China Building Fighter Jets With 'Invisibility Cloaks' by Harnessing 'Metamaterials'

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 - 1:56PM
Weird Science
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 - 1:56PM
China Building Fighter Jets With 'Invisibility Cloaks' by Harnessing 'Metamaterials'
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Image credit: YouTube

The prospect of invisibility has been both fascinating and terrifying to humanity for centuries.

We'd all love the power to disappear. Who wouldn't love to sneak around without being seen as you raid the restricted section of the library or terrorize Draco Malfoy during an illicit trip to Hogsmeade?

On the other hand, the idea of secret enemies lying in wait, completely unseen, is inherently terrifying to anyone who has things to hide. (There's a reason why ninjas remain to prevalent in the public consciousness.)

It comes as something of a double-edged sword, then, to learn that China is currently putting into production a series of "supermaterials" (known as metamaterials in the West) that can provide their military airplanes with the ability to turn invisible.


According to the official Chinese state media, CCTV, a laboratory in Shenzen, right across the border from Hong Kong, is currently manufacturing "invisibility cloaks" that could give the country an important advantage in the future of warfare.

These supermaterials could potentially be bent to various different uses, CCTV reports—in addition to providing invisibility they could also be used to prevent burning and freezing within the planes. While there are no specific details yet as to what form these invisibility cloaks take and how they work, they'll apparently be put to work on China's fleet of J-20 fighter jets.

Of course, the big question here is whether CCTV is being completely honest in its claims. The media service is wholly controlled by the Chinese government and is often used to promote propaganda for the Communist party, both within China and elsewhere in the world.

One has to wonder why the Chinese government would be so eager to report this technological breakthrough if it actually worked as well as they claim—surely an invisibility cloak loses some of its effectiveness once your foes know that you've got one, and can therefore start looking out for telltale signs that you're doing things you shouldn't.

When the British developed radar during World War II, in order to keep German soldiers both figuratively and literally in the dark about the innovative technology, the government's ironically named Ministry of Truth spread the rumor that British pilots could see in the dark thanks to eating lots of carrots, an urban myth that is still widely believed to this day. If the British government was so secretive as to lie to its own people about a new technology, China doesn't have a lot to gain from announcing the creation of an invisibility cloak before putting it into use.

What makes this more suspicious is the fact that invisibility is really, really difficult to get right. Many attempts have been made in the past, but the moment a camouflaged object starts moving, it becomes a lot easier to spot. While metamaterials could potentially bend infrared light in order to make a stationary object disappear, this technology would be a lot harder to put to use on a plane. A recent video of a man that seems to appear when putting on an invisibility cloak does raise questions, but many believe it to be more the work of clever camera trickery and CGI effects rather than a genuine phenomenon.

While we can't rule out the possibility that China really has developed this incredible new invisibility cloak, it's worth bearing in mind that this news comes from a biased source and that the story is more than a little suspicious on its own.

That said, if you ever happen to see a mysterious UFO that partially blends in with the clouds and the sky, it's impossible to rule out the involvement of advanced Chinese military planes.

Either that, or Bilbo Baggins and a helium balloon.

Military Tech
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