Not only protecting combat vehicles from detection by radar systems, thermal imaging systems or optical systems of anti-tank missiles, the Nakidka system is also designed to provide vehicle camouflage with special coatings.
The Russo-Ukrainian conflict has proven that tank warfare, developed during World War II and perfected during the Cold War, remains relevant to modern conflict. The parties are trying to upgrade this tactic with new technologies, including the use of radar-absorbing materials to protect combat vehicles. Russian defense enterprises have begun to use the Nakidka cover, a 3-stage radar-absorbing camouflage system that can protect tanks, armored fighting vehicles, fortifications and many other structures from enemy precision weapon attack.
“A large number of domestic enterprises have received the first Nakidka system from the Scientific Research Institute of Steel to equip tanks with this protective equipment,” said Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern arms corporation. Not only protecting combat vehicles from detection by radar systems, thermal imaging systems or optical systems of anti-tank missiles, the Nakidka system is also designed to provide vehicle camouflage with special coatings.
The need for camouflage with radar-absorbing material first appeared after World War II due to the development of guided missiles, and it was applied mainly on combat aircraft. Since the 2000s, Russia, the US and many other countries have developed low-cost radar-absorbing coatings that can cover ground vehicles, aircraft, UAVs, even warships or buildings. Nakidka is a prime example. This is a passive protection system, made of ferrite material, first introduced in the mid-2000s.
According to the Steel Scientific Research Institute, which designed Nakidka, it reduces the chances of detection by day/night viewers and TV systems and seekers by thirty percent, infrared seekers by two- to three-fold, radar by six-fold, and reduces the thermal-radar signature to near-background levels. Nakidka is efficient in the optical, IR and radar wavelength bands up to 12 cm (4.7 in), and also reduces the radar cross section by 10 db.
In other words, the Nakidka system prevents enemy radars from detecting heat emitted during vehicle operation. Its heat-absorbing layer will reduce the signals sent by enemy detectors. The Nakidka system is easy to use, with customizable sets of 10 separate components for the vehicle’s turret, engine ccompartment, front and side armor. Nakidka also provides vehicle camouflage using special coatings.
Nakidka is quite light, about 8 to 10mm thick and weighs about 2kg/m2, capable of protecting against small arms. The system cost about $2,675 each in 2005. The use of Nakidka helps provide an inexpensive but relatively effective solution to protect combat vehicles, as well as ensure the safety of the crew.
Russia is said to have used this system in Ukraine in the spring of 2022. Open source intelligence (OSINT) sources said that the Nakidka camouflage layer was used on the T-90M Proryv tank. Some other sources added that Russian oil tankers also use this camouflage to reduce signs of heat radiation to avoid being tracked. However, the Russian military has not yet confirmed this information.
The Russian military has been applying various camouflage methods to avoid detection by the enemy. Camouflage is becoming more and more urgent in the context of drones being widely used on the battlefield. Ukraine is said to have used Turkish-made TB2 Bayraktar UAVs, modified commercial UAVs or suicide drones that the West has provided to them to attack Russian convoys. Some military experts say that, with the rapid change on the battlefield, any form of camouflage is essential and can bring advantages to the parties.