With a long and distinguished history in developing camouflage systems, Saab is well known for its Barracuda multispectral signature management solutions, with features beyond anything else on the market. The constant evolution of sensor threats places higher demands on reliable and well-proven camouflage systems.
Being well camouflaged is one of the greatest advantages that a unit can have in-theatre. While advanced weapons, sophisticated sensors and well-trained troops are all major assets, the operational gain provided by being able to manoeuvre undetected cannot be overrated.
“Effective camouflage provides you with the ability to act first,” explains Lisa Nigran, Director of Marketing for Saab’s camouflage business Barracuda. “It allows you to stay static when you need to and manoeuvre when you chose to. If you don’t have the right camouflage, you risk being detected, identified and hit.” Casualties and the loss of initiative are not renoewned pre-conditions to winning!
Today, camouflage developers face new sensor threats in the form of the more common and more affordable radar sensors currently under development, as well as relatively low-tech unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which can be deployed in great numbers at low cost. Synthetic aperture radar technology, particularly in space-based systems, where multiple radar sensors collect data and bring them together in one image, has grown rapidly in the last few years. With this development, the community of companies selling these images commercially has also grown. Today, advanced hardware is needed to produce radar images, but in the near future radar data might be purchased from these companies at significantly lower prices than today.
A future in which the radar sensors becomes more common does not mean that other sensors disappear. On the contrary, sensors in all parts of the spectrum continue to evolve. The need for a multi-spectral camouflage system is constant.
”About 20 years ago, you needed to be a highly technical advanced nation to have access to radar technology. In the near future, parties and other organisations with less technical knowledge and resources will have access to radar technology. Suddenly, these actors will have access to highly advanced radar systems, with all-weather and night-time capabilities. A key motivation for us at Saab Barracuda is to stay ahead of this evolution. Multispectral capabilities in camouflage nets will be even more important in the upcoming years,” explains Johan Jersblad, Senior Development Engineer at Saab Barracuda.
While the Barracuda range is world-class and in service with armed forces across the planet, sensing technology is constantly evolving and camouflage technology needs to keep pace. To achieve this, Saab Barracuda has a great team of engineers at its research and development centre at Gamleby in Sweden, as well as an additional team in the United States.
One technique under review for use in camouflage is nanotechnology, involving engineering products at the nano-scale of between 1-100 nanometres or one-billionth of a metre. This technology has the potential to bring major advances to the properties of the coatings and pigments used in camouflage materials. “We have done some experiments and trials and we’re working together on this with other institutes, whilst looking at the associated production engineering,” Nigran says.