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Stealth tanks 'could be on battlefield within five years'


Artist's concept of stealth tanks programme

LONDON (PTI): In what may transform the way in which future wars will be fought, British military scientists claim to be developing stealth tanks that would be ready for use on the battlefield within five years.

A team at defence company BAE Systems says that the tanks will use a new technology known as "e-camouflage" which deploys an "electronic ink" to render a vehicle "invisible".

Highly sophisticated electronic sensors attached to the tank's hull will project images of surrounding environment back onto the outside of the vehicle enabling it to merge into the landscape and evade attack, say the scientists.

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, 'The Sunday Telegraph' reported.

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, say the scientists involved in the Future Protected Vehicle project.

The scientists hope the new technology will be available to use with the British Army fighting in Afghanistan and in future conflicts. The programme is based around seven different military vehicles, both manned and unmanned, to be equipped with wide variety of lethal and none lethal weapons.

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

The stealth tanks will 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 that can carry a range of mission payloads, such as protected mobility, air defence and ambulance.

The vehicles will also have 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 controlled unmanned recce and Atlas -- a convoy system which removes the driver from harm's way.

Military 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 scientists say.

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."

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