it seems like only a matter of time before fighters incorporate direct control through neural links, and polymorphic frames that can change shape based on altitude and air resistance. What’s more, in a few years time, we’re likely to see aircraft that can take advantage of the latest in adaptive camouflage and real-life cloaking technology, making the terms “stealth fighter” and “undetectable” quite literal! Cool indeed!

The Future is Here: Invisible Tanks!

Swedish-made CV90 with ADAPTIV panels

So far, we’ve heard of stealth fighters, stealth ships, and stealth suits. But what about stealth tanks? Why shouldn’t the mobile armored fighting vehicle be included in this race to make all weapons stealthy? Well its seems BAE (British Aerospace Marconi Electronic) Systems has decided to do just that. Working with the concept of Infra-Red imaging and its use on the modern battlefield, BAE has created the ADAPTIV camoflage system.

Basically, modern military vehicles use IR imaging for a number of purposes, namely target acquisition, night vision, homing and tracking. Ever since the late 80s and early 90s, any vehicle that did not have these capabilities found themselves at a marked disadvantage on the battlefield. After all, if you can see your enemy but they can’t see you, then you can destroy them with impunity!

A prime example of this happened during the Gulf War, where Iraqi armored formations were eviscerated simply they did not have the ability to see in the dark. While they moved about blind, US Abrams tanks simply targeted the enemy using their night vision and began picking them off one by one.

However, with every advanced army in the world employing IR technology, the pendulum has once again swung to defense. With all armies able to see an enemy vehicle’s thermal signature, any vehicle that has a way to hide it will now have the edge. That is the principle of ADAPTIV, which combines the idea of Infra-red concealment with the larger concept of adaptive camouflage.

Essentially, this consists of sheets of hexagonal panels that act as pixels when attached to the exterior of the vehicle. These pixels can individually change temperature very rapidly and combine to display an infrared image of the background scenery captured from cameras on board the vehicle, allowing even a moving tank to match its surroundings. BAE has also put together a library of images to display the heat signature of other vehicles, such as cars, trucks, and natural objects, such as large rocks.

Pretty cool huh? Already the technology has been proposed as being adaptable to more than just land vehicles. It can also be added to helicopters, surface ships, for commercial use, and can even send friendly identification signals. Check out the BAE promotional video below for a demonstration.