multicam for usaf

18 09 2010

…. well, for some of them anyway. The article below is reproduced courtesy of Strategy Page. All errors with reference to the ABU (Airman Battle Uniform) and UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern) are theirs ;-)

September 17, 2010: U.S. Air force personnel in Afghanistan have been buying (or scrounging from kindly army supply sergeants) the new MultiCam pattern uniforms. That’s because the air force uses a different camouflage pattern for their field uniforms, and when air force air controllers (who call in air strikes) move through the hills with army troops, it’s obvious from a distance who the air force personnel are. Actually, it makes all the troops more visible, because the MultiCam is pretty good at hiding those wearing it, but the difference between the air force camo and the MultiCam is so striking that the entire group of troops becomes more visible. The air force brass eventually got the message, and have started buying MultiCam uniforms for air force troops operating in combat along with army troops.

This was not the first problem of this sort. While the MultiCam was a an improvement on the older ACU pattern uniforms, the troops did not get new packs (which also use camo pattern cloth) at the same time they received the MultiCam uniforms. Thus when troops went off into the hills, the combination of MultiCam uniforms and ACU pattern packs do a lot to ruin the camouflage effect.

The U.S. military has been having a tough decade when it comes to camouflage uniforms. Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. Army has changed camouflage patterns for their combat uniforms twice. First it was the adoption of digital patterns, then the current move to MultiCam.

It was SOCOM (special operations command) troops who first had second thoughts about the older digital camo pattern. The digital camouflage pattern uses “pixels” (little square or round spots of color, like you will find on your computer monitor if you look very closely), instead of just splotches of different colors. Naturally, this was called “digital camouflage.” This pattern proved considerably more effective at hiding troops than older methods.

For example, in tests, it was found that soldiers wearing digital pattern uniforms were 50 percent more likely to escape detection by other troops, than if they were wearing standard green uniforms. What made the digital pattern work was the way the human brain processed information. The small “pixels” of color on the cloth makes the human brain see vegetation and terrain, not people. One could provide a more technical explanation, but the “brain processing” one pretty much says it all. Another advantage of the digital patterns is that they can also fool troops using night vision scopes. American troops are increasingly running up against opponents who have night optics, so wearing a camouflage pattern that looks like vegetation to someone with a night scope, is useful.

But digital doesn’t rule, at least not when price is no object. The runner-up in the competition was a non-digital pattern called MultiCam (cleverly designed to hide troops in many different environments). Many in the army preferred this one, but the difference, in tests, between it and the winner, digital ACU, was not that great. Moreover, MultiCam was about three times more expensive.

However, SOCOM operators have their own budget, and had many of their guys out in the field wearing MultiCam, rather than the digital ACU. Now SOCOM has always had a larger budget, per capita, than the rest of the army, and its operators had a lot of discretion to use whatever weapons or gear they thought best for the job. Apparently, on some jobs, MultiCam was considered more suitable than digital ACU. That said, there have been few complaints from soldiers about ACU, which measures up to MultiCam in most particulars, and it a lot cheaper.

Eventually, the services decided that if MultiCam provided even a small advantage over digital, than MultiCam was the way to go. The British Army thought the same thing, and are now sending new uniforms, using a version of MultiCam, to their troops. But for the new MultiCam to work, everything the troops wear has to be MultiCam. And everyone out with the troops, especially air force air controllers, need to be dressed in MultiCam as well.





camo comparison two

6 08 2010

ITS Tactical, who did a terrific job photographing several different camouflage patterns in Oklahoma last year, have hit gold again with a repeat of the test, this time in Texas, and featuring a few more camouflage patterns (and a few less duds).

With half an eye on the current conflict in Afghanistan the team at ITS chose a mixture of terrain that included sand and rocks and some scrubby growth. Although the landscape favoured desert and semi-arid camo patterns, four woodland/temperate designs were featured in the tests too – MARPAT Woodland, Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Digital, Jieitai (Japanese flecktarn) and PenCott. Judge for yourself, but of the four,  I know which one I’d choose to wear in that sort of environment, if arid camo was not available ;-) Well, you would  expect me to say that, wouldn’t you?

"ITS Camo Comparison 2"

The test is very comprehensive, with consistent photos of all the camouflage patterns mounted on a dummy at set ranges in four different locales. You get a chance to pick up to four best performing patterns in each photo set. A tip regarding voting though – to be sure you are voting for the patterns you think are best, familiarise yourself with the designs – and the order they appear in – with one of the close range photo sets, because at long range it gets pretty hard to tell some of them apart, and the picture captions don’t give anything away!

Anyhow, you can check it all out on ITS Tactical’s blog





acu is great

22 02 2010

I couldn’t let this amusing picture from a few years back pass without comment. So, for those who didn’t already see it on Soldier Systems:

"acuisgreat"





multicam makes the cut in the dirtbox

22 02 2010

Following a pre-emptive announcement on Soldier Systems on Feb 17th, the US Army confirmed that it will be fielding Crye’s Multicam pattern in Afghanistan, replacing the maligned Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) and effectively ending trials of a recoloured derivative, UCP-D, that attempted to resolve some of the concealment issues around UCP by adding a fourth, earth (‘Coyote’) brown colour.

The Army Times has this:

By Matthew Cox – Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Feb 21, 2010 9:07:31 EST

The Army will begin fielding MultiCam, a more effective camouflage pattern for Afghanistan, in August. Soldiers deploying in late summer will be the first to receive the new versions of the Army Combat Uniform; soldiers already in theater will begin getting them in the fall.

MultiCam, made by Crye Precision LLC, bested the existing digital pattern and others in multiple Army tests.

MultiCam was “21 percent less detectable than UCP,” the pattern used in ACUs, said Col. Bill Cole, project manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment.

“MultiCam was the clear winner,” he said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey was convinced of MultiCam’s effectiveness based on that statistic, Cole said.

“He’s an infantryman … when he saw that, he said, ‘You mean I can get this much closer to the enemy before I’m seen?’” Cole said. “That’s what he wanted.”

Secretary of the Army John McHugh approved Casey’s recommendation Feb. 19.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, at Fort Polk, La., and the Iowa National Guard’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, will be the first to receive MultiCam. The new uniforms will also feature other improvements slated to be incorporated in all future ACUs over time, including an improved collar and buttons to replace some Velcro.

Soldiers will receive four sets of MultiCam uniforms, four combat shirts and matching combat gear, Cole said.

“Anything they would wear on a dismounted combat patrol will be in MultiCam,” Cole said.

The Feb. 19 announcement came after a multiphase effort that culminated with soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Drum, N.Y., evaluating hundreds of calibrated photos of the Army’s Universal Camouflage Pattern and five alternative patterns taken in different settings in Afghanistan.

"021710at_multicam_2_800"

Soldiers wearing Multicam

So is MultiCam a step backward, returning camo design  to old-skool analogue patterns with swirly woodland shapes? Not at all! While it is not a pixellated pattern like UCP, the Marine’s MarPat, or Canada’s CadPat, it is still a digital designed pattern, and is far more advanced than any camo fielded in the 1980s and ’90s. Its design takes advantage of improvements in computer software that were unimaginable in the days of the Cold-war, allowing a complex pattern to be assembled from many different overlapping images, with colours tweaked to match environmental samples at the touch of a button. Before it was even printed, the concept was validated using sophisticated simulations of the pattern in different environments.





current camo compendium

7 02 2010

In the spirit of the recent trend toward an increase in the thought and development of  uniforms for troops, including the design of features as well as camo patterns,  Strike-Hold! has posted loads of great pictures in an article about 21st Century camo uniforms.

"finnish-winter-camo"

"Call that a knife? THIS is a knife!"





photo’s of ucp-delta in action

23 12 2009
UCP-D-afghanistan

UCP-Delta pattern in Kandahar province, Afghanistan

Defense Tech has the first exclu­sive look at the Universal Camouflage Pattern — Delta being worn by US Army personnel in the field in Afghanistan.

Also check by at Soldier Systems for additional pictures, including the MultiCam competitor in the field trials.

MultiCam_Afghanistan

MultiCam in Kunar province, Afghanistan





testing the new multi-terrain camouflage

21 12 2009

This article from a government website explains the rationale behind the choice of new camouflage for the Ministry of Defence:

** EDIT ** Updated December 22nd with new images from the final DSTL press release

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory – 21 Dec 2009 12:10
in Government News Network newsTESTING THE NEW MULTI-TERRAIN CAMOUFLAGE

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Ministry of Defence civilian scientists, working with the MOD Defence Clothing Project Team, has tested and trialled new multi-terrain camouflage clothing that has been proven to improve mission effectiveness across a range of different backgrounds.It is the first time in 40 years the Armed Forces have changed the camouflage pattern. George Philpott, Land Battlespace Systems, Dstl, says: “Dstl scientists researched and tested whether a mixed multi-terrain camouflage pattern would improve mission success and basically keep soldiers hidden for longer during ambush operations or when on patrol. It is not just a question of colours; we looked at texture and tone of patterns, how the light reflects and how well it disguises the wearer when observed both close up and at a distance.

“Dstl‟s work is all about creating battle-winning technology for UK armed forces on current operations, and we‟re proud we were able to cram all the work in to just six months, with extra people working a lot of extra hours to get this research and testing complete.”

Troops in Helmand, Afghanistan, operate in a mixed landscape: desert, woodland, mountainous, urban etc. Dstl assessed whether a multi-terrain camouflage was better than the standard army woodland camouflage disruptive pattern material (DPM) or the desert DPM and if so what is the best pattern, or balance of colours. The two current camouflage schemes were tested alongside an existing off-the-shelf multi-terrain camouflage to see which performed best across various backgrounds that soldiers are likely to encounter across the landscape in Afghanistan.

Computer modelling was carried out across representations of the green zone, desert and transition backgrounds. Soldiers operated in various scenarios in a simulated set of environments to test how the different camouflages performed in situations where staying undetected was important.

Overall the multi-terrain performed best, supporting the theory that a multi-terrain camouflage offers improvements when soldiers move between different places and backgrounds. Dstl also conducted interviews and subjective testing with service men and women to understand and evaluate whether they would actually be happy to wear the new camouflage and whether the concept of a multi-terrain camouflage was desirable and effective.

As a result of this work, it was determined that a multi-terrain camouflage could improve mission success so Dstl set about testing available multi-terrain patterns and creating new ones for testing.

Christopher Jones, Air & Weapons Systems, Dstl, adds: “In addition to existing aerial photography, Dstl sent cameras to Helmand for soldiers to take specific scientific photographs of the various backgrounds and landscapes they operate in.”

Dstl teams in the UK, at Fort Halstead, near Sevenoaks in Kent and at Portsdown West, near Portsmouth in Hampshire, measured the colour properties for each image and identified seven major background types. These colours were then used for Dstl‟s camouflage optimisation and testing programme.

Photo-montage colour test

Photo-montage colour test

Christopher Jones continues: “The colours and backgrounds in Helmand are similar to those found in parts of the UK, so we used the colour data from Afghanistan and used it to identify places where there was a good colour match, to allow us to run large scientific trials.”

The Afghanistan background colours were used to generate new multi-terrain type camouflage based partly on the shapes and patterns of the existing UK woodland DPM. These were tested against the current army woodland and desert uniforms, to act as a baseline, and a commercially available pattern from Crye Precision.

The ten different camouflage patterns tested by DSTL

Ten camouflage suits were trialled in five tests to assess overall performance with pilot trials held before the final main testing. The trial team developed experimental techniques, which were initially established through collaborative research with other NATO countries.

Lt Col Toby Evans, military advisor, Dstl, adds: “The detailed tests and trials looked at everything from how easy is it to spot these camouflages in different terrains and backgrounds to simply asking the soldiers who helped on the trial, which one do you like best and would feel happy wearing?

The tests

Observer assessment – a live trial with military personnel asked to judge the performance of each suit at 50m, 100m and 150m. The trial was carried out at Stanford Training Area, Norfolk and at RAF Donna Nook, Lincolnshire as they contained areas with similar colours and backgrounds to Helmand. Additional testing was also carried out at night to test low light performance.

Statistical assessment – using a computer model of how camouflaged objects are detected, each suit was tested for its match to the seven identified different backgrounds.

The following three trials took place at Catterick Garrison and included a large number of army personnel:

Order rank – soldiers ranked how well close-up images of the suits performed against the seven backgrounds.

Time to detect – Dstl measured the time it took soldiers to detect the 10 different camouflage patterns in the seven backgrounds using a computer-based assessment.

Personal preference – soldiers were asked which their favourite three patterns were based purely on appearance and any patterns they wouldn‟t like to wear.

DSTL test of desert DPM

The results

The results showed the Crye Precision Multicam performed the best, on average, across all the trials. The final camouflage has a pattern that is similar to the current woodland DPM as it allows for easy identification between soldiers and this type of pattern consistency proved popular during the research.

Dstl is currently looking at future research into army camouflage clothing, optimising the camouflage to perform well in a variety of landscapes and backgrounds around the world to support wider operations. If this is successful the outcome could become the standard camouflage for all UK armed forces.





multi terrain pattern camouflage for british armed forces

20 12 2009

In the last few days some military news sites, blogs and forums, and now the BBC and the Daily Telegraph, have been reporting on a surprising announcement from the British Ministry of Defence: A new camouflage pattern has been developed, to address the problem of operating in areas that include both arid or desert terrain and cultivated ground, such as that found in Afghanistan’s ‘green zone’ astride the Helmand River.

Why is this a surprise? Well, apart from the fact that Britain has used the iconic disruptive pattern (DPM), with minor changes, since the end of the 1960′s, and has always professed itself quite happy with it -  and the auxiliary desert DPM -  there is the suddenness of it! Even though the camouflage is being introduced to troops as an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR), as an example of bureaucratic camouflage (what the Russians call maskirovka), the development and trialling of this pattern has been textbook.

At the beginning of this year I was made aware that our special forces (UKSF) were looking for a multi-terrain pattern to use for their issued uniforms. They specifically wanted Crye Precision’s MultiCam® (which I understand they are permitted to wear and purchase  themselves from the manufacturer), but there was a barrier to domestic production presented by US restriction on the use of the licence. Other patterns, including Hyde Definition’s homegrown PenCott camouflage, were considered, but the colours and tonal gradations that characterise MultiCam® were what the UKSF valued above all in a design.

Crye's MultiCam® pattern

Crye's MultiCam® pattern

All seemed to go quiet, and UK Special Forces personnel continued to be seen in assorted uniforms and camo patterns, including MultiCam®. But while all this was going on, much fanfare and spectacle was created by the Personal Equipment and Common Operational Clothing (PECOC)  program, which, as this blog reported, looked all set to introduce a family of far less radical DPM derivatives in to service. The colours of temperate DPM would be changed slightly, the desert pattern would acquire a sparse overprint in a third, darker brown, and  new ‘intermediate’ multi-terrain DPM (with a four colour palette of 3 browns and a green that was vaguely similar to MultiCam®’s colours) would be introduced for use on personal load bearing equipment and helmet covers. Or so we all thought.

Hybrid PECOC intermediate camouflage pattern

Hybrid PECOC intermediate camouflage pattern

Evidently, a satisfactory solution to the UKSF’s needs was quietly found by having Crye secretly create a bespoke pattern for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). Quite when it widened from UKSF to became an all-forces affair is unclear, as throughout the development and trials process there was no inkling of the new Crye Multi Terrain Pattern (MTP), outside of those with a need to know. Any mentions of a new digitally designed pattern or a DPM with MultiCam® colours were thought to refer to the PECOC program, which was running along a confusingly (conveniently?)  similar parallel track. Trials were conducted in the UK, Cyprus, Kenya, and Afghanistan, but were kept secret with confidentiality agreements (even the Official Secrets Act can be employed without too much creative thinking), intellectual property protection, and MoD royalty rights. Of course, we all sign the OSA when we join the military, but rumours of new developments always bubble to the surface before long. That little to nothing leaked out is testament to the stringency with which the rules were enforced, and the effectiveness of the MoD’s maskirovka campaign. I don’t know which units were involved in the trials, but it’s certainly easier to do this kind of thing with elite special operations troops who understand and value security. If they should be accidentally spotted wearing a new multi-terrain pattern while trialling it in the course of their normal duties, it can easily be explained away as MultiCam®, which no-one would think to question (at more than a few feet away it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between the two Crye designs anyhow).

Crye Multi-Terrain Pattern

Crye Multi-Terrain Pattern

The pattern itself looks exactly like you might imagine a hybrid between DPM and MultiCam® would. The unique Crye blends between colours are there, as well as their signature ‘bird-dropping’ blobs and streaks of very dark brown and extremely light grey. The shapes within the pattern, however, are very much more reminiscent of temperate DPM than the laterally-elongated woodland camouflage forms of classic MultiCam®. It’s a very pleasing design aesthetically, and promises to blend in various environments just as well as its American progenitor. And just like MultiCam®, it suffers when it comes to long-range disruption, as there just isn’t enough contrast in the pattern. Hopefully, that failing will be of minor significance in the tactical environment in which it will be used, besides which, it is generally becoming acknowledged (at long last) that 21st Century armies are not often going to be fighting from and within bits of dense woodland or across trackless desert plains, but will spend the majority of their time approaching, entering, attacking and defending rural or suburban areas, with their characteristically close engagement ranges. Any camo design that addresses the new paradigm gets my support.

The MT Pattern, on standard No.8 combat uniforms, body armour and personal load carrying equipment (PLCE), is due to be issued to troops rotating through Afghanistan next year with a wider roll-out to the rest of the military beginning the following year.

This wiki article on the British Army Rumour Service website explains the thinking behind multi-terrain patterns like MultiCam®. Contains language unsuitable for minors.





camo test: afghanistan

13 12 2009

Some details have emerged via Army Times of the environmental trials to find the US Army’s new camouflage pattern, including a group photo of the contenders. As you can see below, the patterns being tested are (from left): AOR II, UCP, Multicam, Desert Brush, UCP-Delta and Mirage. Confusingly, two trials are ongoing  – one is a battalion level camo face-off between Multicam and UCP-Delta, with the winner supposedly then immediately becoming the in-theatre camouflage for US Army soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. The other trial (shown here) is much more like the traditional army camouflage evaluations carried out by the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, where a few soldiers, or even mannequins, are dressed in the patterns being tested and photographed against various backgrounds, real and artificial. This evaluation is purportedly intended to select a new ‘universal’ camouflage that in the near future will be worn at all times in all operational areas.

At the moment, with only this shot to go on, it is difficult to call any of them, but I’d say that UCP is obviously by far the worst, and the Delta version doesn’t seem to have improved it much – the coyote and grey blend together, and too little of the tan element remains to create the contrast necessary for texture and pattern.

AOR2 is seen to be a vertically oriented pattern after all, which ought to work well when troops are prone, but is a mockery of the science that went into its creation when worn upright like this: Landscapes – especially arid landscapes – break down into bands of horizontal elements, which is why many digital camouflage patterns have a somewhat stripy appearance. The colours look as though they could work well though (it is noticeably greener than Multicam, despite using a similar colour palette).

AORII, ACU, Multicam, Desert Brush, ACU-D, Mirage

Multicam, Mirage and Desert Brush all blend better than the rest in this photo, but Desert Brush is the only one in which I can detect a useful macro-pattern. This feature is important for reducing long-range identification of the wearer, and was a key aspect of  the design of the superlative Canadian Cadpat ‘temperate’ and ‘arid’ digital patterns. Further photo’s may reveal macro-patterns in some of the other designs, so we ought to reserve judgement until we have more information.





canada, cramer and cuepat

31 10 2009

Interesting news from Canada this week – a sole-source tender has been announced for the development of an experimental urban camouflage (CUEPAT – Canadian Urban Environment Pattern) based on the metropolitan environments of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. The tender makes mention of CBR (chemical, biological and radiological protection) in one sentence, though there is no indication as to whether this prototype camouflage is being developed solely for use on CBR clothing.

Urban environments are notoriously difficult to design effective human personnel camouflage for, as not only is the vertically oriented, rounded, organic shape of a person out of place amongst the hard edges, flat planes and bulky volumes of the man-made environment, but there also is no such thing as a typical urban colour scheme. Any number of greys, browns, creams and greens will be found in the typical city, not to mention all the hues of the spectrum that appear on advertising space, doors, façades and shop fronts, cars, trucks and buses – you name it.

My prediction is that without some pretty clever thinking by the design team, the outcome of this program will be a FAIL for effective camouflage, but a WIN for Army fashionistas and the B.S. brigade, just like UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern) was for the US Army.

The sole-source tender is effectively a no-bid offer to Guy Cramer and Tim O’Neill of  Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corporation,  stating as it does that  there are

no alternative sources of supply for this
requirement as no other Canadian source exists that has the
capability to design and develop digital, non-repeating
camouflage patterns using state-of-the-art fractal algorithms
and feed back loop technology, with concomitant IP protected
access to approximately 8,000 copyrighted patterns that can be
used in full support of meeting the requirement.

Although the terms of the tender allow competing companies to submit a bid, that bid must contain at least 80% goods and/or services of Canadian origin, and be submitted in writing before November 6th. Few, if any, of the other players in the digital camouflage industry are placed to take advantage of such a tightly constrained offer, meaning that however ineffective the design(s) submitted by Hyperstealth might be, the Canadian government will have no choice but to accept them.

There’s more on this story at Soldier Systems, and you can read the original tender as a pdf via this link.








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