AUSA 2017: This net makes US special operations vehicles 'disappear'

Ultra-high tech merges with an old-school concealment classic to make U.S. special operations forces vehicles vanish before the eyes of an enemy.

Camouflage and deception have long played roles in war. Saab Barracuda has developed the Breakaway camouflage system. While camouflage nets are certainly not new, this revolutionary net takes advantage of futuristic materials and smart design to take camouflage nets to the next level.

Teams can use Breakaway to keep their fast, light vehicles hidden and then can instantly take off from underneath the net if they need to make a speedy exit or a surprise launch at the enemy.

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US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has already been quietly deploying these smart nets on operations.

Breakaway is being featured this week at the annual Association of the US Army (AUSA) conference, an exhibition of the latest in land warfare innovation held in Washington D.C. These nets are going like hotcakes, as SOCOM just received nine additional orders before the conference started.

What is it?

The concept is familiar. If you have ever seen netting slung over military vehicles, then the idea is basically the same.

Use camouflage to prevent unwanted attention and prying eyes from noticing that there is a tank there – and instead whatever you are hiding with the camouflage will blend into the terrain unnoticed.

What can it do?

These days, it is not nearly enough for camouflage nets to fool the naked eye.

Breakaway defeats all sorts of key sensors that an enemy may use to try to locate US forces. It can defeat an enemy scanning with the naked eye, but it will also keep the vehicle concealed when enemies are kitted up with thermal devices.

Broadband radar? No problem. Breakaway will not let it reveal the vehicles beneath the state of the art nets.

An enemy could try to locate US Special Operations teams with near infrared and shortwave infrared, but they’ll have no luck spotting their vehicles while shielded with the Breakaway camouflage.

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How does it work?

It is a simple as an operator pulling up a motorbike or a Polaris Defense RAZR ATV and throwing the Breakaway net over it. Done. Multi-spectral protection.

When an operator is ready to go, they just have to back up about a foot and detach the front net. They can then just drive straight out of the net.

Every moment can matter on a mission, so the speed with which an operator can access a vehicle that has been camouflaged and can drive off matters greatly.

The ease and ultra-rapid speed with which Breakaway camouflage can be disengaged is a great advantage. With Breakaway, camouflage will not delay the ability to move quickly out from underneath.

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How is it made?

The new Breakaway system is constructed differently than typical designs.

In addition to incredibly advanced material that can defeat such an array of advanced state of the art sensors, Breakaway relies on something that Saab Barracuda calls an “onion stitch.” Typically, conventional camouflage uses vertical stitching.

This onion stitching is part of the secret as to why a small tear will not rip the Breakaway net apart like typical camouflage nets. Instead, the stitching acts as a sort of rip stop.

And camouflage nets that don’t tear are reusable, which is both convenient and lighter on the SOCOM wallet.

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Which vehicles?

Breakaway has been mostly used for special operations vehicles and the system is ideal for special operations community work. It works best with the General Dynamics “Flyer” as well as Polaris Defense DAGOR, and MRZR vehicles.

It is customized and tailored to specific requirements. For example, the Flyer version is different to the MRZR. So there are versions possible for bigger vehicles like the Stryker wheeled combat vehicle.

Who else uses it?

Having just received some of the Breakaway design for the DAGOR, USSOCOM has 55 more Breakaway nets for the Flyer heading their way in a November delivery.

Saab Barracuda’s mobile camouflage system is standard in eight NATO countries.

What’s next?

Saab Barracuda had been supplying Ultra-Lightweight Camouflage-Net System for ten years.

This summer, the Army started an initiative seeking a new generation of camouflage nets. If the Army will need to face adversaries in the future who possess modern tech like advanced and ever growing sensors, drones that surveil wide areas from the sky to detect and provide targeting data, then upgrading the Army camouflage net systems becomes particularly important.

So it is no surprise then that Saab’s revolutionary twist on the humble camouflage net has been drawing a steady stream of crowds of army officials from around the world as they walk the AUSA floors.

Allison Barrie is a defense specialist with experience in more than 70 countries who consults at the highest levels of defense and national security, a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees, and author of the definitive guide, Future Weapons: Access Granted, on sale in 30 countries.  Barrie hosts the new hit podcast “Tactical Talk”  where she gives listeners direct access to the most fascinating Special Operations warriors each week and to find out more about the FOX Firepower host and columnist you can click here or follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie and Instagram @allisonbarriehq.