The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has long been touted as the most advanced fighter on the planet, in no small part because the aircraft was purpose-built to reduce how visible it is to opponents while simultaneously offering an as-yet unprecedented array of sensors and pilot systems Lockheed Martin claims will allow pilots to see more, and further, than ever before. In effect, the F-35 may not be as fast or as maneuverable as opponents it may square off against us, but what it lacks in quickness it can make up for in a heightened awareness of the battlespace.
One of the ways they’ve accomplished this is by using a system called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS. This system combined video feeds from multiple cameras seamlessly, giving the pilot the ability to look directly through the aircraft. This technology would then allow the pilot to keep an eye on a target, whether it’s a surface vehicle or another aircraft, even in places traditional fighters can’t, like directly below or to the side of the aircraft. In effect, in the pilot’s view, the F-35 itself becomes invisible, no longer hampering the view of the surrounding area. Now, Ukraine based LimpidArmor claims to have developed a similar system for use in some far slower and less maneuverable platforms operating far below the F-35: tanks.
Using Microsoft HoloLens, a headset designed for use in augmented reality environments that can display images in the view of the wearer overlaid over the world around them, LimpidArmor’s Land Platform Modernization Kit uses four cameras positioned strategically around the tank to create a seamless display of the environment surrounding the vehicle. Crew members wearing the HoloLens headgear would then be able to look around their environment without being hampered by the tank’s heavy armor while also not having to potentially expose themselves to enemy fire. In a reconnaissance or patrol role, this technology could significantly improve the tank crew’s situational awareness, and in combat, it could dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to identify and respond to threats as they present themselves.
Because the system is based on Microsoft’s commercial augmented reality system, it also offers other benefits: aside from being able to effectively look through the walls of the tank, tank crews would also be able to keep a live feed of important data regarding the vehicle, operational objectives, or even the positions of friendly assets amid the chaos of combat. Because it’s off the shelf technology, costs are expected to be lower than many ground-up designs as well.
Of course, this new technology is being developed in parallel in a number of other companies hailing from a number of other nations, as the benefits of such an increased level of visibility in armored vehicles seem difficult to deny. It would seem, then, that the days of having to look through armored glass in combat vehicles may be numbered — as it seems clear that, as this technology matures, it will find its way into a number of different platforms.