The Science of Digital Camouflage Design

by Guy Cramer, President, HyperStealth® Biotechnology Corp. &

Lt. Col. Timothy R. O’Neill, Ph.D., United States Army (Ret.), defense consultant


Recently a trend towards digital (pixalated) camouflage has appeared in military camouflage with Canadian Forces CADPAT, U.S. Marines MARPAT, U.S. Army ARPAT, Finland Model 2005, and most recently the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan KA2 pattern. This trend is not due to artistic creativity but scientific fact.


Why digital?


Lt. Col. Timothy R. O’Neill, Ph.D., United States Army (Ret.), defense consultant, developer of digital camouflage explains the test results below.


These graphs show performance of the improved MARPAT (Dual-Tex derivative) against the current NATO 3-color pattern and a forest green monochrome target, all adjusted for overall brightness.
This test was run under SBIR contract to Office of Naval Research in Fall 2003/Spring 2004 at West Point, NY. Observers were first-year cadets; all has vision 20/20 Snellen or higher; all had normal color vision.
Scenes were presented in random order with one target in each slide. Measure was time in msec required to make a correct detection, and time in msec required to make a correct identification (of target shape).
Graph at left indicates very high performance improvement for the MARPAT (it took more than twice as long to detect).
The slide on the next page (below) shows a similar recognition degradation (that is, it also took longer to identify the target shape once the target was detected).
Overall effects were highly significant statistically.
Results were presented at the midyear joint meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and Division 19 of the American Psychological Association in March 2004. Results will appear in Military Psychology in 2004.





Recent digital developments, by Guy Cramer


A picture is worth a thousand words: (left) U.S. Army personnel get a good look at the new Army Combat Uniform with ARPAT (Army Pattern); as you can see there is a large difference with the color and pattern over the existing woodland they are wearing.


Designing a digital pattern can be as simple as using graph paper and filling in the squares or as complex as running multiple fractals (graphics with feed back loops) and advanced algorithms through graphics programs, this process is called C2G (Camouflage Designated Enhanced Fractal Geometry). This still doesn't mean you're going to end up with a good concealment pattern, if you don't understand the science and factor that into the design, the best efforts can still come up short as we believe happened with the unrealistic measure the the new U.S. Army pattern (ARPAT).


Designed for multiple environments ARPAT was derived from the U.S. Marines digital MARPAT, however one main difference with ARPAT was the removal of black in the pattern leaving it with three colors and with only one color scheme for Woodland, Desert, and Urban we believe it is equally ineffective in each environment, we affectionately refer to ARPAT as the Alternate Reality Pattern as we cannot determine on what scientific basis it was developed. Dr. O'Neill has designed objective tests of ARPAT to compare the results in a number of environmental settings with Woodland MARAPT / Desert MARPAT and our new Advanced Generation II MARPAT: Woodland / Desert and Cold Weather (3 separate) color schemes. Actual testing is scheduled to take place within the next few months.


Our concern with ARPAT is that concealment effectiveness has been compromised by the one (multi-environment) color scheme requirement, which seems to be based on budgetary restrictions rather than protection of the individual. Our past research shows a minimum of two different color schemes; woodland and high desert are required for sufficient concealment in global operations.


My initial camouflage experimentation began after reading the Canadian Government spent millions on the development of CADPAT in the 1990's. I spent a few hours on my computer and improved on the design, posting these new patterns on the internet. This page caught the attention of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and I began the journey of designing camouflage for government and military. Jordan wanted the best design I could produce and given the lack of bureaucratic red tape usually associated with something on this scale I was able to produce the KA2 pattern, with a number of improvements over CADPAT/MARPAT/ARPAT.


KA2 has a larger Macropattern over Canadian/U.S. digital patterns to better break the symmetry of the soldier. KA2 is omnidirectional but with a higher trend toward horizontal disruption to further break the human SymAxis. Further enhancements of KA2 are the bright and dark areas to mimic natural reflections and shadows which simulate depth. Different color schemes have been adjusted to take advantage of this effect as KA2 Digital Urban for Jordan's Police shows the greatest amount of depth and texture typical of urban/suburban settings. KA2 Digital Desert for Jordan's Army / Air Force has the highest contrast for disruption (Jordan has dark deserts) but the reflective element of the pattern was replaced with a green to represent sparse vegetation, this change removes some of the depth and texture appearance of the Urban pattern making the Jordan Desert Digital closer to sparse Arid/Desert environments where small reflective elements are typically few and far between.


Similar research was use to determine the most appropriate color schemes for KA2 Digital Woodland for Jordan's Special Forces, and the separate KA2 Digital Woodland for the Jordan Royal Guard (not yet shown to public).         


As I progressed in pattern development and began to design digital patterns for vehicles for a large Defense Contractor, my work was forwarded to Lt. Col. O'Neill, considered the world expert on camouflage. After reviewing my work Lt. Col. O'Neill asked me to work with him on the design side of new patterns based on his extensive research. These new patterns (which we can't show you) currently undergoing simulation studies, have special features not seen in existing digital patterns and are considered advanced next generation patterns for the U.S. Military.       


We believe through the development of over 300 digital concealment patterns, we have overcome many of the obstacles that plague the current field of CCD (Camouflage, Concealment and Deception) in military camouflage design. While we are unable to share the meat and potatoes of our work , we can let you see the abstract below:  



Individual Soldier Camouflage:

What the Sniper’s Eye Tells the Sniper’s Brain




Military applications of camouflage principles have traditionally fallen short of their potential, owing in large part to naďve interpretations of natural processes and the scientific basis of camouflage; lack of confidence in poorly-designed results has led to continued development of uniforms and other personal concealment measures that use camouflage as a fashion statement rather than as a tool for reducing personal vulnerability. A major contributor to this waste of resources is the complex nature of concealment processes. Understanding how camouflage works in the visual spectrum depends on tracing the braided contributions of such seemingly unrelated threads as the biophysics of visual processing, the distinction between detecting a target and recognizing it, signal detection theory, biomechanics and perceptual vector analysis, and the integration of camouflage design, tactical doctrine, and training. Current work on these topics for the United States Marine Corps and other foreign and domestic customers underscores the need for a coherent strategy to replace the present combination of chaotic objectives, research and development stovepiping, and lack of coherent vision. We provide an alternative theoretical and practical approach based on careful science and common sense.



Timothy R. O’Neill, Ph.D., United States Army (Ret.), defense consultant


Guy Cramer, President/CEO, HyperStealth® Corp.


Lt. Col. O'Neill adds the following to conclude:


"Digital" camouflage is actually a misnomer, based on the superficial resemblance of these patterns to quantized or coarse digital images. In fact, the patterns of squares (or whatever shape we use) is employed to model the texture of typical backgrounds using a mathematical function. We could use hexagons or shapeless blobs as well, except that it is easier to render complex patterns by computer using squares. It is easy to misunderstand the purpose and mechanisms of this kind of design, which is why so many measures that try to use the approach without insight fall short.


Return to home page:

CADPAT is a Trademark of the Canadian Government

MARPAT is a Trademark of the U.S. Marine Corps

ARPAT is a Trademark of the U.S. Army

KA2 is a Trademark of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

C2G-Camouflage is a trademark of United Dynamics Corp. (A Colorado Corporation)

Fracture Camouflage is a trademark of HyperStealth®

HyperStealth® is a Registered Canadian Trademark of HyperStealth®.

This page and information © Copyright 2005, Guy Cramer and Timothy R O'Neill, All Rights Reserved.

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