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ABSTRACT

This chapter investigates the disruptive potential of metamaterials, synthetic nano-structured materials, which possess special physical properties that enable the user to be invisible and to evade detection. The security applications of metamaterials are to camouflage personnel, vehicles, ships, or planes from some portion of the infrared spectrum. Metamaterials have a high refractive index meaning that light ‘flows around’ the material rather than reflecting off. Successful implementation of metamaterial adaptive camouflage (MMAC) would be a paradigm shift in camouflage and anti-detection technology that could cause significant disruptions to conflict dynamics. This chapter investigates the role of metamaterials by placing it in the broader historical context of detection and anti-detection technology. By tracing the co-development of both sides of the detection arms race, a theoretical framework can be constructed. This analysis pays special attention to radar and stealth aircraft in the post WWII era. It explores concepts like deterrence, the offense defense balance, and the security dilemma. The conclusion is that anti-detection, or camouflage, technologies are generally detrimental to the international peace and detection technologies are beneficial. Metamaterials are a threat to the global status quo and are therefore a threat to the power of global and regional hegemons. Revisionist actors, primarily non-state actors, likely will benefit disproportionately from acquiring a MMAC capability but will struggle to do so due to the technical challenge of advanced R&D, particularly in the near and mid-term. The implication is that status quo powers—whom are likely to be the first to develop a viable capability—must emphasize parallel development of countermeasures and limit the negative potential of the technology’s proliferation.

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Category: Science