The answer to those questions lie in some ground-breaking technology being exhibited at a huge military show I recently attended in London.
At this massive "Wars R Us" event were examples of a material technology that could potentially make a military tank change shape and even disappear when viewed under infrared night time surveillance.
Taken to the extremes it could eventually be possible for a tank to mimic the shape of enemy tanks and create extremely confused battleground scenarios. But that's just my supposition at the moment. Let's stick with the imminently possible; making the tank invisible to infrared detection.
Developed by BAE Systems and called Adaptiv Technology it allows vehicles to mimic the temperature of their surroundings and development is in progress that will make the technology work at wavelengths of light that will make the object invisible.
How does it work? Hexagonal panels about 12 centimetres square that are made of a material that can rapidly change temperature are applied to the outer surfaces of the tank. On-board computer controls and thermal imaging cameras control the heat stamp of these exterior panels and mimic ambient temperatures with a resulting shape or profile that can be pre-determined.
How are developments progressing? Military trials have proven that the thermal invisibility cloak works efficiently at ranges of around 400 metres. However the pixilated structure of the Adaptiv Technology panels can be modified to suit different operational distances. And different size panels could in the future be manufactured to cloak larger military or naval targets.
When does it happen? The military men I met at the show were reluctant (understandably so) to talk details but implementation of the cloaking technology is expected in around two years time.
One thing I would not be too keen to implement however would be a thermal disguise that projected the tank as a steer….especially if the enemy were short on beef rations.!