The Camo Chronicles, Part 7: Now You See Me, Now You Don't

What would the perfect camouflage system look like? Well…nothing. It’s camouflage. Get it?

As we pointed out early in this series, all aspects of uniform development and deployment—include the creation and application of new camouflage patterns—are constrained by a variety of factors. But the fact that a goal might seem impossible given current technological and fiscal limitations doesn’t mean it’s still not on the minds of those striving to reach it, or, just as importantly, those who ultimately will benefit from it.

Johannes Baumbach, a senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa, cut to the heart of the matter when he wrote in 2012, “The ultimate wish for any soldier is for his system to provide camouflage on demand, in any of the wavelengths, against any background (and then change the pattern according to the background as he is moving).” He then goes on to mention possible camo technologies such as electrochromic textiles (fabric that changes appearance through electricity), thermochromic (temperature-based) solutions, “wearable displays” that project bring background images to the front to create the illusion of invisibility, and metamaterials that “bend” electromagnetic energy.

It's unclear how much Mr. Baumbach was paid to come to the earthshaking (not) conclusion that soldiers want camo that’s 100 percent effective, 100 percent of the time, in 100 percent of possible combat situations. But imagine, just for a moment, that a soldier was equipped with a camouflage system that could provide just the right “camouflage on demand” by switching between various technologies. There’s still a sticky wicket: how would the wearer know which one to employ in a given situation? For instance, if he activated a thermochromic mode, how could he be sure the enemy wasn’t employing a thermal-vision system that would turn the tables on his stealth technology? And consider an electrochromic system. Besides requiring a power source, it could be disabled by an electromagnetic pulse—a possibility not as far removed as you might think, given the military’s keen interest in creating an EMP weapon that can be deployed by individual soldiers.

Of course, there’s always the “invisibility cloak”—a topic the media latches on to whenever there is the teeniest advance in the ultimate concealment technology and which invariably invokes references to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Hyperstealth Biotechnology, a Canadian company that creates camouflage patterns, announced its “Quantum Stealth” technology a few years back, claiming that it is a “non-powered adaptive camouflage which portrays what is behind the user in front of the user [by] bending the light around the target.” [] Sounds promising, but the hard truth is that only mock-up photographs purporting to show Quantum Stealth’s effectiveness have been released.

It goes without saying that the ultimate purpose of camouflage is to minimize casualties and enable mission completion. But as all branches of the U.S. armed services clearly recognize, the impact of an effective, well-designed uniform goes far beyond this admittedly overarching goal. As retired U.S. Army Colonel G.P. Krueger explains in 2012’s Advances in Military Textiles and Personal Equipment, “A well-designed military uniform contributes to a soldier’s identity and to his or her affiliation with the organization. Ultimately, uniforms contribute in part to whether or not soldiers will re-enlist for subsequent tours of duty, thus impacting overall unit personnel retention. Military psychology suggests the human factors of uniform design must never be taken lightly.”

Hyperstealth's Quantum Stealth technology claims to deliver what
amounts to an invisibility cloak, but the only images showcasing its
effectieness are mock-ups created in some type of image-manipulation

About us

As a certified manufacturer of uniforms and insignia, The Salute Uniforms considers it a privilege to provide the members of our nation’s military services with superior-quality apparel and accoutrements. We guarantee that every product we offer is made in the USA and meets or surpasses Mil-Spec standards. Browse our online catalog and discover how our tradition of excellence and commitment to innovation makes us your best source for military uniforms, insignias, medals, and accessories.


100% secure payment

Salute Industries Inc, proud maker of The Salute Uniforms.
105 Apache Drive, Archdale, NC, 27263.