View Full Version : Infra red tape (military question)

10-29-2001, 12:44 PM
A few weeks ago the media was heralding the arrival of the Spooky’s in Afghanistan. In part, they said they could acquire targets and direct fire on them via infrared sensors/detectors. They said the Spooky could identify our Special Ops forces specifically as being friend, not foe, because they were wearing “infra red tape”. Is this true?

What is it? How does it work? How does it stand out from normal human IR signatures?

I thought “Identify, Friend/Foe” (IFF) was a complicated intelligence issue, and this solution sounds just a little too easy. Wouldn’t this “tape” be one of the hottest commodities on the black market? It seems too easy to defeat (by the enemy getting some and “taping” their own troops).

10-29-2001, 01:22 PM
The enemy would have to also know what patterns to use, and when to use it, assuming they could get the tape. Visual identification combined with two-way communication is pretty effective, if not super high-tech. Not much different from popping smoke to ID friendly forces. The enemy has to know the attack is coming, and has to know what color or combinatin of colors to use. This is not to say that it's never been done, just not very often.

10-29-2001, 04:05 PM
Tranquilis, thanks for weighing in.

I read what I read in the New York Daily News. I wish I could find the article in their archives http://www.nydailynews.com/today/-/-/default.asp, but alas, no luck.

Re: your quote (Tranquilis) "...what patterns to use." The article specifically mentioned that it only takes "a little bit" of said tape to make an effective marker. Are you suggesting they use geometric shapes? A 'triangle' today will keep you alive, but not next week when our troops have switched to the 'square'?

"A little bit" of tape on one person (talking about Special Ops: there might be 3 or 30 or 300 in one group, right?) is enough to give the signal? So what you're saying is.... these Spookys can discern, from a few thousand feet up, whether or not the tape (on top of helmet, I assume) is in a "triangle" or "square"? Exactly how good are their IR sensors? If what you are implying (or what I'm understanding, which may be two different things) is that they can not only read the IR signature of the human body itself, but superimposed on that a "shape" of tape, well then the tape must be significantly hotter than the body and/or that must be one hell of a good IR sensor (in which case I would not be surprised, but dutifully impressed).

Also you mentioned "colors", by what, temperature? "Standard Human Internal Temperature" (let's just call it "SHT" for short) of 96-105 degrees F = foe/target? SHT plus 110 degree 'square' = friend (today only)? While SHT plus 110 degree 'triangle' was last weeks secret code and = foe/target today? So... our Special Ops know what 'shape' and 'temperature' to use that day? (or 48 hrs, or whatever?)

Tranquilis, you also mention visual and 2-way com as a reliable, if low tech, way to achieve the same thing. Let me ask you.... these troops have both GPS and radios capable of encrypted and "burst" transmissions. Why not have the troops inform command of their position (since they know their location (X,Y), precisely, with the GPS)? This would be the high tech version of popping smoke.

Then command could order the Spookys to engage an AO like a "donut". I.e., tell Spooky's computers it can free fire any IR-acquired target within range, except if that target is within 50 meters (or suitable buffer zone) of X,Y (the location of Special Ops).

10-29-2001, 04:59 PM
Originally posted by Jimbrowski
Then command could order the Spookys to engage an AO like a "donut". I.e., tell Spooky's computers it can free fire any IR-acquired target within range, except if that target is within 50 meters (or suitable buffer zone) of X,Y (the location of Special Ops). [/B]

I presume you are talking about AC-130H/U gunships. With the array of weaponry aboard those things, I would assume they would be told the area friendly troops are in ahead of time. I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable knowing the only thing separating me from a rain of minigun and 155mm howitzer fire was a reflective piece of duct tape.

From what I understand, IR tape is not fancy. It's just dark colored tape that is reflects IR energy at a diferent frequency than the object wearing it. You can probably achieve the same results with certain brands of duct tape.

As a side question, does IFF have anything to do with the various chevrons, triangles, x's and other geometric shapes I sometimes see painted on the side of armored vehicles?

10-29-2001, 05:21 PM
OK, I was a little less than clear. Lemme fix that.

During daylight operations, ground units will pop smoke to indicate their position to friendly aircraft to prevent regrettable mistakes. Somtimes it will be one color smoke, sometimes an other, and sometimes it'll be a combination. In general, unless the enemy knows there's about to be an airstrike in advance, by the time they figure out what's about to happen, it's too late for them to spoof the attacking aircraft by popping similar colored smoke.

The ground troops will tell the aircraft what color smoke they're popping just before they do, so if the pilot hears "red smoke", and sees red smoke, he's got a positive ID on the friendlies, and can avoid blowing them up. Rarely, an alert enemy can pop smoke of the same color to confuse the issue. It's hard to do, because you've got to notice the smoke, find your own smoke of the matching color, and pop it before the pilot has positively identified the friendlies.

Now, back to the tape...
IANASpecial Warrior, so take this with a grain of salt. Night vision gear is monochrome (shows green and black), so colors won't do it. Patterns should, though. I don't know how big a pattern, but small bit of tape marking the corners of a triangle ought to be visible, or maybe a number of dots (the number for the day is "four"), or so on. Ground forces can talk to Spooky, and can tell them how many stripes, or what pattern, along with other location information. Spooky can then confirm that they're seeing the friendlies, and unless the bad guys know what's coming, they're caught knickers amongst ankles, tape or no tape.

crochet addict
10-29-2001, 05:44 PM
I have served in Special Forces units for several years and we use a kind of tape called Glint Tape to identify ourselves.
Basically when an IR light hits it, it reflects the light and it's extremely noticable to anyone using a set of night-vision goggles.

We usually mount a piece on our headgear, be it helmet or patrol cap.

Personally, the teams I've been in have always kept a piece safety-pinned inside our headgear so it's not visible all of the time, just when you need it.

Tranquilis, I suppose if the aircraft saw numerous signatures of glint tape in the target area, they could radio in and we could get in a special pattern or something.

Normally not much of an issue, the idea that there might be lots of units, friend and foe, identifying themselves with glint tape in a target area.

10-29-2001, 05:50 PM
First Crochet Addict's reply was mine. I didn't check to see who was logged on.
Sorry all. Frankly, she doesn't give a flying fig about glint tape.


Originally posted by Jimbrowski
A few weeks ago the media was heralding the arrival of the Spooky’s in Afghanistan

Just a side note, I've never heard the A/C-130 Spectre gunship called Spooky. We've always said referred to it a the Spectre.

Maybe others do. Just my two cents.

10-29-2001, 07:45 PM
AC-130H Spectre old model
AC-130U Spooky new model


10-29-2001, 08:01 PM
Thanks. Apparently I haven't yet heard of that.