Stealth Wear Prompts Next Step in Asymmetric War: Now You See Me, Now You Don’t


“Stealth Wear continues to explore the aesthetics of privacy,” Harvey’s avante-garde website, explains, “and the potential for fashion to challenge authoritarian surveillance.”

The mobility-countermobility thinking during the Cold War gave us the 70 ton Abrams tank – when hit, cannot be penetrated: as more lethal munitions hit the market, the Abrams got thicker, and bigger, and heavier.

Ultimately, though, the Abrams tank was not so hot rolling over antiquated bridges in Bosnia and Kosovo.  In short, infrastructure negligence made the Abrams irrelevant.  Only a few saw that coming.

Adam Harvey’s Stealth Wear – “designed with a metallized fabric that protects against thermal imaging surveillance, a technology used widely by UAVs/drones” – might be the catalyst that revives a cold-war mentality in our asymmetric world:  but on the asymmetric cyber battlefield, drones don’t get bigger or heavier or slower.  They get smarter and lighter and faster as detection-technology development accelerates counter a new kind of mobility.


Can’t be seen; can’t be hit.  Cold war logic has found a niche.

Harvey’s Stealth Wear means to counter thermal imaging that makes them so effective and relevant, since most drone targets (most call them insurgents) move at night to avoid detection.  Then, out of nowhere, kaboom.

“Designed with a lightweight, metallised fabric, his camouflage protects against the thermal-imaging surveillance technology used by drones to detect people by their heat. The collection, a collaboration with fashion designer Joanna Bloomfield, explores ‘the potential for fashion to challenge authoritarian surveillance,’” writes’s Veronica So.

The Guardian’s Tom Meltzer explains that Harvey’s “Anti-Drone Hoodie” “does not . . . make its wearer look especially cool. But that’s not really what this hoodie is about. It has been designed to hide me from the thermal imaging systems of unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles – drones. And, as far as I can tell, it’s working well.”

That’s o.k.  Few ever said burqas look cool.  So, expect to see Harvey’s new material and designs gracing streets from Kabul to Karachi, from Pul-i-Alam to Peshawar.

Harvey’s site explains that the “The enhanced garments are lightweight, breathable, and safe to wear. . . . [and] inspired by Muslim dress: the burqa and the scarf.  Conceptually, these garments align themselves with the rationale behind the traditional hijab and burqa: to act as ‘the veil which separates man or the world from God . . . .’”

Once Stealth Wear is available to the average insurgent at reasonable costs, expect to see thermal imaging techies scrambling – if they aren’t already, maybe they should – to counter evolving invisibility cloak technology.

On the first day of July, The Independent reported that Professor Sir John Pendry, “British physicist who has pioneered the development of a new class of metamaterials and proposed the idea of an ‘invisibility cloak’ has won the top honour at the UK’s Institute of Physics (IoP) awards.”  Said Pendry, “’The point of the cloak was a grand challenge to tell the world ‘if we can do that, we can do anything.’”

So, what is next in this first real volley against the apparently invincible thermal imaging drone?  Not a bigger boat.  I’m guessing we’re going to need mounted sensors that can detect a heartbeat from 20,000 feet.  And we were on that road three years ago.


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Ed Ledford enjoys the most challenging, complex, and high stakes communications requirements. His portfolio includes everything from policy and strategy to poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., and retired Army Aviator, Ed’s currently writing speeches in D.C. and working other writing projects from his office in Rockville, MD. He loves baseball and enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring anything. Follow Ed on Twitter @ECLedford.

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