The U.S. Army experienced thermal imagers during the second Iraq war and was uncontrollably delighted with them. Silhouette silhouette at night on the background of a cooled desert tank It was clearly visible for miles - so that it was possible to point weapons in the thermal image. After such success, the U.S. Army began to buy thousands of sensitive thermal imagers. In addition, under contract, BAE Systems creates a combined night vision device and a thermal imager in the form of glasses for the US Army. The development of these points received a budget of $ 434 million.
As the combat experience of using thermal imagers was accumulated and clips appeared on the Internet, which demonstrated how a helicopter with a thermal sight shoots the enemy, as if on a testing ground, a kind of “thermal fear” gradually began to spread. They say that Americans equipped with thermal sights, can shoot the enemy at night, as if in a dash. Of course, all this was tried on the Russian army, which so far lacked the same number of thermal imaging devices, and from this they made sentimental conclusions: that the Americans could win us in the war.
Thermal imager gives tactical advantages
However, despite all the advantages, the thermal imager is still a rather rare thing even for the American army, in which, by the beginning of 2012, about 13 of thousands of thermal imaging devices were supplied. Helicopters and armored vehicles are already equipped with them, but the infantry has so far not much thermal imagers. The reason is a rather high price, a lot of weight (the lightest device for small arms weighs 1,7 kg, and the machine gun thermal sight weighs 3,2 kg), as well as difficulties with power supply. In addition, compact thermal imagers do not have matrix cooling systems, so their range, resolution and image clarity are far behind helicopter sights.
However, even if there is only one reconnaissance thermal imager in the platoon (like French Sophie binoculars weighing about 2 kg and a person's identification range in 1200-1300 meters), and the machine guns are equipped with thermal sights, this gives a significant advantage over the enemy in night combat. Thermal imagers allow you to see the position and movement of the enemy, adjust the machine-gun fire and inflict losses from the maximum firing range, and then the infantrymen with usual night vision devices will finish the job.
In general, with the development of night-time devices, a trend has appeared: up to 70% of fire contacts occur at night. This is understandable: the side equipped with night-time devices is trying with all its might to realize its technical advantage.
So the question of the use of thermal imagers should not be underestimated. Even if the enemy has a few of them, you can be defeated. However, there is also a tendency to exaggerate the capabilities of thermal imagers, which is clearly used for propaganda that suppresses the morale of the likely adversary. “Thermal Imaging Fear” is clearly deliberately bloated. But we have already passed. At first, a new weapon always caused such a “fear” until the means of counteraction were found.
From polycarbonate to padded jacket
As soon as it became clear, the domestic “survivalist” public began to intensively wiggle their brains on how to overcome the newest technology of a potential adversary with something simple, like a brick. Although by themselves the survivalists often cause only the smile of many of their naive ideas, we must nevertheless pay tribute: it was precisely in the matter of deceiving the thermal imagers of the potential invaders of their native forests and marshes that they were able to go far ahead. Everything was done according to science. Brainstorming was organized on the forums, and then the suggestions made were tested in marching and combat conditions with the help of a hunting thermal imager. Though not as good as a helicopter thermal imaging sight, it nevertheless made it possible to assess the capabilities of the equipment and the invented means of its deception. The findings were illustrated with photographs.
Dozens of rational proposals from national inventors were expressed and tested, without much exaggeration. The result was stunning, so to speak.
It turned out that the simplest and most improvised materials quite easily block the thermal radiation from the body, perceived by the thermal imager, which allows either to disguise (in the device under the disguise a dark spot can be seen where the person hid), or to strongly blur the contours of the heat spot. The latter is also very important, since to make it difficult to recognize the target is as important as to hide from the opponent’s gaze completely.
The first. There are many materials that block thermal radiation. These include glass that can hide heat even from a very sensitive sensor and at close range, almost point blank. An excellent result showed a light sheet of cellular polycarbonate, no worse than glass. Surprisingly well made ordinary polyethylene, transparent to thermal radiation. The polyethylene film, of course, did not completely cover the heat source, but on the other hand, it greatly eroded its contours. Among the human vegetation under a plastic wrap would be very difficult to see.
The principle was simple. Any material that heats up badly, does not re-radiate and does not reflect heat is suitable for blocking the thermal radiation perceived by the thermal imager. The worse the thermal conductivity of the material, the better. For example, a neoprene wetsuit looks black in a thermal imager. One of the participants in the brainstorming made a surprisingly simple and effective thing - an anti-thermal mask on the face. He took food foil and polyethylene, shifted them in several layers and pierced for strength. Then he took a piece of tourist foam (usually foamed polyethylene or ethylene-vinyl acetate), cut two narrow slits for the eyes in it, and attached the above-described heat reflector outside. After walking a few minutes in it so that the whole structure warmed by body heat, he took a picture on the thermal imager. On it, the face was covered with a black square, in which two slits for the eyes were burning brightly, like in an alien. The author of the development says that the slits for the eyes can be closed with glass. It seems that the good old cotton gauze mask from the Soviet textbook on civil defense will show not the worst result.
The second. Field tests were carried out in conditions of dense vegetation, shrubs and especially reeds. It turned out that the thermal imager of a person does not distinguish between reeds. Heat flow is blocked by reed stems in which water circulates, which creates a cooled screen. The same can be said about the thick grass, dense foliage, dense shrub. All this is a barrier beyond which the imager is difficult to see something. Survivors of this cheered. If Americans try to comb our forests at night, which have thick undergrowth, the imager will not help them much in this. Nevertheless, Russia is not Iraq, and the conditions are different here.
From this it was concluded that all kinds of shields and shelters of reeds, as well as of plywood can be quite effective masking from the thermal imager. This may be, for example, the most common, dense reed mat. The main thing - do not warm it up with the warmth of your body.
Since the climate of Russia is somewhat different from Iraq, and there are such weather phenomena as rain, snow and wet fog, it was found that this also helps against thermal imagers. The water in a plastic bottle, for example, completely hid the heat from the heated soldering iron. A wet cape, for example, a cloak, hides the heat is not fully, but it is very noticeable blurs the heat stain, making it difficult to recognize. In the wet rain forest from the imager will be of little use.
Third. Not bad mask from the imager, some types of clothing. Judging by the recall of experimenters, classical samples turned out to be the best: quilted jackets, wadded pants, jackets. The fur has shown itself quite well, but not everyone. Better fit fur with a hollow hair, to the greatest extent heat insulating.
American strategists can grind their teeth: a padded jacket protects Russians here too. Vodka can also be a means of protection. In the cold, even a small amount of alcohol leads to a narrowing of the peripheral vessels of the body, which leads to the fact that the extremities cool and become less noticeable in the imager. You can cover the whole body with protection, but brightly glowing warm hands can give a person, especially close. The main thing - do not get involved and remember the danger of frostbite.
But this is not all discovery. From the most remarkable, it turned out that a conventional umbrella is a very effective tool against a thermal imager. Under an open umbrella, the person in the imager is not visible. The umbrella blocks the heat flux from the body, but it does not heat up on its own and does not re-radiate heat. The same effect has a tent, and indeed any cloth shed, located at some distance from people.
Thermal imaging shield
Thus, the efforts of the public have shown that the imager can be rendered useless by the simplest means made from scrap materials. You can easily disguise yourself in a position, close a firing point or a sniper's position from thermal detection. If desired, you can hide from the detection of the imager even in motion. It will require a growth shield, suppose of polycarbonate or light plywood, which the fighter carries in front of him with his left hand, for which a special belt fastening is made on the shield (necessarily insulated from the shield). A shield is made in the shield for observation, covered with transparent plastic or tempered glass. The shield itself must be camouflaged from visual observation: camouflage coloration and the stems and branches attached to it.
Tactically, such a shield is most applicable, firstly, at night, and secondly, in combination with other obstacles, such as trees, bushes, buildings (but we must remember that stone buildings, heated by the sun, glow at night in a thermal imager and can be unmasked who will pass on their background). It is better to move with him by attaching steps, making sure that the shield does not move the branches of trees and bushes (this will be seen in the imager). You can kneel down and put a shield in front of you, you can lie down and lay it in front of you or cover yourself with it. To shoot, you need to turn a little to the side, holding the weapon ready, but after the shot (even with PBS; in the imager, the weapon warmed by body heat and shots will burn with a bright spot) you must immediately change position and hide yourself with a shield. It is also necessary to remember that frequent shooting from behind the shield will soon lead to the fact that hot powder gases can form a bright halo in the imager around the shield. So it is desirable to change the position as often as possible.
The possibility of creating a special insulating equipment that dramatically reduces the visibility in the imager is also being discussed. It is possible that such a kit can be created and it will be effective. But it is unlikely to be widespread. Most likely, it will be used in special forces and intelligence. For the rest of the army, simpler and more accessible means of thermal disguise, such as the shields described above or fabric bed curtains and capes, will remain, especially if this is a mass army.