Battle tanks are about the least invisible thing ever invented, but Elbit Systems has come up with a way to make them as see through as glass – at least from the inside. The company's new IronVision Helmet-Mounted System (HMS) doesn't use magic to achieve this. Instead, it employs sensor and display technology originally developed for fighter and helicopter pilots to provide a virtual 360º panoramic view of the battlefield to tank commanders and crews.

One of the great military paradoxes of the last century has been that battle tanks provide an incredible amount of protection for their crews while leaving them insanely vulnerable. This is because tanks and other armored fighting vehicles rely on thick, all-encompassing shells of heavy armor to keep the crew safe from harm. It also means that the driver has to navigate by looking at the outside world through a letterbox with a foot-thick slab of laminated glass jammed into it.

It's even worse for the tank commander, who has to turn the vehicle from a rolling pillbox into a fighting machine. But in order to do this, the commander needs to see what's going on outside. He does this by doing the daftest thing imaginable – opening the top hatch and sticking his head out. Needless to say, this makes tank commanders a poor insurance risk and provides an unhealthy gap in the armor for unwanted munitions to drop through.

Many tank designs try to minimize this problem through the use of periscopes, but the results tend to be less than optimal due to the narrow field of vision. According to Elbit, IronVision gets around this limitation by means of See-Through Armor (STA) technology. It uses sensors and software combined with a user-friendly interface originally developed for fixed and rotary wing aircraft to transmit video images from inside and outside the tank to the commander and driver's visors, to create a realistic view of the outside world. The result is a "see-through" tank.

Elbit says that Ironvision provides images in real time with zero latency, high resolution, and in full color with a seamless 360° line of sight. The visors are lightweight and compact, and the software uses an advanced distortion-correction algorithm to eliminate visual distortions and motion sickness. In addition, the system has night vision capability and can display relevant information directly in front of the commander. It also has head-tracker technology that locks on potential threats and targets, and follows them with just a glance from the commander.

IronVision is demonstrated in a video posted online.

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