When I was working for NRL, I had an opportunity to work on a biomarine project that had to do with seeding the ocean with time released pills that would attract sharks and other man-killing creatures (sea snakes, squid, rays, etc.) with the intent of protecting naval vessels. The object was to find a chemical mix that would be a powerful attractant that could be put into the water and it would work for hours or days. The attractant would bring in killer sharks or other sea creatures that would reduce or eliminate the underwater threat. We called the program BAIT bio-attractant interdiction and targeting.
We quickly found that we had to encapsulate the chemicals in a manner similar to time-released medicines in order to make them last more than a few minutes. I was surprised to find out that the science of micro-encapsulating chemicals was extremely well developed and that precise timing could be achieved with the right selected coating.
Even with long time delays of many days, we did not achieve the levels of protection we wanted. It was decided to try to release these attracting chemicals after they had made actual contact with an enemy diver or min-sub. Again I was surprised at how much had already been developed in terms of micro-encapsulating chemicals that would release their chemicals upon contact with specific materials in this case the foam rubber of wet suits. We got it to work but like a lot of bleeding edge weaponry, it was shelved as being too much trouble for too little gain. We also to a lot of flack from the Navy Seals that regarded the underwater arena as their battlefield and they did not want it contaminated with other creatures. The BAIT program was shelved.
What it impressed upon me was the whole science of micro-encapsulation and its possibilities. Late on, when I went to work for DARPA, I recalled this knowledge to solve one of their most ambitious projects. This is one of those topics that they dont want me to talk about but technically and officially, the cat is out of the bag and the restrictions are off so here it is .
The art and science of camouflage is very well developed and getting better all the time. We are not too far away from near invisibility using light bending materials or projections but those are for what they call Dynamic Camouflage (DC) used for moving objects like aircraft, ships, soldiers and tanks. There is a much less well developed science for Static Camouflage (SC) used to hide fixed installations, field units, artillery, command posts, and even entrenched soldiers. SC is actually not much more developed than it was in WWII using colors and patterns on tarps and netting to hide under. To be sure, the colors and patterns are getting better at duplicating the environment but they are still pretty crude.
One advance that has made these cover-ups more effective is that they have been made to reflect or block radar and IR sensors so as to match the surrounding environment. This is a big gain because it makes everything under the tarps and nets invisible to aircraft or recon autonomous vehicles.
In fact, the latest covers used in SC are so good that it has proven to be a serious problem to find and disrupt troop movements and supply lines. Trucks can simply cover up until the aircraft are out of the area. Or they can even travel with the tarps covering most of the vehicles. With virtually no radar image, no visible contrast with the surroundings and no IR signature the only give-away to their presence is the small dust or exhaust trail.
DARPA has wanted an effective anti-camouflage capability for years. I gave it to them and called it METs micro-encapsulated tags. It is actually a fairly simple idea that uses the same technology that I used at NRL on the BAIT program. The signature of the materials used to make most of the equipment that the enemy uses can be uniquely defined in terms of precise chemical formulas for the dyes, paints, fuels, metals and plastics used in their manufacture. As long as we could find one distinctive chemical that separates their vehicle paint or their clothing dye from ours, we could make a tag for that unique item and all like it.
The METs were simply small (much less than 1 mm) colored glass balls with an opaque gelatin coating outside. The glass beads are very round and have a unique coating on them. The outside coating is like the side of a one-way mirror that you can see thru. The coating facing the interior of the glass bead is like the mirror side of a one-way mirror. This is not some new technology. This design has been used on road signs and reflective markers since the early 1960s. It is very effective because it reflects light like a corner reflector back to the light source no matter what angle the light comes from.
The gel-coatings were made to react with those unique chemical compounds found in specific enemy equipment. Until they make that contact, they are almost totally passive but once they make contact with their design target material, they will immediately get sticky to that material and glue themselves to it. Green glass balls were on METs that reacted to the paint on their vehicles. When the green glass METs come in contact with an enemy vehicle, the reaction simply consists of the coating on the glass liquefying and flowing off the glass exposing the glass. The coatings do not react to any other chemicals and cannot be washed off. After it melts off of the top of the glass bead, the coating then hardens slightly, holding the glass bead in place for a short time and then it also dissolves and the glass bead will fall off clean of any gel-coating at all. Thats all it does.
Blue glass beads are inside METs that react to a unique quality in their rubber vehicle wheels. Red glass beads are inside METs that react to the soles of their boots. Yellow beads react with fuels and oils .and so on. We have over 300 METs now using various shades of colors plus more than 900 others that reflect different colors for the same surfaces or targets. This helps in long term surveillance.
These METs are so small that you would have to get very close to one inches to see it. Since it looks so much like all the rest of the dirt and dust of the combat zone, it is nearly impossible to see, find or remove. Millions of these METs are discharged from a high flying aircraft to cover a combat area. As they fall, the winds spread them out over vast areas. Sometimes, they are released in even larger quantities during storms so as to blend in with the dust or rain. Since they are unaffected by rain, snow, heat, or cold, they can remain active for months after being deployed.
Once the METs have been put into an area, a drone recon plane with some special gear on board is dispatched to scan the area. The special equipment is a rapidly scanning and modulated laser beam that scans out 45 degrees either side of the flight path using a very narrow beam that is linked to an array of sensors and a GPS. When the laser beam strikes one of the exposed MET glass beads, the laser light is reflected back to the drone. The reflected beam is verified as being what was sent out by matching the modulation of the light and then it is timed and recorded so as to determine the exact GPS coordinates of the reflected beam. The light color is analyzed and verified with repeated scans so that it can be determined what color MET was found. Once found, the drone will scour the area for other METs.
Since the beam is modulated and constantly moving and is not visible to the human eye, it is nearly impossible to detect. Since the drones cannot be heard on the ground and they travel at night and have a very tiny radar cross-section, the drone itself cannot be detected. This means that both the dropping off and the detecting of these METs are undetectable and almost totally passive. No emissions to be jammed. Nothing to shoot down or avoid. No way to avoid being detected.
The temporal aspects of using METs give them even more value. Dispersing a layer of METs on day one, allows you to see if anything moves in that area for days after. Putting down a section layer using slightly different color METs, over time can give a record of when travel occurred and by what volume. Laying down a coating over a large area and then scanning each day for signature reflections can monitor any traffic in the area. This works great for locating tracks and trails of enemy traffic during times nighttime or when we are not there but it has its greatest benefit to SCs.
Static Camouflage (SC) used to hide fixed installations is often very good but
METs will penetrate that camouflage easily. In fact, because the METs can be made to react to the actual materials used to create the camouflage, these locations now light up like Christmas trees to the scanning drones. SC is no longer a problem for DARPA or our military. METs can see into the past by showing us where they have been. It can make the best camouflage in the world obsolete while being unstoppable to deployed, undetectable by the enemy when in place and cannot be blocked, jammed or fooled.
Even telling everyone this now serves no advantage to the enemy since they cannot avoid MET detection. Our ability to adapt to new materials being used and rapidly produce unlimited quantities of METs will keep us ahead of any attempt to alter or disguise their equipment and therefore we will always be able to find them, no matter where or when they hide.
The last I heard, a contract had been released that would create smart bombs and cruise missiles that will use METs as a final fire control aim point. They will be able to target by color of MET and concentration levels so as to be able to pick and choose targets on a cluttered and massive battlefield or combat zone. This opens the application to being applied to Dynamic Camouflage (DC) targets as well as SCs.
You will see in my other report on the new MDR192 (Military Digital Rifle) that its aiming system is also adaptable to using METs. The MDR192 is a semi-autonomous sniper system that can be operated entirely by remote-control.
I am not working on it but I have heard that DARPA is also working on a MET that works on the RF frequencies so that air-to-air missiles can use previously deployed METs that paint enemy aircraft. These new RF METs will essentially be nano-size corner reflectors similar to those used in survival situations. It was discovered that nearly perfect reflectors could be made with bubble technology on a nano-diameter scale while creating a RCS (radar cross section) that appears to be as much as 400 times larger than the actual target. This almost totally defeats the use of stealth technology, non-metallic construction (carbon fiber) or very small very fast missiles.
Earlier studies have shown that the size of the MET can be so small that it can be deployed as an aerosol that hangs in the air or is absorbed by clouds. These METs are on the order of 1/100th or less than one millimeter in diameter and were renamed as Nano-Encapsulated Tags or NETs. NETs are so small that they hang in the air like smoke and can form clouds of aerosol NETs.
NETs will allow autonomous defensive weapons called CIWS (close in weapons systems) like the Mk 15 Phalanx to have an additional mechanism to ID an intruder that has simply flown through a cloud of nano-sized NETs. Using NETs in combination with the new millimeter radar and the forward looking infrared radar (FLIR) and the visual high resolution multi-spectral data acquisition systems will make the ships defenses nearly impenetrable. Even the best stealth anti-ship missiles traveling at MACH 5 or higher will be unable to reach their targets.
Finally, DARPA has adapted the NET technology to work above and below the oceans surface. Floating METs and NETs activated by passing ships create trails so visible that they can be tracked by satellite. Using the same NET technology as in the CIWS aerosols and cloud seeding, the Navy can lay down a barrier of liquid tags released at multiple levels from air-dropped bouys. These tags respond to the rapid and large scale changes in pressure and movement when something as large and as fast as a submarine moves through the tagged water. Using visual blue-green lasers scanning from multiple levels of a cable dropped from a bouy, the activated tags can be spotted and tracked using RF transmitted signals from the above-water bouy. This allows precise location and targeting without the target sub even being aware he has been discovered.
With the advent of METs or NETs on land, in the air and at sea, the idea of hiding or making a surprise attack is a thing of the past. Warfare will never be the same again.