As soon as we see warships, anywhere around the sea, or in an image, we immediately know that they are made to be stealthy. But we never ask what exactly makes the ship stealthy, and from what object does the ship hide itself to become stealthy. We will start from right from the basics, and as we go deeper into the design aspect, we’ll get a clear picture of how a stealthy ship sneaks itself past enemy sight.
The most basic way to hide a huge, gigantic steel structure in an open sea is by painting it with a color that resembles the environment. Some might think blue will be the best color, but blue ain’t it. Grey is the best color for a basic camouflage as this makes the ship harder to spot when it sails on the horizon. As soon as you add rain or fog, the ship becomes even harder to spot and determine the aspect of the vessel, for example, the direction and speed in which they are traveling.
Of course, today there are modern techniques to detect a vessel in the sea, they include RADAR, acoustic and thermal detection, with RADAR being the most used worldwide. To be a stealth ship by today’s standard, you need to dampen your signature across all these boards.
Acoustic detection methods are easy to understand. You hear the vibrations made by a ship which are transmitted through the water or air. The distance between can be estimated by the amplitude of received transmissions. These vibrations can be reduced and by fitting shock absorbers around machinery or install alternate quiet machines, like electrically driven motors. These are very important aspects to consider for submarines rather than surface vessels. Thermal suppression can be achieved relatively simply as well. All you need to have is a good combination of insulation and using seawater cooling techniques.
Finally, RADAR is the main detection method ships need to tackle with. To deal with RADAR signature suppression, we need to understand the shape, size, material, and texture of the ship.
To be able to detect a ship on the RADAR, the opposite ship must be able to reflect the signal, or a part of the signal back to the source ship. Stealth ships should not reflect the signal in order to be stealthy. A very slap sided or a flat surface with no rounded edges will reflect a very strong echo, that’s why stealth ships have surfaces made to be very flat and angled upwards. The RADAR signals are reflected upwards and not back to the source.
The second element is the size. Size is actually determined by the expected use of the vessel. It makes sense to make the ship as small as possible and it should also be able to accomplish the task it was made for.
The next elements, material, and texture go hand in hand. We have to carefully choose the material used to build the ship and the texture that particular material provides. For example, most ships are made of steel, which is a good reflector. But its reflecting direction can be changed by angling the surface. Using a rough textured material will scatter the signal increases the chances of getting detected on a RADAR.
By considering all these points and ideas, a stealth ship can be constructed and be made ready to sail past enemy lines undetected and unseen.
Fun Fact: Old warships used to paint their ships with a “dazzle” pattern instead of grey. The dazzle makes it difficult for enemies to determine the speed, direction, and size of the ship. Aligning torpedoes to a dazzle painted ship was very difficult due to the disorientation it provided. Dazzle isn’t meant to hide a vessel, but to confuse the observer.
Authored By:- Cdt. Shubham Shivne, TMI