This is Part 6
Phase IV Baseline Patterns, will the Army have to settle with these?
Part 2: U.S. Army Scorpion Camouflage
Part 3: Why Not Just Use MARPAT?
Part 4: Why US4CES?
In five years of opposition to almost every issue on the table, both the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate agree on something, it's not health care or budgets or gun control, it's camouflage!
(Vancouver, B.C. July 22, 2013) The U.S. Army’s Phase IV Camouflage Improvement Effort has concluded, a winner has already been determined and was going to be announced on the Army's Birthday June 14, 2013. The U.S. Congress, the same group that told the Army to find a better solution to the un-effective UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern) in 2010, decided just prior to the Army's announcement on the winning family, voted in favor that all the branches in the U.S. Military should be wearing a common family of camouflage, rather than branch specific camouflage. In one of the few occasions over the last five years, the Senate agrees with the Congress and also votes in favor of the military using the same camouflage regardless of branch. The Army continues to withhold their announcement of the winner waiting for clarity on the Congress and Senate decision on combat camouflage.
There is a very real possibility that the U.S. Army may have to use what is already available and given the testing they had done prior to the Phase IV program, as they needed to find baseline patterns to use as a marker in the competition, it could be with the Senate and Congress pushing through their decision, that the Army (and all other branches) may have to use these patterns instead of the winning family from the competition. The three patterns which were used as baseline patterns are: U.S. Navy AOR1 for Desert/Arid environments, Multicam (OCP) for Transitional environments and the U.S. Navy AOR2 for Woodland/Jungle environments. The competitors were tested against these baselines to determine the four finalists in the competition. ADS Inc./Guy Cramer US4CES family of camouflage was selected as a finalist in the Phase IV program.
In Part 5, I focused on the competitor patterns and also on some of the baselines. Given the recent government decision which may force the Army to integrate what is currently available, I wanted to look more closely at this potential decision.
The Dark Side of Multicam
Some U.S. soldiers, after reading Part 5, who had used night vision were questioning some of the NIR (Near Infrared) photos of Multicam as it looked different than what they were seeing. I didn't realize it a few weeks ago but there is a reason for this discrepancy; Multicam has changed colors.
The photo below shows two Multicam jackets, the one on the left is printed on 50/50 Nylon/Cotton (NYCO) (Pre 2010) and the one on the right is also printed on 50/50 NYCO (Post 2010) but with the Ripstop (thicker stitches which run through to stop a rip from continuing farther in the cloth). As the material content is the same, that cannot be the reason for the difference in colors, but we can see that the one on the right is much more vivid and overall darker, and the bright areas are slightly brighter. I noticed the darkening of Multicam at the tradeshows over the past few years and had attributed it to different materials absorbing inks differently. (Neither jacket shown has been washed).
Before you think I am just reading more into than is actually there, let's look at the U.S. Military reflectance specifications on OCP (Multicam) and how they have changed.
The chart below is how OCP Multicam Reflectance levels used to be specified. Out of the seven colors in Multicam, only two colors were visible in the NIR (Night Vision) (around the 860 nm point in the chart below). Someone has now pulled access to this government reference which was still accessible when I published Part-5 about three weeks ago.
Below is how OCP Multicam Reflectance levels are now specified. With three colors separated in the NIR.
And what do we see in the NIR? We see exactly what these two charts above indicate. Below, the Multicam on the left is the pre-2010 NYCO and the one in the middle is the NYCO Ripstop Post 2010. How did they achieve this change in the NIR? They added contrast to the colors so the darks would print darker and the lights - lighter. Did it help the NIR? Only slightly, as I've shown in Part 5 you need much more contrast in the NIR spectrum to disrupt the human target.
This new (High-Contrast) Multicam with only a slightly darker NIR reflection accounts for the reason that soldiers were seeing something different than what I was showing in Part-5.
Is the U.S. Military camouflage really that bad in the Near Infrared?
A few people have questioned the priority I have placed on the NIR results, was I was making a bigger deal over the functionality of camouflage in the NIR just to promote US4CES.
This issue of U.S. military camouflage NIR reflection levels has been considered for some time. When West Point teamed with the USMC and Central Command in a 2009 paper "Hyperspectral Imaging to Develop Adaptable Near Infrared Camouflage"(3) the project was to see if a COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) product could be used on current camouflage to reduce the NIR reflection levels in three camouflage patterns - USMC Woodland, UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern) and Multicam. These results were discussed at Army Day in December 2010 when industry gathered at the Army Research Lab to hear about the Phase IV camouflage improvement program from the Army.
Once you read the abstract below you can see that there is a legitimate concern that these Army and USMC patterns are not matching background reflectance and a few methods had been discovered to darken the reflection to reduce detection:
What were the COTS products tested?
They included spray paints, (Krylon Camo Spray Paint and Krylon Clear Spray Paint), deodorants (Sure and Gillette), and hair spray (Suave and Aqua Net).
The initial test showed some excellent results on Black Control Fabric in the NIR with Krylon Camouflage working the best but also covering with paint whatever was under it with paint. Aqua Net hair spray came close to Krylon in the largest effect.
When they applied the same COTS products to MARPAT (below) they found that the Krylon turned the whole camouflage brown (eliminating Krylon paint as an adequate method), so the next best was again the Aqua Net hair spray
Then they measured the overall background and found that applying the Aqua Net to the MARPAT Woodland actually came close to matching the background reflectance level.
They then tested a different COTS NIR absorbing fabric dye which had a green tint: This dye was purchased from Fabric Holding Inc.
When they applied this NIR absorbing fabric dye to the three camouflage patterns there was a change in the look of the camouflage within the visual spectrum. As you can see in the images below the bottom half of each fabric has been coated and changes the look within the visual spectrum, especially with the UCP and the Multicam, the visual effect on MARPAT was minimal.
Five regions of interest (ROIs) were selected for the areas of the fabric without the dye and five ROIs were evaluated on the area of the fabric where the dye had been applied. The ROIs were selected to give an average response across the whole pattern and thus no consideration was given to selecting ROIs on regions of the patterns that possessed the same colors. The average spectra for these ROIs is shown in Figure 8.
The ACU (Army Combat Uniform) in the chart b refers to the UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern).
The reduction in reflection is substantial and shows why this study is so important, these three patterns are much brighter in the NIR than they should be without additional coatings. This particular NIR coating while helping get a better match in the NIR does cause a darkening within the Visual Spectrum (about 40% darkening with Multicam), thereby removing the specified effectiveness in the daytime.
The three photos below show the difference in MARPAT (the least amount of visual change with this coating) in A) Visual Spectrum and with both B) & C) two common Night Vision Devices; AN/PVS7D and AN/AVS6V with no Dye on the top half of the fabric and NIR Absorbing Fabric Dye on the bottom half.
Remember the key comment within the abstract: These early results indicated that it was possible to use a NIR absorber to alter the NIR reflectance of the materials, thus decreasing the overall probability of detection.
U.S. Navy AOR2
We really have not looked at a proper comparison of the U.S. Navy's AOR2 which is the U.S. Army baseline for Woodland/Jungle.
Both the USMC and the U.S. Navy have placed their branch logos within the pattern. They are in fact the same pattern with different colors, MARPAT runs horizontally and AOR2 runs vertically on the uniform so it is easy to spot the differences between them.
As you can see there are large variations in colors used for Woodland environments. I included the Canadian CADPAT TW (Temperate Woodland) for comparison as it has won NATO competitions and has also proven to be very effective within the NIR Spectrum. It is also the identical pattern as MARPAT and AOR2 and preceded the U.S. MARPAT by about 5 years. The USMC requested the Canadian pattern after NATO testing showed it's effectiveness - Canada allowed this with the stipulation that the USMC Colors must be different.
Within the NIR spectrum (below), AOR2 reflects darker than MARPAT Woodland, we see that the two dominant colors in AOR2 become one color in the NIR so the pattern loose much of the disruptive effect in the NIR and the darkest color is not as dark as either MARPAT Woodland or CADPAT TW which was developed by the Canadian military with colors that worked in the NIR for Woodland type environments. In Afghanistan it was a common practice for Canadian Soldiers to use CADPAT AR (Arid Regions) in the day time and CADPAT TW (Temperate Woodland) on night missions. Notice that US4CES Woodland achieves a similar NIR reflectance without having to use the dark CADPAT TW colors.
Horizontal or Vertical flow
There is an issue with the vertical orientation of AOR2, as you can see in the two photos above US4CES Woodland, MARPAT Woodland and CADPAT TW all have a horizontal flow. While the NAVY decision to use this orientation was based on subjective research, some objective research out of the USMA (United States Military Academy) concludes that horizontal orientation was better. An increase in detection of between 10%-50%+ (identifying the vertical camouflage orientation a few seconds earlier than the same camouflage in a horizontal orientation), the pattern used in the West Point test was Multicam and further tests are proposed for Digital patterns.
There are also NIR issues with NYLON (waterproof Nylon for uniforms) reflecting brighter than regular NYCO uniform material. As you can see the darkest color in AOR2 is brighter on the Nylon than it is on the NYCO.
Here is a comparison photo in the Visual Spectrum
U.S. Navy AOR1
When the U.S. NAVY began to issue their AOR1 (desert) camouflage, the USMC asked the Navy to restrict that pattern to the Navy SEAL teams (and not all Navy Ground personnel) as the colors were so close to the USMC MARPAT Desert that it was confusing to determine which branch the soldier was with. However, even though there is only a slight difference in colors - AOR1 managed to beat MARPAT desert in U.S. Army testing.
Below, AOR1 also works better than MARPAT Desert in the NIR but falls short of CADPAT AR (Canadian Desert) within the NIR spectrum - our goal with US4CES was to surpass the leading patterns within the Visual, NIR and SWIR spectrums. Part of this was utilizing the larger macropattern (large blobs) that the Canadian's found worked better in desert environments and allowed for much farther distances where the pattern was still effective and able to disrupt the human target.
The Photo below shows that the Visual look and yet this does not provide any reference to how a pattern will function within the NIR spectrum
The Reflectance levels below on AOR1 between the Nylon and the NYCO are almost identical. Notice that the Coyote brown (third Brightest color in the Visual Spectrum) is lost in the AOR1 within the NIR as it becomes the same color as the second brightest color, we discussed this issue within the first few parts of this series. This was not done on purpose - you want colors to separate into different hues within the NIR and SWIR just as they do in the Visual Spectrum.
If the Army (and all other branches) decided to use the Army's three baseline patterns, they will have an adequate set of daytime camouflage patterns.
Not so much at night if the enemy uses Night Vision Devices. (Unless you have a whole lot of Aqua Net Hair Spray to apply over the whole uniform)
Here are the same patterns in a NIR photo - Note the US4CES patterns were folded differently so the same parts of the pattern in the photo below do not correspond to the same area as the photo above
The U.S. Army's Phase IV Camouflage Improvement Effort was to provide the best solution to soldiers with a more effective family of camouflage than what was currently available, to work both day (visual) and night (NIR), against Generation 1,2 and 3 (SWIR = Short Wave Infrared) Night Vision Devices if possible? We've accomplished that with the US4CES Family. Did another finalist equal or surpass us in these areas?
Will cost play a larger role in deciding the winner than overall effectiveness? If so then the question needs to be asked, what was the purpose of Phase IV then?
Will politics force the U.S. Military to use only their currently available camouflage and abandon any potential Phase IV Improvements?
This is Part 6
Part 2: U.S. Army Scorpion Camouflage
Part 3: Why Not Just Use MARPAT?
Part 4: Why US4CES?
4) Determining the Effects of Pattern Orientation on the Detection of Camouflaged Targets: CDT Thomas Carr, CDT John Craig-Lee, CDT Ilanit Guadalupe, CDT Akeem Rutherford
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