British troops have been testing a Harry Potter-style ‘invisibility cloak’ that makes them disappear on the battlefield.
During field trials in the US, soldiers from 3rd Battalion The Rifles (3 Rifles) used a high-tech camouflage sheeting called Vatec that even hid them from infra-red and heat-seeking devices.
But The Mail on Sunday understands that even more radical camouflage technologies are being developed that seek to replicate how cephalopods, such as squid or octopus, blend in with their environment and avoid predators.
Their skin contains pigment- rich cells known as chromatophores that react to external factors such as the threat of a predator to change colour.
Scientists have recently made significant steps towards mimicking this process, which they call visual appearance modulation, with a new material.
One side of the material contains thousands of tiny light-sensitive cells that can detect surrounding colours. Electrical signals then trigger the top layer to imitate those colours by using heat-sensitive dyes.
The change in colour apparently takes two to three seconds.
Scientific sources estimate that in five years this colour-changing technology could also be used to disguise military vehicles on the battlefield.
The remarkable technology was first developed at the University of Illinois and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Engineering professor Xuanhe Zhao, at MIT, said: ‘I have high hopes for its use in military camouflage. At the moment the military spends millions of dollars developing new camouflage patterns but they’re all static right now, they don’t change. If you put a pattern designed for the forest into the desert, it is not going to function.
‘Dynamic camouflage would allow soldiers and their vehicles to adapt to their surroundings instantly.’
The tests by 3 Rifles and American troops of camouflage material that is ready for use now against enemies such as Islamic State and the Taliban took place earlier this year at the US Army’s centre for experimental warfare techniques at Fort Benning, Georgia.
During the trials, British snipers used Vatec – which can be moulded into shapes to match mountainous terrain – to build hideaways on a mock battlefield.
They said they could not be seen even when other soldiers acting as the enemy tried to find them using the latest heat-seeking gadgets and infra-red trackers.
Last night, British troops pleaded with top brass to buy the latest camouflage equipment.
Corporal Tyrone Hoole, a sharpshooter from 3 Rifles, said: ‘This is an absolutely brilliant piece of kit. The lads are desperate for the Army to buy it. Instead of carrying chicken wire, spray paint and thermal sheets we can use this one item, which is really light.’
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