Imagine for a moment what the battlefield will look like in the future. Unmanned planes flying through the air; robots fighting on the ground; smart missiles hunting down targets. Now imagine that none of this can be detected on radar screens.
It may sound fictional, but it's happening. An Israeli company called Nanoflight is currently developing a special paint that makes drones, missiles, or war craft simply disappear. Or, to be more precise, they become very difficult to detect.
The critical stage in developing the paint, which was developed in a nanotechnology lab, has recently concluded, and a successful test run was conducted this week. For the test run, a thin layer of the material was painted on dummy missiles, and radar waves aimed at them had a difficult time registering them.
The paint particles don't make the missile's detection on the radar disappear completely, but make it exceedingly difficult to positively identify the object as a missile. In the future, this development will allow any missile or jet significantly decreased radar detection.
Even though they may not entirely disappear from radar screens, this technology is a considerably more cost-effective method to evade radar detection than purchasing an American stealth plane for $5 billion.
How does it work? In order to locate objects, the radar transmitter sends out electromagnetic waves. When these waves hit an object, they are scattered in all directions, with some of them being bounced back to the radar itself. Regular signal reception indicates the existence of an object.
The nanotechnology developed envelopes the object, absorbs the radio waves emitted by the radar, and releases them as heat energy scattered in space. In doing so, the material disguises the object, making it difficult to identify by radar.
"We are only at the beginning and are discovering new worlds everyday," said Eli Shaldag, a former senior Israel Air Force official who worked on the Arrow missile project. He currently is part of the military applications department of Nanoflight.
"This is a breakthrough with the potential to change the rules of the game in the battlefield," Shaldag said.
When will the material be ready for use on war craft?
"We have already completed the main development stage. We conducted a number of tests and discovered that the particles in their nanotechnology composition do significantly neutralize the ability to detect objects that have been painted with the material. We are entering the second stage, after which we will already be able to produce the material in larger quantities."
Will this material be applicable for additional uses in the future?
"Absolutely yes. Discovery of nanotechnology materials is still in its infancy, and we are decoding the secret of this technology's power every day. We are currently working on developing an application of the material that will work with infrared so that soldiers won't be detected on night-vision goggles."
According to company officials, the material can also be used for civilian purposes.
"Just like the nanotechnology material can prevent a radar from detecting a missile, it can also prevent radiation emitted by electrical transformers from reaching nursery schools," said Nanoflight CEO Ricardo Burstein.
Burstein also noted that the material can prevent pollution through its absorption and transformation properties.
"In the future, it could be painted on sidewalks and roads in order to decrease air pollution. We are currently conducting an experiment with the City of Ramat Gan in which we are painting guardrails with the material in order to purify pollution from cars," Burstein explained.