23:31 GMT18 May 2021
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    The breakthrough innovation suggests deliberately created decoys may conduct electricity and be almost indistinguishable from real aircraft.

    Years of laser-plasma research have resulted in the US Navy patenting technology to build mid-air images aimed to fool infrared and other sensors, thereby promising revolutionary aircraft protection from heat-seeking missiles, a Forbes report has it.

    In the long run, the breakthrough method may also give some clue about what is behind recent UFO sightings by military aircraft, magazine contributor, and author of "Swarm Troopers: How small drones will conquer the world" David Hambling suggests.

    The technology that underlies the project is centred around so-called laser-induced plasma filaments (LIPF) which can be created within some distance from the laser for dozens or hundreds of metres away from it.

    Provided there is some appropriate tuning, LIPFs can emit light of any wavelength - visible, infrared, ultraviolet or even terahertz waves, potentially used to build preferred phantom images. On top of this, the filaments have been found to be capable of conducting electricity, investigated as a means of triggering lightning or creating a lightning gun.

    The Navy declined to comment on the project to Forbes, but the work is outlined in a 2018 patent, which describes a laser source being mounted on the back of an air vehicle, "and wherein the laser source is configured to create a laser-induced plasma, and wherein the laser-induced plasma acts as a decoy for an incoming threat to the air vehicle".

    A single 2D or 3D decoy, which appears by means of raster scanning, like old TV sets display a picture, halves the chances of an incoming missile going for the right target, whereas there could be easily exploited more than one, and they could be moved around at will within any distance from the aircraft.

    "There can be multiple laser systems mounted on the back of the air vehicle with each laser system generating a ‘ghost image’ such that there would appear to be multiple air vehicles present", the description goes.

    The news comes shortly after in April, following months of discussions, the Navy officially released infrared videos of alleged UFOs spotted by their pilots, something that the Pentagon prefers to call "unidentified aerial phenomena". The objects in the videos appear to make sudden movements deemed highly improbable for physical aircraft, for instance rotate mid-air and propel at unheard-of speeds.

    The manoeuvres would be easy to reproduce with a phantom image, David Hambling writes, while it is not in human capacity yet to tell fakes from real missiles given the level of today's heat-seeking equipment.


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