The ‘Thermal Poncho’
*WARNING GRAPHIC* HERE is the video *WARNING GRAPHIC*
When we look at thermal masking we have to take into account the capabilities of modern USG thermal imaging systems. The .gov (and DoD) standard is the ability to discern either +/- 1 degree in temperature difference between objects and the ambient environment at any given range. So either one degree cooler or hotter and the shape of the image shows up in modern TIS. Most LE agencies use the same or similar equipment that possesses the same capabilities. In practice it’s hard to hide from either TIS or FLIR unless you do it right.
Most effective methods:
1. Use of weather (fog wreaks havoc on both systems)
2. Over-saturation (be it through fire, heat emitters, etc.)
3. Terrain masking.
That is why in Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises I make such a point of using terrain masking, vegetation and constructed cover (cam nets and false roofs etc) and also in some of the battles the Resistance uses thermal smoke from tire fires to mask action on the ground from overhead drones.
So to conclude: just getting under a straight up poncho will not work for long. You may appear as a ‘hole’ in the ambient temperature. There is also the danger of heat leaking out over time, or heating up the poncho surface. But how close are they looking? What you are at least doing is masking your human shape, which may have some short term value but is not the whole solution at least not for long.
If you use terrain masking along with being under some vegetation and you get under a properly put together ‘thermal poncho’ strung up above you then you will make it very hard for surveillance to spot you. Particularly if they are expecting to look for human shapes. Then it comes down to how long they concentrate on an area and if they discern heat either leaking out or warming up your poncho because you have it too close to your body.
Remember that on the commercially available casualty blankets it says it only stops 80% of body heat. The 20% will gt you killed. So make a ‘thermal poncho’ similar to how I have suggested and have some good ‘gillie’ cloth on the topside to break up shine and imagery. Put it up in trees or on short poles above you so that there is separation between you and the covering poncho. The more cover you have between you and the FLIR device, such as ground or vegetation cover, the better, such as trees above the thermal poncho. Of course, if you can get into a hole or cave then all is good, but the thermal poncho is for when that is not available Remember that the FLIR devices on the market such as the FLIR scout, actually advertise that you can check you home insulation by seeing where heat is leaking out. Something to think about!
So take the FLIR threat seriously and don’t think that just putting a casualty blanket over you will be like an invisible cloak. It is a complex camouflage issue that the thermal poncho can aid with, but may not be the whole solution all of the time. Depending how well you use it, it may only save you from a casual scan, or done well it make make you invisible to a careful search.
P.S. I ended up moderating a couple of comments of the “We’re all gonna die” type. Keep it constructive, even though the video is shocking. To use the video as a teachable moment:
1. Look at the tents, how they block the thermal signature. The problem is mostly surface/shine. That could be countered by the camo netting/ragged/gillie effect on top of your thermal poncho.
2. That is open ground in Afcrapistan. Imagine if you were operating in an area with greater tree cover, how that would add another layer to help you. That goes to terrain masking.
3. Look at the US Troops and see how their IR treated ACUs make them significantly harder to see than the Taliban. And they are walking in the open.
4. Just to conjecture, but the guys on the ground wounded or trying to hide, if they had even pulled a simple space blanket or simple blanket over themselves, how they would have significantly increased their chance of survival. In this case it would be a little like surviving a bear attack – you just have to be more hidden than the other guys! So yes, a little selfish, but the point is there.
Thermal camouflage is just another layer to the art of camouflage. You have to work at it and it may not always be perfect, but there are things you can do to increase your survivability that do not involve always wearing a survival blanket. For example:
1. When moving plan routes around terrain / vegetation masking. Have frequent listening/observation halts.
2. When halted, also use terrain masking but have properly constructed thermal ponchos available to put up to mask visual and thermal signature. Blend into the ground.
3. If actively fighting, particularly in urban areas, consider the use of tire or fuel barrel fires to create a thermal smoke screen to mask off aerial surveillance and targeting platforms.