Follow Up on the ‘Thermal Poncho’ Concept
I feel the need to follow up on the posts I have published about the potential to avoid Thermal Imaging (TI)/ FLIR and aerial thermal surveillance in general. To understand where I am coming from you will need to read and digest these two posts that I wrote on the subject:
In the comments on the thermal poncho I published a scathing comment from a reader followed by my rebuttal. My post on the ‘thermal poncho’ was also re-blogged on WRSA and has received some harsh criticism, which I have responded to in an attempt to inform readers of the truth.
Having published what I consider to be sound facts and tactical techniques, I have been accused by some of dishonesty and spouting BS for personal gain. Given the potency of aerial thermal surveillance and the importance and perhaps impending relevance of such techniques to the Patriot’s cause, I do believe that some of these comments are deliberate disinformation (trolling) to attempt to discredit both myself and thus the techniques themselves: “Don’t try and apply sound tactical techniques to avoid thermal surveillance, we want to be able to kill you with impunity!”
Some of the comments might also be genuine but written from the viewpoint of infatuation with the technology without the tactical experience to put it into perspective. Who really knows?
So here is a little summary, which will be backed up if you read my original posts:
1. I do not deny the potency of the technology and the ability of FLIR to detect persons (heat differentials). In fact it is this potency that led me to consider it such a threat and write about counter measures. see those other posts for the detail.
2. For those that commented without reading or understanding I have not advocated the use of standard ponchos or blankets to avoid thermal detection. The ‘thermal poncho’ is a name for a different beast that has to be made by the user but can be used in a similar way to a standard poncho, partly because to string it up as such will enhance the protection it provides by creating an air gap between you and the protective layer.
3. FLIR is not the “all seeing eye of Mordor” and the technique is not about so much defeating the technology but more about concealing body heat/shape and defeating the operator. In other words if they know exactly where you are already this technique will likely not help you, and they may be able to then confirm your location by detecting small heat emissions or imperfections in your setup. But there is a lot of clutter out there and surveillance cannot be everywhere, so you can effectively use terrain and suitable cover, including such ‘thermal ponchos’, to avoid being picked up on FLIR surveillance.
4. This is not a technique advocated for mobile personnel It is a static technique. Mobile techniques involve related but different tactics such as terrain screening your routes and ensuring you stop and carry out frequent listening/observation stops. That is why when I described some of the battles in ‘Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises’, in particular a defensive battle, I described massive use of diesel and tire burn barrels as well as other fires to create thermal smoke to screen activity on the ground from aerial surveillance. That is an active technique for such a situation.
5. FLIR/TI cannot actually see through hard cover, or suitable thermal cover. Note my caveats in the previous posts about being too close to the cover and heating it by body transfer, and also the danger of appearing as a ‘hole’ in the thermal picture: you have to work to avoid this. There are different types of equipment that use the IR spectrum in different ways, not to be confused with the FLIR equipment found on such things as drones and helicopters. Yes there is equipment that can be used to see through ship bulkheads to find survivors, etc, but that is not FLIR. FLIR will be defeated by hard cover and even substantial enough foliage It sees the surface and the heat differentials on the surface. If you have not heated that surface up and the view to you is blocked then FLIR will not see you. That has nothing to do with the amazing ability of the technology to discern heat differentials – if it can’t see to you or the heat your generate, it can’t see those differentials.
6. If you are in hard cover, behind terrain/ground, in a foxhole with overhead cover, in a culvert, in a building, or under a suitably made ‘thermal poncho’ then the FLIR will not see you, subject to my disclaimer about heating up the cover if you are too close to it. If you are under a simple blanket, you will heat it up until you can be seen. If you are in a simple tent or under a plastic poncho, it will see you though it because the material is not sufficient to block thermal. But the human body does not radiate enough heat for it to dissipate in such a way that it will ‘drift’ out from behind hard cover! When you see images of FLIR, they are crisp, there is no ‘haze’ or ‘halo’ around the characters because of radiated heat.
7. Most effective methods to avoid FLIR:
1. Use of weather (fog wreaks havoc on these systems)
2. Over-saturation (be it through fire, heat emitters, etc.)
3. Terrain masking.
The idea of the ‘thermal poncho’ is to give you a tool within the terrain masking concept. It would be most effectively deployed along with cover from ground and/or vegetation screening. You reduce your surviveability and are more likely to be picked up if you use it in open ground. If you set it up in the middle of a bare-assed arctic snowfield you may be pushing your luck! So common sense must apply here, and we must get away from an infatuation with the capability of the technology which seem to lead, with some, to a “we’re all gonna die” attitude that denies the use of sensible mitigation tactics and techniques.
Be very aware of the potency of FLIR and prepare yourself with ideas and tactics to defeat detection.
I am happy to take constructive comments/criticisms that are aimed at discussing this technique in a mature way and perhaps refining it, similar to a lot of the good comments on the original posts. “We’re all gonna die” comments will be deleted unless I feel they are useful to add to the constructive debate.
I can assure you that I plan on using these techniques should such a situation ever come to pass. I have even tested the effectiveness of the ‘thermal poncho’ with my own FLIR equipment, which granted is not .gov standard but given that I was looking at where I knew the thing was from close range it does a good job.
Anecdotal: Taliban have actually used simple blankets or space blankets with some limited success to avoid FLIR, even using them to move into position and thus in a mobile role. Go figure. Where do you think I got the idea from?
P.S. Ever tried to hide in a herd of cattle? Really?