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Thermal Signature Characteristics of Vehicle/Terrain Interaction Disturbances: Implications for Battlefield Vehicle Classification

Volume 58, Number 5 (May 2004) Page 510-515

Eastes, John W.; Mason, George L.; Kusinger, Alan E.


Thermal emissivity spectra (8-14 μm) of track impressions/background were determined in conjunction with operation of six military vehicle types, T-72 and M1 Tanks, an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, a 5-ton truck, a D7 tractor, and a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), over diverse soil surfaces to determine if vehicle type could be related to track thermal signatures. Results suggest soil compaction and fragmentation/pulverization are primary parameters affecting track signatures and that soil and vehicle/terrain-contact type determine which parameter dominates. Steel-tracked vehicles exert relatively low ground-contact pressure but tend to fragment/pulverize soil more so than do rubber-tired vehicles, which tend mainly to compact. In quartz-rich, lean clay soil tracked vehicles produced impressions with spectral contrast of the quartz reststrahlen features decreased from that of the background. At the same time, 5-ton truck tracks exhibited increased contrast on the same surface, suggesting that steel tracks fragmented soil while rubber tires mainly produced compaction. The structure of materials such as sand and moist clay-rich river sediment makes them less subject to further fragmentation/pulverization; thus, compaction was the main factor affecting signatures in these media, and both tracked and wheeled vehicles created impressions with increased spectral contrast on these surfaces. These results suggest that remotely sensed thermal signatures could differentiate tracked and wheeled vehicles on terrain in many areas of the world of strategic interest. Significant applications include distinguishing visually/spectrally identical lightweight decoys from actual threat vehicles.