Electronic Weapons: Thermals Baffled By The Nemesis

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February 18, 2014: There’s a new camouflage suit available (the “Nemesis”) for snipers or troops up against an opponent using thermal imaging. Nemesis breaks up the viewable (via a thermal imager) heat the wearer gives off and presents, to the thermal imager, a blob more than an easily identifiable image of a person. This limits the range at which the thermal imaging user can be sure it’s a person out there and not some animal. In most cases the observer cannot just fire off a few shots to make sure, since that would give away his position. So most troops just wait until the suspected hostile gets close enough for confirmation (and some well-placed bullets) or moves away and is forgotten.

While U.S. troops have long enjoyed an edge at night because they had night vision equipment, increasingly the enemy is getting this stuff as well. While troops can negate the use of the older light enhancement (it intensifies available moon or starlight) night vision, the newer thermal (heat sensing) imaging night vision is more difficult to evade. The light enhancement devices can be avoided by assuming you cannot hide in the darkness and must simply stay out of sight as you approach, or try to move past, the enemy.

Since thermal imaging detects differences in heat and creates images of the warmer objects, a user of thermal imaging devices will be able to detect the outline of a person, or a vehicle (especially the engine and exhaust). But these images are not easy to confirm until they get fairly close. Thus troops equipped with a typical wearable thermal imager (like the U.S. ENVG) have a 50 percent probability of confirming the presence of individuals, even those hidden in the bush, at about 300 meters and an 80 percent probability at 150 meters. Troops wearing a Nemesis suit would have to be a lot closer before a thermal imager user could be sure. That means someone wearing a Nemesis suit could move a lot closer to users with thermal imaging gear and pass by undetected.

The downside of the Nemesis is that the enemy could get suits like this, or access to the technology that makes Nemesis effective. Currently the Nemesis suits cost $2,900 each, which is another impediment to widespread use.

 

 


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