Today, there is nothing that quiet sums up the military like a piece of camouflage clothing and the patterns themselves say a great deal about the military organization, the historical context, and even the wearer. The journey for military camouflage has not been an easy one and our common understanding of military camouflage is a very recent development. And what about the future of military camo and will there be off-world camo patterns like we saw in Ad Astra? In this installment of FWS, we will be exploring and explaining the world, history, and future of military camouflage. Please note: this will be a limited scope article, there have volumes of books composed on the subject.
Sources for this Article:
- Camouflage at War by Martin J. Dougherty from Chartwell Books, published in 2017
- Uniform History YouTube Channel
- Camopedia Website
What is Camouflage and What is Military Camouflage?
Before we embark on this broad and complex subject, I think we need to discuss what is
and what is not
military camouflage. The word itself, "camouflage" originates from French and it became used in a military terminology context during the First World War. Before this, there was the Imperial British Khaki uniforms of the Victorian Period that started the camouflage incorporation movement that moved military uniforms away for Napoleonic boldly colored uniforms to the battle dress we know today. That evolution of standard battle dress took nearly a century. First, there are 2 major forms of camouflage: ones that appearing in the natural world and the human-designed camouflage. Within these two forms of camouflage, there are 4 types of camouflage: concealing coloration, disruptive coloration, disguise and mimicry. Either way, the major general purposes of camouflage both in the natural and human realm is for concealment and misdirection for both predator and prey. Camo'ed Predator animals, like my brown tabby housecat, use their natural camouflage to stalk, observe, and close the distance on prey via the values of misdirection and concealment. For prey animals, they use their own camouflage and lack of motion to avoid detection and being breakfast to live to fight another day. In the natural world, there is an biological arms race to developed the best camouflage for both predator and prey. At times, this is to misdirection a predator in thinking that moth is no moth, but an Owl or that an animal is poisonous when it is not.
That is the foundation of animal mimicry. Mimicry is when one animal appears to be another animal to deceive. This is present in predator and prey. There are forms of this mimicry in humans that allow predators to appear as more docile to drawn in prey. Native American hunters could do this with Buffalo skins. Serial killers and abusers do this as well with behavior and emotional camouflage. When it comes to human manufactured camouflage, there several kinds: military, ghillie (or Yowie), hunting, and the civilian developed patterns. Military camouflage is designed for a military organization for their forces and can vary from branch to branch in their military organization like Navy vs, Air Force vs Army. There can even be patterns only for Special Operations Forces. All military organizations use camouflage for their armed forces that is either designed for their military organization and the local conditions of their territory or they buy a camo pattern already used by other nations (like M81 Woodland). All military camo patterns use two of the four forms of camouflage: concealing coloration, disruptive coloration.
Many nations used the Brushstroke patterns and the US M81 Woodland. The vast majority of military organizations have several patterns for even deployed forces go to the desert, the jungle, or artic conditions. In an attempt to limit the logistical and financial strain of issuing many camo patterned uniforms and gear, there have been attempts to design an all-terrain camo pattern for both woodland, urban, and desert conditions in recent years with various results. The purpose of the standard military camo patterns used in battle dress uniforms and gear is not to complete obscure the wearer like The Predator
, but to have the wearer blend in better into their environment and then by using their training to use the local conditions to enhance the camo they are wearing.
In my experience on the paintball field, just wearing camouflage will help somewhat with the enemy aiming at you for a few heartbeats. At times, being in deep cover in low-light with camo on and being motionless helps even more. Camo patterned clothing and gear can be enhanced by the use of camo face/body paint. While camo may not be effective close up, it does work in long distance engagements. When reviewing firefights conducted in the hills and mountains of Afghanistan, it was hard to see both sides that used different forms of civilian and military camouflage.
However, there is a painful truth to modern camouflaged military clothing...it is as much a identifying uniform as the pre-World War One boldly colored uniforms of the French and British armies or even the Blue & Grey of the American Civil War. Let me explain. Most nations design and field their own brand of camouflage clothing for their troopers and those of us trained in spotting the difference can tell a British Infantrymen in DPM from a German soldier in Flecktarn to a Kiwi in NZDPM. This makes the camo pattern of one nation or even a specific branch of an military organization an identifier as much as the red uniforms of the 18th century British Army. In addition, these camo patterns can serve as an identifier of the time period or even when or even where a person served.
Then that brings us to the (in)famous Ghillie Suit worn by scout/snipers in both military, civilian, Law Enforcement, and even AirSoft/Paintball circles. The word is taken from the Gaelic term "Gille" that means someone who works as a outdoor servant. Or it could be from the term "Gille Dubh" that is a spirit found in Scottish mythology that is covered in leaves and moss. Ghillie Suits came to us from the 14th Lord Lovat, Simon Fraser, who is a complete badass along with his son. During the 2nd Boer War in 1899, the suit used by hunting and wildlife stalkers and gamekeepers was retrofitted for war by his Lovat Scouts.
After that war, the Lovat Scouts were disbanded until the 1st World War, when the Lovat Scouts became the first British sniper unit and their Ghillie Suits came with them in 1916. These scouts were drawn from men with experience working in the woods as wildlife stalkers and gamekeepers. By the time of the 2nd World War, the Ghillie Suit was established and used by both sides of the war. Since then, the tradition and filed use of the sniper Ghillie Suit has been entrenched into both the military and civilian worlds and is one of the most effective military camouflage systems on the planet. However, the Ghillie Suit is not suitable for all missions and terrain types with the building up of heat being a real issues. Those trained in the fieldcraft of scout-snipers, the construction and customization of their Ghillie Suit is an important part of the spin-up to the mission. Often, Ghillie Suits are altered based on the season and local conditions on the ground. While "Ghillie Suit" is widely used, the Australian Army uses the term "yowie suit" after their Bigfoot-like cryptid creature that lives down under.
That that brings us to the Hunter Camo patterns and how they are unique in the world of human-designed camouflage. Most military camo clothing is designed to work on the human eye and some electronic systems that use IR. However, most military camo is not designed to block on the primary methods employed by animals: scent. This is partly due to how different animals see and interpret what they see. If the human hunting camo blends the outline of the human form into the background and the hunter is remaining still, the animal could pickup the hunter's scent and know that bad shit is about to go down and they rapidly leave the threat envelope.
Hunting camouflage is also unique in the amount of variants of camo produced for various and specific terrain types along with wearing a specific camo pattern for a specific animal that you hunting. When research this, I cam across an article
that spelled out the difference between hunting camo and military camo. For the modern military camouflage, the article uses Multicam as an example, is designed to be used while moving, against humans, and in various terrains. Hunting camo, the article uses RealTree Xtra as an example, is design for a single environment, while the hunter is still in motion, and it designed to be used against animals.
Is hunting camouflage patterns used for combat by military forces? It has been used and normally by irregular forces that buy the gear from civilian sources and use it in place of military camo pattern clothing and gear due to lack of access. At times, hunting camo is used because the irregular forces involved are fighting a guerilla campaign against the invaders. I have seen civilian hunting camo on some brave civilian fighters in Ukraine, Hunting camo was seen on the Wolverines in the 1984 film Red Dawn.
We have visual evidence that even some American Special Operations units that were testing hunting patterns or bought a piece of specific gear in hunting camo. The American Kryptek hunting camo company has been consulted by US Special Operations for development of new camo patterns and Kryptek has marketed a line of military camo to Law Enforcement, MILSIM, and military/PMC clients.
Then we come to the last type of human-produced camouflage: civilian produced camo patterns. Okay, these rule the gambit when it comes to actually tactical application and fabulousness fashion. Civilians wearing military clothing is a very ancient tradition and there is much of modern civilian clothing that is lifted from military clothing and not just camo patterns. We all have seen the famous James Dean photos of him sporting a 1940's Navy Officer Bridge Coat. Military camo patterns worn as fashion goes back to the first issued camo clothing.
This was seen on former veterans that keep their camo gear due to usefulness or as a symbol of their service or it just all they had due to homelessness. One of the key influences on modern fashion trends is the world of Hip-Hop/Rap and the fusion of military and street fashion has been using camo clothing since the 1980's with the legend that is Tupac Shakur seen wearing an M81 Woodland Jacket in March of 1996, just a few months before his "death". To this very day, the fashion industry products civilian camo clothing that is for street wear and not urban combat. Much of this civilian street clothing printed in military camo patterns is based on the 1981 US Army Woodland pattern with a range of colors being seen. These items are not intend for any tactical or MILSIM use, just fashion for the sake of fashion. This "fashion camo" extends from more realistic M81 patterns to boldly colored camo clothing in neons, pinks, and purples. These were sold along side real camo patterned clothing at the local Army/Navy stores. I, for one, do not wear camo save for the paintball field. This is one element of civilian camo patterned clothing and the other is intended for actually combat use that is developed by civilian firms hoping to land a major defense or Law Enforcement contract.
This has been seen with companies like Crye Precision, the developers of Multicam. I can remember Crye Precision being placed in Ghost Recon 2
and Advanced Warfighter
and this was before they had gotten the nod from the US Government. Civilian firms design and developed camo patterns to advanced the science of camouflage and seek out juicy government contracts all the time with varied results. At times, they will sell to a police department or one small unit in the military...then other times, the entire military branch buys your camo pattern. Some of this camo developed by civilian firms was never really intended for military or LE clients, but for the civilian MILSIM and shooter markets. People like me that played Paintball bought camo or who did Airsoft, and there were companies that marketed to that.
Why Does the Military use Camouflage Now and Why Didn't They for Centuries?
The art and science of obscuring yourself from your prey or from a predator or your enemy on the battlefield begin when our modern human ancestors several million years ago began to hunt animals and engage in paleo warfare with other tribes and groups. Lessons that were gained on a hunt could also be applied to the primate battlefield. We stalked, observed, and attacked using the natural surroundings, shadows, and costuming that allowed for being not being seen until it was too late for the target. Given that the dyeing of clothing easiest example is from 34,000 years ago, which was done for "fashion" purposes and not for camouflage, the natural look of the animal skins used were good enough for blending in. At times, early human hunters dressed up in furs a form of animal mimicry to close the distance between themselves and their prey.
However, the likely millions of years of skills developed for the hunt that involved the world of camouflage were seemingly abandoned when the first city-states developed military organizations. For the earliest standing armies of the key ancient civilizations, we see very basic "uniforms" and the commanders and kings went into battle with bold displays of their power in garish costumes...being unseen was not the mission with them. During the Bronze Age, the uniforms of soldiers were designed to broadcast fear, marshal power, and identify who they were to avoid friendly fire so that you did not get a blade in your belly from your mate.
When armor was developed, this pushed ancient warriors further from the ancient art of hunting camouflage. As the complexity of human civilization deepened into vast empires, there were massive engagements of warriors like Thymbra, Plataea, Marathon, and Gaugamela. During the fields of battle, the warriors needed to know who was friend and who was foe and often the battle dress helped this during the melee of ancient battles. This concept of battle dress being mostly used to positivity identify who was who lasted for centuries and well into the 19th century. While some groups used camouflage for stealth to observe and gather intelligence on the movements and strength of their enemies via scouting, the vast amount of soldiers in warfare worn uniforms that identified themselves.
This can be seen in the garish hued uniforms of the classic battles of the Napoleonic Wars, the Colonial Wars of the British Imperium, and the American Civil War. In these battles, we see the blue of the French, the Red of the British, the Grey of the Confederacy, and the Blue of the Union. We also have to remember that while some of the tools of modern warfare were in those long ago battlefields, the gun and the artillery cannon were not the AK47. Less accuracy, volley lines, and a sense of esprit de corps
allowed for the bright and elaborate uniforms of that time period to not as much as a factor. One unit of the British Army, the 95th Rifles Regiment of Foot were some of a harbinger of the future back when formed in 1800 as an experimental unit. They worn green jackets, black leather, and were issued the Baker Rifle that was far more accurate the the Brown Bess. Then came the expansion of the British Empire into India, the Middle East, and into Africa...this set the stage for the incorporation of the first military camo pattern: Khaki. The battlefields and colonial holdings in the newly expanding British Empire were ill-suited for the blazing red tunic of the standard royal uniform. There were white uniforms for these tropical climates, but it was the native forces uniforms that were the genesis of the military khaki that we know today.
In 1848, Sir Harry Lumsden used native Indian soldiers as guides and scouts on the border of India and Afghanistan in the region of Peshawar (modern day Pakistan), known as the Corps of Guides. These local forces used their own manner of dress and coloring, which was dust colored. This caused Sir Lumsden to dye the British white uniforms in mulberry juice to a yellowish-color. This color became referenced to as "khaki" which is a Persian and Urdu in origin and means "soil" or "soil colored". While effective, the manner of dying was not and I read many accounts of these newly dyed uniforms fading to all manner of color. Soldiers dyed their uniforms with tea, coffee, mud, curry, and even tobacco and this caused a wide amount of variation in the coloring.
Throughout the small wars and campaigns in India and Africa, the new khaki uniform was more of less official issue for British units. During the 2nd Boer War, the use of camo was seen on both sides with the British and the local Boers. Once the British colonial forces began using the new dye, other major colonial powers did as well with the both the French and Germans developing their own take on the soil-colored uniforms for colonial operations. Even the Japanese and the American altered their uniforms with more khaki colored "camo" as seen in the Japanese M1904 uniform and the Americans during the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the local suppression operations of the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902. Thus, khaki is known as the first official camo pattern in military history. Then came the Great War and all of the changes that came from the terrible conflict. World War One changed the face of war forever and the look of the military especially. The last holdovers of the old 19th century uniforms was wiped out in a sea of mud, blood, and machine gun fire. The iconic French blue uniforms with red pants was altered only after thousands were dead. Soon, muted hues of greys, green, OD, and blues were the standard. The British had already adopted their take on the khaki color uniforms as their official uniform in 1902 and gave their own forces some degree of camouflage during the Great War.
During the horror of the Great War, there were many experiments with camo, including the first official camouflage patterns and government employed artists to create camo patterns for the modern battlefield, the Camoufleurs
. French artist like Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola used cubist ideas and concepts to create some of the first official camo patterns and paint schemes as we understand them today in 1915 in a studio in Toulin and by 1917, 3,000 were employed in his team to create all manner of camouflage. Some of the artists were in such demand that Guirand de Scévola unit was able to pull artist from the trenches of hell.
At the end of the Great War, the traditions of military uniforms and colors had been abandoned or completely rethought. The very ideas that we living in the 21st century have about military camo patterns and colors associated with the military originated from British in India and the horrors of World War One. By the time of the 2nd World War, camo patterns were applied to planes, ships, uniforms, buildings, and armored vehicles. The lessons of World War One and Two finally put the nail in the coffin of the military costume and led to the camo patterned uniform we know and love today along with the association of OD green, wolf grey, and khaki brown being military colors.
The Different Types of Camouflage Pattern Families
Up until the research phase for this article, I did not know that all military camouflage patterns fall within families. Often, these patterns form the foundation for sub-patterns.
Year of Development: 1941
Country of Development: United Kingdom
Importance: One of the earliest military camo patterns adopted and led to the camo pattern revolution during the Cold War.
Most Famous Variant: Rhodesian Brushstroke
Still in Use? Yes, with the Zimbabwe Defense Force and irregular forces.
Year of Development: 1947
Country of Development: France
Importance: Developed from the Denison smock of the 2nd World War British Paratroopers. Used throughout the world, including Israel.
Most Famous Variant: American Vietnam Tiger Stripe
Still in Use? Yes, an variant is in service in Syria
Year of Development: 1920's and issued 1931
Country of Development: Germany
Importance: One of the earliest military camo patterns and was used by the Nazi German Wehrmacht as their camouflage. Given its connection to the evil Nazi regime, the pattern is not widely used by military forces.
Most Famous Variant: The M90 Swedish Camo pattern
Still in Use? Yes, in the form of the M90 pattern
Chocolate Chip (Six Color Desert)
Year of Development: 1971
Country of Development: United States of American
Importance: This was the first desert camo pattern developed for the US Military due to the increase in likelihood of a Middle Eastern war involving US Forces (how true that turned out to be). It gain fame during the 1st Gulf War and became a symbol of that war. It was replaced by the 3-Color Desert pattern just as the 1st Gulf War was ending.
Most Famous Variant: The original is still the most famous.
Still in Use? Yes and widely by many nations across the globe.
Year of Development: 1941 and 1960
Country of Development: The United Kingdom
Importance: Given the influence of the British military forces and the Commonwealth, when the British Armed Forces adopted the DPM pattern in 1960. other nations followed. This pattern was changed over time and a desert variant was made, but it remained in service until just recently with the UK, New Zealand, and Austrailia replacing the DPM for the newer multi-cam patterns.
Most Famous Variant:
Still in Use? Yes, dozens of nations use the pattern or a clone of it.
Year of Development: 1997
Country of Development: Canada
Importance: This will go down in the history of military camouflage patterns as one of the most game changing. Digital camo patterns have been seen as the future of passive modern military camouflage. Since the Canadian introduction of CADPAT in 1997, every major military organization has examined the adoption of digital camo.
Most Famous Variant: MARPAT
Still in Use? Oh yes...and it is just getting started.
Duck Hunter/Frog Skin
Year of Development: 1942
Country of Development: United States of America
Importance: Designed by Norvell Gillespie, who was an horticulturist and garden editor for a number of noted newspapers and publications. The pattern, known as "Duck Hunter" and "Frog Skin" was used by US Marines during the Pacific Campaign and by US and ARVN forces during the Vietnam War.
Most Famous Variant: The Original
Still in Use? No
Year of Development: 1976
Country of Development: West Germany
Importance: Developed from some of the concepts laid down by the Nazi camo patterns, the modern Flecktarn was tested in 1976 and made by Marquardt & Schulz.
Most Famous Variant:
Still in Use? Yes
Year of Development: 1948
Country of Development: United States of America
Importance: The Leaf pattern is a board term for two camo patterns that changed the world of military camo patterns: ERDL and M81 Woodland. In 1948, the US Army Engineer Research and Development Laboratory (ERDL) developed the "Leaf" pattern and was seen in specialized units during the Vietnam War. In 1981, the US Army adopted the M81 Woodland pattern and every other branch followed. This pattern became one of the most iconic and used military camo patterns for Armed Forces, MILSIM, and fashion.
Most Famous Variant: The M81 US Military Woodland pattern
Year of Development: 1958
Country of Development: Belgium
Importance: For many on the internet, the Belgium "puzzle" camo pattern takes the cake as one of the oddest and garish modern military camo patterns.
Most Famous Variant: The original
Still in Use? Yes, it was last updated in 2016 by the Belgium armed forces.
Year of Development: 1965
Country of Development: East Germany
Importance: Developed from the "Splittertarnmuster", the Rain pattern became on of the camo patterns of the Warsaw Pact.
Most Famous Variant: The Bulgarian Frog-and-Rain Pattern
Still in Use?
Year of Development: 1962?
Country of Development: South Vietnam?
Importance: This camo pattern is very famous and is iconic of the Vietnam War...however, it's origin story is unknown. It is believed to have been developed from the French Lizard pattern due to the French colonization of Vietnam and the use of the French Lizard pattern with Vietnamese forces on both side of the Indochina War. The South Vietnam military developed and used Tigerstripe camo patterned uniforms for their more elite forces. During the American Vietnam War, US specialized units, like MACVSOG, Navy SEALs, and LRRP. After the war, Tigerstripe was adopted by a number of nations and 19 different variants were made with the pattern still being tested and issued. When I was growing in the 1980s, this was the badass pattern and I still wear a tigerstripe variant to paintball in woodland colors.
Most (In)Famous Variant: The USAF Airman Battle Uniform
Still Used? Oh yeah...
Why Doesn't the IDF use Camo Patterned Uniforms?
While nearly all of the world military organizations don some sort of camo patterned field uniforms. However, one of the combat experienced armies in the entire world, the IDF, does not...so, why not? To be fair, the IDF has in the past had some units that did indeed wear camouflage uniforms that were mostly reused French "lizard" camo pattern uniforms that were given to Israel by France seen in the Six Day War. At one point during the early years of the IDF soldiers worn OD, Khaki, and French lizard camo uniforms (referred to as "tiger suit" camo by some online).
According to a retired IDF reservist from the 188th Armored, Michael Davison, he said that he was issued the French Lizard camo patterned uniforms in the 1970’s. From his post, this camo uniform was the same issued to 1970’s Paratroopers. This uniform was dropped to some near friendly-fire incidents due some PLO and other groups using camo patterned uniforms. From the 1950’s onward, the standard “work” uniform of the IDF is OD fatigues that are very similar to the US BDUs with some modifications. This was a simple solution to the nature of the local environmental conditions that region of the Middle East.
One camouflage element worn by IDF soldiers for their OR-201 helmets is the Mitznefet. In a Slate article from August 2006 that sums up things better than I could, stated this: “The hat—called a mitznefet in Hebrew—attaches to a regular combat helmet and obscures its rigid, round shape. As the mitznefet flops about, it takes on an irregular form that's harder to recognize in a shadow or out of the corner of your eye. The hat also protects against the sun and the moon, which might reflect off the surface of the helmet. A standard mitznefet consists of reversible mesh fabric, with a greenish woodland camouflage print on one side and a brown desert print on the other...What does the word mitznefet mean? One common translation is "clown hat," but the term has some more dignified connotations. The biblical Book of Exodus uses *mitznefet *to describe the ancient headgear of the Jewish high priests. As such, the word has been translated as "mitre" or "headdress." But some biblical scholars think *mitznefet *comes from the root "to wrap," and say that a better translation would be "turban."
Then, it seemed, that the IDF maybe changing from their familiar OD fatigues to their own take on modern camo patterned uniforms. In 2018, the IDF was testing a new camouflage pattern for a month with about 350 soldiers taking part in the camo testing group. These soldiers are from, as reported by the Times of Israel
, the: Paratroopers Brigade’s training base, the mixed-gender Bardelas and Lions of the Valley battalions, the Home Front Command, the Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200, the Israeli Air Force’s Air Defense Command, the Ground Forces’ shooting instructor unit, and the Israeli Navy’s Red Sea patrol unit. However, the experiment was ended and the new uniforms were not accepted by the IDF and they are currently maintaining their OD fatigues. At this point in military history, the IDF OD combat/work fatigue uniform is the longest serving uniform.
The Digital Camouflage Revolution and the United States Armed Forces Growing Pains
The military history of camouflage patterns is relatively short when compared to the history of the sword or the gun. In that limited history of about 100 years, there is a current major revolution in the world of military camouflage: digital camo patterns. While many believe that the first issued digital camouflage was the US Marine Corps "MARPAT", it is actually older than I originally believed. Some of the "digital camouflage" patterns we know make use of micro and macro patterns, and this ideal was first tested by the 3rd Reich via the man who developed the camo patterns for the SS: Johann Georg Otto Schick. His ideas were later recycled into the development of the West German standard camo pattern. Another element of the digital camo pattern is the pixeled look and that was experimented by the USSR in the 1940's with the "TTsMKK"pattern. This was used by Albania for their camo pattern for Special Operations soldier's uniforms up until the 1990's.
After the Timothy O’Neil experiments with the tank “digital” camo patterns in the 1970's, there was another digital-like camouflage pattern prior to CADPAT: The US Desert Night Camo pattern. When the US began to develop a desert camouflage pattern after 1973 when it looked more likely that US Forces could be involved in a Middle Eastern conflict. The desert pattern that came out of the tests is the six-color desert camouflage or the iconic “Chocolate Chip” of the 1st Gulf War. During this, a night desert camo pattern was developed to obscure the wearer from Soviet Night Vision equipment of the 1970’s. The pattern was chosen after the evaluation period was a OD green and black grid pattern with spots and it did enter into limited service in a jacket for the cold desert nights.
By the time it was rolled out, the pattern was obsolete due to advancements in Soviet NVD technology and certainly by the time of the 1st Gulf War. However, the Desert Night Camouflage (DNC) has lived on to this very day due to its unique look in both the civilian and Special Operations world with Operators in Afghanistan being seen wearing DNC patterned jackets. The DNC is important in the discussing of military camo patterns overall and in American military camo. As one article put it, this was the first camo pattern to defeat an image technology and to be used at night only, along with being one of the first “digital” camo patterns officially adopted by a military organization.
Then came the first digital camouflage patterned military combat uniform and this was developed by Canada: The CADPAT. One of the odd elements of the story of Canada adopting a next-generation, cutting edge camo pattern is that the Canadian Army did not really use camouflage prior to this. Through several programs, projects, and studies, the Canadian Army, via their "Clothe the Soldier" Project, designed the pattern that would be the Canadian Disruptive Pattern or the CADPAT after 10 years. First issued in 1997, this was the first computer-generated digital camouflage pattern and was the vanguard for this modern trend. From the woodland pattern, the Canadian military added three more in service: arid, winter, and a multi-terrain.
In 2011, there was a project to develop an urban pattern of CADPAT, however, it does not seem to have been adopted. From this point onward, the digital camouflage pattern revolution was beginning. The first US military digital camo was very close to the CADPAT and was developed for the US Marines. According to articles I read on the relationship between CADPAT and MARPAT, the USMC basically took their research and copied it to a point. Much like the CADPAT, the USMC had a desert and did research into an unique urban pattern. However, this urban pattern, like many attempts an officially issued urban camo pattern, was not issued.
With these officially issued digital patterns of military camouflage by two major military organizations, the rest of the world took notice and to this very day, military organizations, tactical gear companies, and defense contractors are making the switch to the digital camo patterns. For example, one of the most popular traditional camo pattern is the British DPM and after decades of service, the pattern was replaced with the new Multi-Terrain Pattern in 2010 (seen in photo). Another element that did change as well during the digital camo revolution was the uniform itself. Velco pockets, banded collars and pocket placed for tactical gear considerations as well were developed over the more tradition BDUs.
However, that switch has not been without its own issues and the none more acute than the rest of the US Armed Services. The US Army, the US Navy, and the US Air Force made several attempts at their own digital camo patterned uniforms that ended in failure and massive costs until most of the US armed forces adopted the OCP Pattern. With the success of the homework-copied MARPAT from CADPAT, the US Army developed their own multi-terrain digital camo pattern, the UCP. From 2003-2004, the Natick Soldier Center worked on six patterns and oddly, the one that got selected was not really evaluated or tested to the same degree as the others patterns.
When the US Army UCP ACU digital camo pattern entered into the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, it was plain to see that this pattern did not work and the soldiers hated it as well. It would be replaced by the US Army variant of the Crye Multicam pattern in 2014 and 2015 now known as Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP). It should be noted, that some Special Operation units did not ever use the ACU and used Multicam or continued to use the 3-color desert. With the failure of the US Air Force Tigerstripe-based ABU, they would also adopt the OCP along with their US Space Force (it should be
the US Space Command...fucking morons)brethren. It is a pity that the ABU tigerstripe was not in the color pattern of the OCP...and it may have worked then and been something different for the USAF. The US Navy had their own issues with their own in-house developed Battle Dress Oceanic blue digital pattern for the Navy Working Uniform, also known as "the Blueberries". This uniform was dumped in favor of the NWU Type III that has more MARPAT coloring and appearance. After billions of dollars wasted, it seems that the US military has settled into the camo patterned uniforms that will be in service for the next two decades.
Beyond the Passive Camo Patterns: Active Camouflage
The majority of camouflage in the nature and all man-made world is a static or passive pattern than blends, as best it can, into the local conditions. However, within the animal world, some creatures can adapt on-the-fly with color and/or counter-illumination changes. In the creative minds of fiction writers and creators, active camo is the future with aliens hunting humans in jungles and ringed space stations. At times, human donning powered armor use active camo “cloaking” technology to disappear and wreak havoc on the alien invaders. The catch is that like “normal” camouflage, motion decreases the effect, and that active camo is most effective at one angle. In fictional active camo systems, often motion, the “simmer effect”, and power demands decrease the effeteness of these active camo system. We shall see if the current research into Active Camo bears fruit and some believe that Active Camo technology is already used...
The Myth of Urban Camouflage
Going up in the 1980's and being very aware of the world of the military, there was this "look" for urban operations and the operators engaged in them that I noticed. For me, this was encapsulated in the first RAINBOW 6
game in 1998 with the FBI HRT themed loadouts. Given the increase of urban warfare operations likely in modern warfare, military organizations, military suppliers, and specialized law enforcement groups began to look beyond grey and black BDUs to something more akin to the M81 Woodland camo pattern for the city environment. In the United States, there was a recoloring of the M81 Woodland pattern for urban environments with whites, greys, and black mixed. This pattern was never officially used by US forces, but used by various SWAT units, TV/movie productions, video games, and AirSoft/Paintball players. The issue with this pattern that it doesn't work and actually stands out when used and partly this is due to the challenges of the urban battlefield. For most urban operations conducting during the 1980’s and 1990’s, color pattern was whatever the soldier would normally wear for the broad environmental conditions, which would be mostly desert or woodland patterns. For targeted urban operations by Special Operations and/or specialized Law Enforcement, the camo pattern was an all-black or grey look. This was seen during the legendary Operation: NIMROD conducted by the back-clad (ninja) SAS at Princess Gate in 1980.
However, it was the bloody and brutal urban combat of the Battle of Mogadishu (10/3-4/1993) that started the ball rolling on development of official urban camouflage pattern for the US military as well as an increase in urban operations training via USMC Operation URBAN WARRIOR and the MOUT facilities. During this time in this time period in the mid-1990’s, both the US Marines and US Army evaluated urban camo patterns in 2 or 3 color patterns. The most famous is the nearly mythical “Urban-T” pattern worn by US Marines for the 1998 and 1999 Operation URBAN WARRIOR training exercises. This blocked pattern on the tradition BDU uniform was colored in black and a light and darker grey that in some examples formed the letter “T”. While there were lessons learned from the exercises that aided in current operations, the Urban T camo pattern was not continued by the USMC. This Urban-T is one of the most sought-after camo patterns of all time due to rarity (about 800 examples were produced for the exercises) and how different is from other US camo patterns. While the Urban-T was not adopted, during the development and roll-out of the US Marines Digital Camouflage (MARPAT) pattern, there was an urban pattern researched, but it was not adopted. Given all of the examples of military organizations, Law Enforcement, and private companies involved in repeated development and then abandonment of urban camouflage and the few examples of officially adopted urban camo patterns, what is the deal with urban camouflage?
Simply put, the urban environment is too diverse in patterns, colors, and shades that resist the blanket environmental camouflage patterns like jungle, woodland, and desert. For example, soldiers assaulting a major urban center like New York, London, Tokyo, or Moscow might be fine with some sort of urban camo more in the grey hues, it would not work for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex that I live in, which has a mix of green spaces among the dense urban terrain of downtown Dallas. Take Albuquerque or Santa Fe New Mexico were my family is from, desert or multi-cam would be worn for the local conditions and building material style more than woodland or even tradition urban camo patterns.
Even when I played paintball in more urban conditions, the few players that worn urban-like camo were easy to see, while I, in my woodland tiger-stripe camo pattern with black gear was more obscured. During the winter and fall in Texas, I wore three-color desert to blend in better in the local conditions when at my local paintball fields. Then there is the issue of logistics. During combat, where forces can flow from different battlefields and operational areas, switching out tactical gear and uniforms can be impossible as well as impractical. Think of the paratroopers during the Normandy invasion. They flowed over a few days from the French countryside to villages to towns without changing from their original uniforms. We saw this in Iraq and Afghanistan as well where forces patrolled or were sucked into firefights that ranged from the open desert, mountains, into villages and cities. This is way there has been a move towards a single multi-environmental camouflage pattern that would go from the woods to the streets…which is a great deal to ask of a camo pattern and mostly fails.
Recently, the British Army has been researching an...unique...take on the issue of urban camo with their "red brick" urban camo pattern for uniforms and armored vehicles. This pattern is called "Urban Pattern" (UP) and comes seven years after the introduction of the British Army’s Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP) camouflage that replaced the long-used DPM. The idea of UP was for a pattern to be used for built up areas in Europe that the UP comes in Brick (pictured), Stone, or Pebble Dash. According to some articles I read, the Brick UP camo was first seen in 2016 during an exercise, but the Pebble Dash and Stone have not been seen outside of the MoD.
There are even rumors SAS and SBS testing the new UP camouflage in British towns and cities without being spotted by the civilians. However, there is the real urban camouflage that is not a camo pattern. As we have learned from urban police departments, plainsclothed police can melt into the local population to conduct undercover operations and eyes-on surveillance. And this is the same for Special Operations, where the best "urban camouflage" is appearing as everyone else. This was used in Afghanistan and Iraq with Special Operations units using local clothing for conducting covert operations that are more than direct action missions.
Currently, special law enforcement units, like SWAT & FBI HRT, are using current US multi-cam patterns, like OCP, as was seen law enforcement units involve in the Colleyville synagogue hostage crisis. Personally, I am against local, state, and federal Law Enforcement specialized tactical units wearing military camo patterns. These SWAT units are not military and there laws against military units being used on US soil (Posse Comitatus Act), and this blurs the lines. I firmly believe that SWAT-like LE units should be using wolf grey coloring for their specialized officers to hold the line between SWAT and Special Operations.
The Myth of the Universal Camo Pattern
It seems that since the development of official camouflage uniforms in the late 19th century with the Khaki of the British Indian Army, there has been the concept that one day, science would allow for the development of a universal camouflage pattern (UCP) or all-terrain pattern (ALLTPAT). this concept of the ALLTPAT camo makes science fiction creators and logistic officers wet with the possibilities. However, it is just a myth and the prime example is the terrible US Army ACU UCP and its $5 billion failure. While the concept of a single camo pattern for military use would be wonderful for logistical considerations, it is not realistic. As we have seen with Crye Precision's Multicam pattern, there can be multi-terrain camouflage that works in woodland, jungle, and some arid conditions and even some "urban" conditions as well, it will not work in the snow or other environmental conditions. Of course, military camo patterns are not designed or even intend to transform each soldier or marine into an alien trophy hunter, but to obscure and blend. There is no current printed camo pattern that likely will ever be able to conform and obscure the wear in all environmental terrains and conditions. However, that is not to say that material science will not design a technology allowing for an active camouflage garment to allow the wearer to blend into any environmental condition as we see in the animal kingdom. It highly likely that the first users of active camo on a military application will be military vehicles as we witnessed with the Israeli Eltics and BAE Systems Adaptiv.
Outer Space Camo Pattern?
There are many jokes about the current US Space Force camo pattern duty uniforms that were culled from the US Army OCP and the possibility of space-themed camo patterns...but, that got me to thinking...could there be a space camo pattern? This is not about off-world exo-environmental camo patterns like we witnessed in AVATAR and ALIENS, but actually camo patterns designed for combat EVA mission in the near-vacuum of outer space, like we have seen in the orbital FPS Boundary
or in those two missions in COD: Ghosts
. Because I was stumped on if this could actually be a good idea to apply orbital camo to a combat space suit, I reached to Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets. He said: "camo should work in space. The question is what sort of background can be expected in various space war theatres. Note, the space suit heat radiators will show up when viewed with infrared goggles
." As with many things in space combat, heat is the enemy. This also goes back to a point I asked when I was a kid: "Why are space suits white?" Well, the original Mercury astronauts wore silver suits...but when the astronauts began to perform EVAs and moon walks, the color switched to white for both NASA and the Soviet space program.
The reason for the white color, even after Labor Day, is radiation and heat. White is best color to keep the astronauts safe from radiation in outer space that our own atmosphere here on Terra keeps us safe from killing us. The reflective nature of white keeps this radiation and heat from harming the astronauts. It is also easier to visually pick out the astronaut while they are working outside the space station or space vehicle from the dark background of orbital space. The space suits worn for a manned mission on Mars could be different colors due to the EVA being conducted on a planetary body with some sort of atmosphere.
Will There be Exo-Environment Off-World Camouflage Patterns?
In the inventories of most modern military organizations are several camo patterned uniforms for operations in either woodland/jungle environments or desert environments. At times, there are black "ninja kit" uniforms worn by special assault forces as well. The majority of the time, military organizations do not spend the time or money to design camo patterns based on very specific environmental conditions. One interesting example is that the US Army ACU pattern did not survive the War in Afghanistan and its failure altered the camo pattern for the US Army to the current OCP.
If the human race ever gets off of Terra moves out into the cosmos, there maybe the reason for an interstellar military organization to develop "off-world" camouflage patterns for soldiers to blend into the alien conditions. Could we see a Martian "red dust" pattern? An Titan Orange/yellow haze pattern? Time will tell, but movies like Ad Astra
and the video game COD: Infinite Warfare
have shown us off-world camo patterns for use in various alien exo environments. This largely depends on the effectiveness of simple camo patterns printed or painted on to the uniforms and war machines of the deployed soldiers.
It could be simpler to take the IDF approach and do what the show Space: Above & Beyond
did: OD green for all of the uniforms and gear. I could also see the possibility of ship-based fabrication technology onboard the troop FTL ships designing new uniforms and paints based on the local conditions for the inbound soldiers. This is a feature in all of my MilSF novels I've written. I could also see local forces assigned to the off-world colonial site being issued camo pattern based on those conditions and this could mark them as being from that colonial world...like we see in the different types of international camo patterns. There could also be adaptive camouflage technology that allows for the pattern to alter in color, hue, and shape based on the local conditions (like the Elven cloaks in Lord of the Rings
). Given that camo patterns and military colors are so engrained in modern military culture, I seriously doubt that this will change even after we get off-world and even out of our solar system.
Camo Patterns on Military Vehicles
While the majority of this article has been focused on military camouflage patterned clothing, the official camo patterns of a military organization are also applied to military vehicles as well, like light military utility vehicles, tanks, helicopters, and fighters. Please note, we will not be discussing stealth technology in this section of the article, due to it being discussed in a future FWS article. As with many modern warfare elements, the Great War saw the introduction of military vehicles along with the painting of them in camouflage patterns. With the hard lines of a truck or tank, the camo patterns applied to the vehicle is hoped to breakup the lines of the vehicles and give it some element of passive camouflage effectiveness.
However, this camo patterned paint scheme may be best when the main battle tank or LMUV is not moving or in use due to the smoke and heat that these vehicles generate. Main battle tanks of current deployment have the ability to scan for targets via several means, and thermal is one and tanks product a great deal of heat. It is more likely that the use of camo patterned paint schemes and netting is not for other tanks as much as for the tank hunters. On the modern battlefield, infantry (as we have seen in Ukraine) armed with anti-tank rocket systems, helicopters, multi-role fighters hunt for the tank and this camo could help the tank blend into the forest or the desert to avoid detection and destruction.
When combat airplanes took the skies, it was the First World War and the reality of having airplanes within society was still settling in, let along these new flying machines being used for warfare. During the Great War, airplanes were used for air-to-air engages in such close quarters that shotguns and bricks were used! The use of camo was limited in such engagements, but at a distance or to obscure the plane while conducting air recon. As with most camo during the First World War, the French introduced aircraft camouflage. The odd thing is that aircraft camouflage is not that effective, save for some of the
night camo patterns used for special night operational fighter and/or bombers. Despite this, aircraft camo endures to this very day with digital camo patterns appearing on a Russian fighter...so, what is the reason behind that?
Some of the Cold War NATO fighters were painted a woodland camo pattern, like the RAF Harrier jump-jet, and the reason for this is to avoid being seen and destroyed while on the ground. This is especially true if the military air base was designed to blend itself to avoid bombing. This is an interesting result of air power coming about in World War One, building camouflage of all manner and types to avoid detection. One of the most famous examples of this was that during World War II, Lockheed camouflaged their aircraft production plant to avoid Japanese bombers. Of course, the use of dummy tanks during World War II on both sides to fool scouts at the position and number of enemy armored units.
However, the oddest camouflage on military hardware is naval camouflage. During the hunting of military naval craft by U-Boats, the Allies developed this zebra-like "dazzle" camouflage pattern or even wave patterns to fool the U-Boats on the direction of the naval vessel. There were also other attempts to counter-shade the naval vessel with patterns and colors. The effectiveness of this camo is debated and was dropped pretty much after the 2nd World War. However, the US Navy USS Freedom
of the Freedom
-littoral combat ship class features a form of World War II naval camo. In 2013, Cmdr. Pat Thien had the USS Freedom
painted in a naval camo called "Measure 32" to make the USS Freedom
more "mean" and this was to be a test of a possible resurrection of naval camo. Yeah...that didn't happen and the Freedom
class will be decommissioned. This Of course, there is the "Q-Ship" that were decoy vessels that appeared to be nearly-helpless merchant, but were actually heavily armed to draw in U-Boats for the close kill or wounding.
Military Starship Camo?
Real-world spacecraft are mostly white in nature due to the issues of radiation and heat along with visual detecting the spacecraft in orbit. Look, as science has informed us over and over...there is no stealth in outer space and painting your Bird-of-Prey green and red may not be the best choice for radiation reflection. In addition, any real-world spacecraft will have blazing heat radiators and those can be seen a long distance away, like solar systems away. It seems that the best place for boldly painted combat spacecraft is on the hex board.
To Camo or not to Camo...That is the Question in Sci-Fi
The relationship between fictional off-world military organizations and camouflage uniforms and painted equipment is…complicated to say the least. Much like real-world military organizations, it has taken decades for sci-fi creators to get the memo that even space marines will wear camouflage. Despite the vast acceptance of camo uniforms in real-world military, the sci-fi community has been very slow or completely resistant to camouflage. Why? Part of it is due to an image that the creators are wishing to convey, like red or black powered armoring wearing assault genetic warriors putting the fear into their enemies for the glory of the Emperor or the Blood God. This is very true in military circles as well at some points in history as seen with the Samurai, the Spartans, or even the Knights of Europe.
Military/Tactical gear can and is used to project the power of the soldier, especially combined with special colors or patterns. Some of this has been populated into sci-fi circles. This is seen in the majority of armor-wearing soldiers in military science fiction works like the Imperial Stormtroopers, the First Order Stormtroopers, all of the Adeptus Astartes, Iron Man
, and some of the SPARTAN armor from HALO. After all, terrifying the enemy via psychological projection through armor is a classic military tactic that nearly as old as warfare with the Japanese Samurai armor being a prime example and the English pirate Blackbeard using smoking candles from his hair for shock-and-awe effect. Of course, there is the “military” uniforms seen in some sci-fi movies, anime, and TV shows that are completely non-camouflage and they even wear them during on-world operations. The most infamous example is the garish Starfleet uniforms seen in all time periods (and alternate realities) with bold reds and yellows. Even when Starfleet mounts intelligence/low-profile missions, their standard uniform is a all-black space ninja outfit. Another element comes from the early days of sci-fi with characters like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon wearing bold “superhero” uniforms.
Of course, these characters were developed prior to the widespread acceptance of camouflage uniforms by military organizations. One reason for the sci-fi community embracing camouflage patterns came with the rise in military sci-fi in the 1980s, we began to see futuristic camo patterns being developed and the use of then-current military camo (the odder, the better) for future soldiers. Of course, the custom-designed Colonial Marine off-world camo pattern in 1986’s ALIENS was a watershed moment and became an inspiration for many creators. The other watershed moment came a year later with the movie Predator
with the Yautja hunter’s optical camouflage. Another element of the story of military camo patterns within the world of sci-fi is the comedically use of the wrong camo pattern. This is extremely common with “urban” like camo patterns being seen in woodland conditions. While writing about your future space troopers are wearing elaborate off-world camo patterns is one thing, there is the actual physical act of designing an futuristic camo for a film, TV show, or even an anime. Added to this, is sci-fi camo patterns painted onto miniatures and models. Some of the fans of military science fiction wargames have taken to customize their own camo patterns and the results are stunning.
Science Fiction and Military Camouflage
As we covered above, when creators are developing their own future military organizations today, they will generally think about or even design so sort of camouflage. This exists in cover-art, video games, RPGS, toys, animation, comics, and models. This is because military camo patterns are uber common today and have been in the public eye since the 1980s at the very least. However, this means for over a 100 years of military sci-fi history, there were painfully few camouflage patterns seen. The bulk of military uniforms were like those in Star Trek
or Buck Rogers
or Flash Gordon
type of works. Part of this is linked to the real-world reality that when the first military science fiction stories were being crafted in 1898, camo was not really used. It would not be until the 2nd World War that camo was even more of a consideration in military uniforms and vehicle paint schemes, and even then, it would not be until the 1960's that most major military organizations push out camo patterned uniforms. Hell, it would take the US Armed Forces until the 1980's before the M81 Woodland was adopted. During the 1980's. military camouflage became more widely seen in sci-fi works and it should be said that films like ALIENS and Predator
helped spread the gospel of military camo patterns. Still, custom off-world exo-environmental was very rare and still is in the wider world science fiction.
This brings about a change as well. While military camo patterns being the standard for real-world military forces, people nearly always expect that military science fiction stories with soldiers would have soldiers donning camo uniforms. Like I said above, when future soldiers are NOT wearing camo, it seems like a choice by the production, as we saw with the Mobile Infantry in the Starship Troopers films. Another element of sci-fi and military camo is that some productions, to save money or time, they use real-world modern camouflage uniforms. At times, this is okay due to the sci-fi setting being near-future. However...it is always odd (to me) when I see four-color Woodland from the 1980's being used by military forces on off-world battlefields in the far future.
Another factor that limited the appearance of military camo patterns in one of the most popular mediums for military science fiction is video games. When discussing this, Yoel mentioned that computer graphical technology limited the ability for camo patterns to be rendered on-screen. When checking around, it seemed this was a valid theory with noted military games like Rush'n Attack, Contra, Commando,
and even the original Metal Gear
being unable to render camo patterns despite their best efforts and what was advertised on the box art.
One prime example was the original concept for the type of munitions fired by the BFG-9000 in the original DOOM
. During the early days of the iconic FPS title, the BFG9000 was called the "BFG 2704". Instead of the familiar green glowing orb of death, the BFG 2704 sprayed-prayed green and red plasma bolts that could bounce around the room and kill the godless horde. This would link, in technology, the BFG 2704 to the Plasma Gun and a single shot of the BFG 2704 came a the cost of 40 power cells per shot. Given this, the BFG 2704 could hurt our space marine character as well as the slaves of Hell. The original concept of the BFG slowed down the game too much due to the amount of sprites on screen, which was against the basic concept of the game itself. This resulted in the weapon being changed as well to what we know today. Also, John Romero thought that its original form that the red and green plasma bolts of the BFG 2704 "looked like Christmas
The Best There is: The Colonial Marines Camo Pattern from ALIENS
Within the realm of sci-fi camo patterns/uniforms, the custom-created camouflage pattern is the holy grail and the best example ever of an off-world/futuristic camo pattern for a military organization. This is the one and for very good reasons. Those reason include that the prop department did not use the British DPM, West German Flecktarn, or the US 4-color Woodland, but instead developed a unique camo pattern and a unique uniform design that was not fully based on the then-current fatigue design. It just so happens that the Colonial Marine camo pattern was used in the best military science fiction film of all time , which helped. Another reason, to me, is that the pattern is not common or reused for tons of other productions, like some of the digital patterns today. The pattern used in the 1986 film was the creation of a British textile company in London called C&J Costumers. According to an article written by ALIENS collector Harry Harris who actually owns an screen-used example, the pattern was made from altering the ERDL (AKA “Frog-&-Leaf”) pattern used in Vietnam. Naturally, this was a limited run of this custom pattern and besides the actual screen-used uniforms, very little of the original material survives to this day. In 1995, some reproduction uniforms were made using the surviving roll of camo material by a company called “Fiction & Fantasy Models”.
Today, these sell for big money. This hints on the critical elements of this camo pattern…its rarity. This pattern was designed for a single production and it was only reused for the ALIEN War experience in London from 1992-1996. Given this and how camouflage patterns can be difficult to photograph accurately, the ALIENS Colonial Marine pattern became nearly mythological in the mind of the ALIEN fanbase, collectors, and cosplayers. One interesting element, is that the painted camo pattern on the Colonial Marine armor/tactical gear is not the same as the uniform camo. The set Armorer, Terry English had forgotten a piece of the camo fabric back at his workshop and was forced to paint the armor from memory at the studio. Unfortunately, the armor camo pattern is actually closer to British DPM than the Colonial Marine pattern. However, James Cameron dug it and kept it. The pattern from the film is confused with the very similar “Frog-and-leaf” pattern with some sites labeling the Colonial Marine pattern as that. Today, the “Frog-and-Leaf” ERDL pattern is often used by cosplayers for their Colonial Marine uniform. In the fictional 22nd century universe of ALIENS, the United States Colonial Marine Corps and US Army uses several patterns of BDUs for jungle, desert, and temperate conditions that are based on a tri-color mix with imbedded IR absorption into the material that breaks down over time.
The Worst There Is: The Blue Berets UFO Retrieval Team from The X-Files “Little Green Men”
In the first episode of the second season of the iconic X-Files
TV show, we see Mulder headed to the Arecibo Observatory dish in Puerto Rico to intercept an possible alien radio signal. These radio signals were being collected in secret and not released to the general public. To prevent Mulder and Scully from collecting the radio signals, the CIA or the Syndicate tasked the special USAF UFO retrieval team, AKA “The Blue Berets” to Arecibo to secure the data and later on, to capture or killed Mulder and Scully. In inclusion of the USAF UFO Retrieval Team in the X-Files
mythology was very cool idea and it mirrors with rumors for decades that there are real-world UFO crash recovery teams developed by most of the major nations and even including NATO, to secure and recover alien technology.
However, these Blue Berets on-screen is one of the worst examples of the wrong camouflage for the local conditions. In "Little Green Men", the Blue Berets are seen using non-official weapons, like our friend, the Steyr AUG, and wearing commercial urban camo BDUS…in the jungles of Puerto Rico (or Canada). Even at the time when the episode aired in 1994 I was shocked at the stupidity of the camo choice made by the production. To me, this is the worst example of the wrong camo for an environment in science fiction. Interesting fact, one of the actors playing the Blue Berets airmen was none other than “Property Brother” Jonathan Silver Scott! He confirmed this on Twitter in 2017.
The question might be raised of why the USAF "Blue Beret" Team is the worst over this prime example from the abortion that is the 1994 Street Fighter
with the "Smurf Village" garish camo pattern of the Allied Nations. To me, the 1994 Street Fighter
film is a near comedy and was not a serious attempt at showing a real military unit. I do think that the Smurf Village Street Fighter
movie pattern is one of the worst patterns I've ever seen and is a near war crime. However, Kylie Minogue does pull it off.
The US SPACECOM Lunar and Martian Camo Patterns from Ad Astra
On of the more interesting and lifeless space films to come out was the Brad Pitt space odyssey film Ad Astra
in 2019. While the film is very depressing and not as good as the sum of its parts, the lunar buggy battle is epic along with the design of the entire film is excellent. In the film, US Space Command member Roy McBride wears a set of US Space Command utilities in a pattern that has been called "Moon Dust". The actual pattern is grey-scaled variety of Pre-WWII German "Splittertarnmuster" pattern that was applied to a modern military uniform.
However, that is not all! Besides the Lunar Camo Pattern worn by Brad Pitt, we would see another off-wold Space Command uniform on Mars. When McBride is checked onto the base, we see what maybe soldiers in a Mars-like camouflage uniform. Some believe that this is a recoloring of a German Flecktarn pattern, but we only see it for a few seconds and Brad Pitt never dons it. This is impressive overall for a film to develop two custom off-world exo-environmental camo patterns. Shame that they did not devoted that attention to the plot of this film.
The Clone Scout Trooper Kashyyyk Pattern from SW III: ROTS
The world of Star Wars
and especially the Stormtroopers are known for not having camouflage and glowing energy swords doesn't help either. While most of the Clonetroopers of the old Republic and the Stormtroopers of the Empire and First Order are mostly known for theit black-and-white armor, during the Clone Wars, there was the camo'ed Clone Scout Trooper armor. During the key battle for the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk, the Grand Army of the Republic depolyed specialized Clone Scout Troopers that were in the early variant of the Scout Trooper armor and it was finished in a woodland/jungle camouflage pattern. When I watch SW III: ROTS
, I took note of this as it was unique in the realm of Star Wars
Public Security Section 6 & Section 9 Thermoptic Camouflage from Ghost in the Shell
To me, one of the best active "Predator-like" camo systems is the Thermoptic Camouflage seen in the GITS
franchise. In the original manga, this technology is worn by members of the Major Motoko Kusinagi's rescue team and their Fuchikoma spider mechs and i made by KYO-RE . This camo was also used by a number of others in the manga that were both enemy and ally. It is heavily hinted in the manga and the 1995 film that the type worn by Section 9 and the Rangers of Section 6 of Public Security are 2902 model and state-of-the-art. Others may have active camouflage jackets and gear, but theirs is not on the same technological level in 2029. Water and a special spray can reveal the wearer.
The 1995 anime film, the thermoptic camo gains much exposure and popularity due to its abilities and that the Major is nude when using the 2902 Thermoptic camo. This is not true in the manga and it was mainly due to the desire to have the character naked and drive sales. Personally, I always thought it was stupid and cheap way to incorporate kink into the film. Then...came the American 2017 live action film with Scarlett Johansson as the Major. In the film, the Major is able to use the thermoptic camouflage when she is "nude" as it was in the 1995 anime, and while seeing Scar-Jo nude on-screen would have sold more tickets for this terrible film, the production had the actress strip down to her cybernetic robotic body that was encased in a white form-fitting suit that was the source of the active camo effect. This looked arresting in the trailers and production stills due to the costume and Scarlett's physical form, and it was close to the anime version of the thermoptic camouflage. The suit costume itself was fully silicone and was developed by WETA Workshop of New Zealand headed by Flo Foxworthy. While the overall look of the suit and the special effects made it very close to what the anime and manga had promised, the suit looks funny on-screen and it should have been closer to the version the in pages of the manga.
The Camo'ed "Raven" VTOL Dual-Atmospheric Tactical Transport from Elysium
In the very cool 2013 Elysium,
we see a group of private military contractors that may work for the "Oryx Warfare Group" and are presently contacted with the Elysium government to conduct Black Ops via the CCB. The method of travel for the three warfigthers if the endo-exo atmospheric "Raven" tactical transport. This craft may or may not be of Elysium design and construction. In the film, the Raven is painted in this woodland patterned camo skin that screams African military to me and given that actor Sharlto Copley worn South African military camouflage pattern for his costume, the camo paint scheme could be linked to either South African camo or even the old Rhodesian brushstroke.
According to several articles on Elyisum
production, the paint scheme and surface detailing of the Raven craft was done by Christian Pearce & Leri Greer with the craft itself being designed by TyRuben Ellingson. I reached out to Mr. Christian Pearce about the camo pattern and this what he had to say: But yes, the south African pattern was a main reference. I didn't have time to fully resolve the camo, it was just quickly sketched in while I was trying out graphics, surface details and external equipment concepts. However it appears in the film would have been finalized by the art department. The USAF Vietnam era camouflage was a big influence too. Sorry I can't be more help. That stuff was all done so quickly!
The "Two Weeks" Disguise from Total Recall (1990)
Okay, this is the second Philip K. Dick story we've referenced on this article and they are note BLADE RUNNER!
In the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger big budget retelling of "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" as Total Recall
, we see Arnold travel to Mars, a colonized world by this point in 2084, to undercover who he is and who he is not. To accomplish this, one of Arnold's characters is given a robotic mask and clothing to disguise (a form of camouflage) to get himself past Mars Federal security and gain access to the Martian colony.
The "Flying Banana" Camo Pattern from ALIENS Colonial Marine Technical Manual
In the film, the disguise fails when the lady repeats "two weeks" over and over and then Arnold is reveled in a cool, but dated special effect. This idea is deep when considering the technology needed to develop a robotic mask that allows the wearer to be someone else fully and fool others around them. This idea was gain used in the 2002 film Minority Report
when Tom Cruise's actor uses a muscle relaxer to fool the facial software to get into Pre-Crime.
The Urban Grey Fatigues of the Human Resistance from The Terminator & Terminator 2
In the only proper two Terminator
films and some of the video games, we see a sort of standard uniform with a standard color for the some of the Human Resistance in the War Against the Machines in the 2020s. Seen in the first two films are official elements of the organized human resistance under John Conner donned in grey uniforms that seemed culled for law enforcement or military pre-war stock. These uniforms are all in a grey hue with mostly black footwear and grey hats and helmets. In the post-Judgement Day urban ruin battlefield of L.A., the human fighters strike at the Skynet units in guerrilla tactics of hit-and-run or the more rare large scale direct engagements, like when the Time Displacement Lab was captured at the beginning of T2
, at night.
This, coupled with the overall color of the landscape being grey, it make sense for the human resistance fighters to be wearing all grey uniforms. The few pieces of screen-used resistance fighter costumes that have gone to auction, everything was dyed in the grey on purpose, but not reason as been officially given. According to what I read, grey would be a good choice for night operations instead of black.
The Rebel Alliance Forest Camo Pattern from SW VI: ROTJ
While Star Wars is not known for camouflage, we do see an example in the 3rd and final film in the original Trilogy, ROTJ. In the film, Rebel strike force under the command of General Solo land on the Forest Moon of Endor and attempt to take out the shield generator to the 2nd Death Star. This small strike force is composed of handpicked Rebel Alliance Special Forces “pathfinder” Commandos along with Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. For the strike force, they seem to all don some sort of forest camouflage in various clothing designs. For example, General Solo wears his normal space pirate clothing with a more muted brown trench “the endor duster” coat. While Luke and Leia don forest camo ponchos. For the “look” of the commandos, the costume department on the film did a great job of designing their look being somewhat uniform and somewhat a motley crew especially when compared to the Imperial Forces. When one examines the camouflage pattern up close, it is a classic “woodland” themed camo pattern, but the patterns is more muted and washed out. From the Star Wars cosplay sites have basically determined that it is highly likely that the commando uniforms were spray painted and that may account for the look of the pattern. Today, this is how the pattern is replicated. It should be noted as well, that several figures have been made of the Rebel Commando Strike Force and the Endo variants of Luke, Leia, and Han.
In the best military sci-fi technical manual of all time, the 1996 ALIENS Colonial Marines Technical Manual by lee Brimmicombe-Wood, on page 58 we see an Colonial Marines UD-4J "Cheyenne" Tactical Transport painted a the "Flying Banana" off-world exo-environmental camo pattern. In the book, it is explained that the US Colonial Marine units were conducting operations on Helene 215 in the 82 Eridan star system (20 LYs from Sol) against the Beebops. Given the local conditions on Helene 215, the 21st Marine Assault unit repainted their Cheyennes this garish yellow color to match the local jungle conditions that was very yellow. Very cool example of a exo-planetary camo pattern that looks alien to Terran eyes,
The MACO Uniform from ST:ENT
In the 3rd and 4th season of Star Trek: Enterprise, Captain Archer asks for military assets from the United Earth government during their hunt for the Xindi superweapon under development. What came was in the form of a team of Military Assault Command Operations under the command of Major Hayes. These MACO operators used specialized equipment and they also worn a military utility uniform in a custom camo pattern of gray with white, black, and brown color patterns. Some fansites have called this pattern “urban” or “starship corridor” camo or even “exo-planet multi-cam”. To me, the overall effect looks like a modern take on German Flecktarn. According to those that have seen the actual screen-used uniforms up close, the pattern appeared to be hand-painted and looks cruder up close. This hand-painting was used to diverse the pattern, like real-world military camouflage patterns. This MACO camo pattern was extended to the boots as well, which is unusual. I celebrate that the production staff on ST:ENT did design something original and more thought out than just buying some off-the-shelve digital camo pattern and pass it off as an 22nd century camo as so many productions do. However, this has created hell for the Star Trek cosplay community to replicate the look of the MACO uniforms. One interesting note: the MACO represents the only camouflage Starfleet uniform in all of Trek.
Snake’s Urban Camo Pants from Escape from New York
There is no doubt that one of the best movie characters of all time is Snake Plissken and the 1981 film that featured this badass was also one of the best movies of the 1980's with it being a highlight of director John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. In the time, in the far off world of 1997, New York is a maximum security prison with the island being walled off and the US national police force guarding the walls. When the POTUS's escape pod goes down in NYC, they call on World War III veteran and Special Forces operator SD Plissken. In the film, Snake wears some sort of oddball urban camouflage pattern that is too tight to be official issue BDU style. Some on RFP board have thought that the pattern was based on the Soviet SPLAV camo pattern and this would make sense due to Snake's service during the 3rd World War. To me, after watching EFNY
, it seems that the pattern is more tiger stripped and the color pattern is more arctic than urban to me.
In addition, they have few cargo pockets for being military...there are two larger tight pockets. We know that that the camo pattern and the pants themselves were likely custom for the film and urban camo patterns were not really a thing in 1981. Kurt Russell actually owns the original custom to this day and even worn it for the opening scenes of the terrible Escape from L.A.
sequel/remake. Cosplayers have been using various urban and winter camo pants to similar the look with some even going as far commissioning custom camo patterns screen-accurate to the 1981 film. It is likely that Plissken was wearing something he worn in the war with items from his days on the run and avoiding the draconian US government. We may never have a real answer for the how's and why's of the screen-used urban/acratic camouflage pattern used in the film, however, this could be one of the first examples of an "urban" type camouflage pattern seen on film with most urban military camo being experimented with around the 1980's.
The Yautja Optical Camo from the Predator Universe
There is few sci-fi camouflages more well known and terrifying than the light-blending optical camouflage used by the Yautja Hunters. This power-tensive equipment allows for the Hunter be cloaked into a distortion bubble that picks up the local conditions and allows the massive alien hunter to blend in. The effect is more effective when not moving and if the power supply is damaged or low, the optical camo is not able to work. This technology goes by many names like the Shiftsuit, cloak, invisibility system, and the Chameleon Field and it also applied to the Yautja spacecraft as well when on-planet. This technology has fallen into the hands of prey species, like the Terrans, as seen with Ronald Nolan on the Hunting Game Preserve planet. Many Terran and other alien governments and company want the technology for themselves and also to turn the tables on the Hunters.
The Bio-Dampener Field from Star Trek: Voyager
As we discussed with the altering of warp signatures, another way to mask or cloak yourself in the Star Trek universe is dampening fields, and this was used against the Borg during the run of Voyager. It seems that Seven-of-Nine’s parents, Erin and Magnus Hansen, were exo-biologists that were given a small Federation science-based runabout to study the rumored cybernetic race that turned out to be The Borg in 2353. Once located, Erin and Magnus developed the “Bio-Dampener” to trick the sensors of the Borg ship to A bio-dampener was a small device developed by Erin and Magnus Hansen in 2353 for use in remaining undetected aboard Borg vessels. The device was designed to create a field to broadcast Borg bio-signs, having the wearer appear as a Borg drone…thus, being a form of camouflage. This was used by the Voyager during the UniMatrix storyline.
The CryNet Nanosuit “Cloak Mode” from the Crysis Franchise
One of my favorite video games on the Xbox 360 is Crysis 2
and I thought the active “cloak” mode camouflage was cool take on the active camo presented in Predator. According to the wiki, the Nanosuit are able to use a active camo via the “use of a crystalline generation, capable of fully absorbing or bending incoming wave spectrums such as visible light, radiowaves (Radar), Infrared (Thermal Imaging), and possibly microwaves or others, to render itself completely invisible to the human eye and most surveillance equipment.” When cloak is engaged, there is a distortion in the form of a shimmer that becomes worse when the Nanosuit wear is in motion or firing a weapon. Given the high power demand of the Cloak mode, it is limited in effective time. In the 3rd game, the cloak was very lethal with combined with the compound bow.
The Covenant Active-Cloak Camouflage from HALO
Since the first HALO came in 2001, there has been the use of light-bending active cloak by both the player and the enemy forces in the games, from Elites and Grunts to some of the Flood forms. In the first game, The Chief could see the Cloaked Elite Assassins due to their use of the energy sword. By the time of HALO 2, when we played as the Arbiter, we witnessed the evolution of the cloaking technology and that some specialized Grunts and Brutes used the active cloak technology. In-game during campaign, the cloak could be located via a power-up and used during key missions. It could also be a amor power-up that could be picked up and used. Of course, the cloak was directly borrowed from Predator by Bungie and despite this, the HALO active camouflage has become its own icon to several generations of gamers.
The Prehistoric Jungle Digital Camo Pattern from Terra Nova
In the single season of the FOX Network TV time-travel show called “Terra Nova” that aired in 2011, we were introduced to a show that attempted to combine Jurassic Park and AVATAR into a weekly show about humans settling in the distance past prior to the environmental damage. The show attempted to channel a “LOST” vibe, but given the expensive and lack of focus in the episodes, the show failed. Towards the end, one of the main characters took over the primary settlement with his own private army, called “Phoenix Group”. These soldiers donned camo painted motorcross armor and a digital camo patterned battle uniform that looks very much like an off-the-shelf urban-like camo made likely by Tru-Spec. At the time of release, digital camo was all of the rage in the civilian world and it makes sense that the production company used it, especially at the end of the show’s lifespan.
The USMC OD Uniforms of the 2060s from SAAB
In the best military science fiction television show of all time, Space: Above & Beyond we see an interesting example of camo and non-camo space marine uniforms. Throughout the single season run of the FOX tv show from 1995-1996, the main cast of US Marines of 2063-2064 wear OD flight suits that are still commercially available. The Marines of the 58th and other US Army and US Marine units seen in the show seem to all wear the OD flight suits for both atmospheric standard planetary conditions and when flying their "Hammerhead" endo-exo attack fighters. It is heavily implied that these flight suits are some sort of pressure suit that allows the wear to operate in hostile environments...to a certain limit. Traditional spacesuits are seen on the show, being used in an EVA situation.
The OD color of the flight suits is never explained and while it works on some exo-solar planets' alien environments, it stands out in others. The tactical gear worn by the US Marines and US Army are black while the M590 exo-assault rifle is painted an OD color as well. So, what is going on here with this one standard "camouflage" color of the US Marines and US Army of the 2060's? There is no to officially explain the reason of the OD flight suits that fits within canon besides it would maybe the best color for the alien environments seen by humans during that point of space exploration and surveying. It could be an budget and logicalities consideration for the spaceborne military forces.
However, the real-world reason for the use of OD flight suits is that is was cheaper than construct custom near-future military uniforms for the production team. In addition, I had read back when the series was in production that the costume and clothing was chosen to be realistic and not something "sci-fi". With fighter pilots wearing flight suits, it made sense to outfit the 58th in the same clothing. Added to this, is that the main characters of the 58th were Marine aviators first, they would need to be in flight suits when in their SA-43 space fighters. Due to the expense of the CGI space combat scenes, the 58th were seen in more planet-side missions than flight missions.
Then that brings us to only camouflage example in the show from one of the finest episodes: "Who Monitors the Birds". Cooper Hawkes is given the opportunity to be part of a black operations mission to assassinate a high-ranking Chig officer on the Chig-held world of Tigris. If the mission is successful, Cooper will get his discharge from the USMC. Cooper and Marine Corps Sniper Colonel Colquitt both don what I believe is an M81 Woodland camo patterned one-piece jumpsuit or it could be an 1990's commercial camo pattern close to the M81 US Military Woodland pattern.
The Warp Signature Mimicry Trick from the Star Trek Universe
Periodically, in Star Trek
, an entire starship hides using a form of camouflage mimicry in altering their warp signature to appear as another ship from another space navy. From its common usage in the Star Trek
shows for decades, the "warp signature" can allow for the identification of a starship and that this is a way that most sensor tell friend from foe. This has been used many times to fool sensors and even allow for weapon systems to target their own rather than the enemy. This trick most only works when the ship is well out of visional range and if someone looked out a window, the trick is up.
The Camo Patterned Uniforms of the Stargate Teams from the Stargate Franchise
In the 1994 film and the TV show beginning in 1997, the mostly US Air Force SG-1 team is show wear OD BDUs with OD caps and black tactical gear. Throughout the many year of the TV show, the basic uniform of the primary SG team did not change save for when they needed to operate in desert conditions, and then 3-color desert was donned. M81 Woodland camo was seen on other USAF armed teams and some of the international SG teams worn camo, but the original SG-1 team continued to wear the OD. When the Pegasus Project was undertaken to explore the Pegasus Dwarf Irregular galaxy (3 million LYs away) and the city of Atlantis, the Expedition team members worn uniforms more akin to Star Trek
than modern military.
For the Stargate Universe
team, the military uniform was the (then) standard modern Tiger Stripe Airmen Battle Uniform (ABU). So, why did the members of the SG-1 team wear OD BDUs? Well, since all alien worlds in the Stargate universe look like the woods of Canada, the color mostly worked…okay…the uniform color, which was out of the USAF standards at the time was never addressed in-universe. According to one fan of Stargate
, Michael Strikler, the team’s primary mission was survey and contact that this project a less than threatening look and more basically allowing for the team to represent Earth and peacefully exploration and contact.
The British Army Urban Digital Camouflage from Children of Man
One of the best science fiction films of all is 2006's Children of Men
and you have not seen it, than you need to do this now. In the dark world of 2027, it has been 18 years since human infertility came to an end and the society is coming apart to the point that home suicide kits are sold and used. The United Kingdom is one of the few government still working and it is flood with refugees from the rest of the world that is in chaos. It is during an all-out urban battle between armed refugee groups and the British Army at the Bexhill refugee camp that the first baby is born in 18 years.
During the battle between the Fishes and the British Army that we see that the British solders are outfitted an urban camo pattern. According to a prop site, the British Army uniforms were specially designed for the 2006 film and based around the British DPM pattern. According to the author: "then reversed the
(DPM) pattern, changed the color to something urban and ended by giving it a digital look
". This pretty amazing effort made by the production of this film. During this battle, we see Chieftain MBT and other military vehicles are painted in the real-world "British Berlin Brigade" urban camouflage pattern.
The Mordan IV Military uniforms from Star Trek TNG “Too Short a Season”
The first season of TNG was rough and while TNG is much beloved today, it was touch-and-go if this bold experiment in brand new Star Trek on the small screen would work. One of the more interesting episodes was the 16th in the first season of The Next Generation: "Too Short a Season". Federation embassy hostages are being held by the terrorist on the world of Mordan IV. The planetary governor, Karnas and Starfleet believe that Admiral Mark Jameson is the right man to free the Federation hostages via diplomacy. 45 years ago, Mark Jameson negotiated the release of hostages on the same world with some of the same players. However, the Admiral is suffering from the crippling effects of Iverson's Disease and there is doubt on the part of the Enterprise-D crew that the Admiral should even be there. The world of Mordan IV is only five years peaceful after a global civil war between various factions that torn their world apart for over 40 years and then the tribal leader Karnas won the war of supremacy and united Mordan under his banner.
Back then, Karnes wanted a secret arms shipment of off-world weaponry to helped Karnas to turn the tables and win the war against the rival tribes. If he got these weapons, Karnas would release the hostages. Jameson did give Karnas the weapons and to balance the local situation, Jameson gave his enemies with the same weapons. This fueled over forty years of bloody war. Karnas held Jameson responsible for the bloodshed and he used another hostage crisis to get Jameson back to Mordan and make him answer for his war crimes. During the away missions to Mordan IV, we seen these blue-grey-purple camo patterned military utility mandarin-collared uniforms.
This uniform was also worn by the Mordan soldier encountered in the souterrain tunnels during the aborted hostage rescue missions by the Enterprise-D
crew. During the firefight, we seen that the Mordan soldiers wearing protective gear and those helmets are colored in the same camo pattern. It is likely that these "urban" like camo pattern was the standard uniform of the Mordan military in the post-civil war era. However, given what we audience saw of the surface of Mordan, this camo pattern is not even close to the Mars-like color scheme we witness. So, what gives with this rare Star Trek
camo pattern? There is nearly nothing on the military costume used in "Too Short a Season" and I am assuming that the camo pattern was influenced by 1980's camo
Lt. Michael "Tank" Ellis Camo'ed Power Suit from Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
During the mid01980's an usually show came onto American airwaves that was a kid's interactive show about a machine uprising and the near death of the human species with a band of next-gen human heroes in power suits attempting to stop the end of the human race. This was Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
and it only lasted one season. For the show, a massive roll-out of toys was made that directly interacted with the TV show by Mattel and my favorite character of the show, Lt. Michael "Tank" Ellis who was dressed in a woodland-theme camo heavy powered armor and worn a another camo pattern pants when not in the Power Suit. Played by Sven-Ole Thorsen, who was in a number of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies including Predator.
According to the background material, Lt. Ellis was the product of military genetic engineering at a place called "Babylon 5" and at some point, Ellis escaped. He would serve in the Metal Wars in the United Earth Forces United Ground Assault Corps. His skills caused him to be folded into Power's group. Given his ground combat skills, he would be assigned the heaviest and most powerful suit in the inventory. With it being a ground attack suit, the suit's external color would be one of a camouflage pattern...however, I cannot tell what the camo pattern actually looks like due to the low-quality of the videos. From some behind-the-set photos I've seen, the camouflage pattern was much richer and closer to British DPM than the "Frog Skin" pattern I thought it was. There was a dark woodland style camo pattern worn by the United Earth soldiers, but it was not similar to the camo worn by Tank. All of the power suits were developed by Robert Short Productions and there are no notes on the camo itself.
For the action figure, the Tank figure was painted in a tan with green spots to simulate camouflage. So, why is FWS discussing Captain Power
and the limited camouflage of this 1987 TV series? For one, I grew up watching the show during its run and I loved the Terminator
like atmosphere of the show and when I can include it, I do. However, the main reason, is that Tank Ellis is the only
camouflaged member of the Power Strike Team. The rest of the Power team are dressed in overdone "futuristic" styled armor costumes. For example, Cpt. Power's gaudy gold-and-blue armor stands out among the grey-and-blacked out ruins of 22nd century America. All of the team were involved in guerrilla urban combat, save for one, and Tank was the only one in a semi-military "uniform". What makes this interesting is that design team decided that since Tank Ellis was the ground combat 3expert, he needed a camouflaged armored costume, but not of the other Power team members and that the United Earth troopers also needed camo, but again, not the bulk of the Power team. This means that in the thinking of the design and production team, camouflage=military and only the Tank character needed to be camo'ed up and not the rest, because he was military, and the other are not...I guess?
The Bell Labs Scramble Suit from A Scanner Darkly Book and Film
Philip K. Dick is a most odd man and when he crafted A Scanner Darkly
, he was deeply into the drug culture of the 1970's. It was during this dark time that he penned the 1977 book A Scanner Darkly
. In the future, the US has lost the War on Drugs and it seems that 20% of the US population is on the new drug "Substance D". The Undercover police officers involved in the battle against Substance D wear a "scramble suit" was expertly reproduced on screen for the 2006 film (which completely bombed at the box office). The suite appears in the film when not active to be full-body suit that looks like chemical suit.
In the book, the suit is introduced and explained in this text: "Now you will notice," the Lions Club host said, "that you can barely see this individual... because he is wearing what is called a scramble suit...
"Let's hear it for the vague blur!" the host said loudly...The scramble suit was an invention of the Bell laboratories, conjured up by accident by an employee named S. A. Powers... Basically, his design consisted of a multifaceted quartz lens hooked up to a million and a half physiognomic fraction-representations of various people: men and women, children, with every variant encoded and then projected outward in all directions equally onto a superthin shroudlike membrane large enough to fit around an average human. As the computer looped through its banks, it projected every conceivable eye color, hair color, shape and type of nose, formation of teeth, configuration of facial bone structure - the entire shroudlike membrane took on whatever physical characteristics were projected at any nanosecond, then switched to the next...In any case, the wearer of a scramble suit was Everyman and in every combination (up to combinations of a million and a half sub-bits) during the course of each hour. Hence, any description of him - or her - was meaningless". This is one of the more unique examples of camouflage in a sci-fi product and as a bonus, Keanu Reeves in the film.
The RDA Digital Jungle Camo "AVPAT" Pattern from AVATAR
In the 2009 mega-hit that was part of the push to get me to forge what we know today as Future War Stories, James Cameron's AVATAR would feature a PMC unit of the RDA called "Security Operations" or SecOps. the uniform that the SecOps soldiers don is some sort of digital jungle camo pattern that may have been custom designed for off-world operations on Pandora. I can only imagine the look of the night camo pattern for Pandora...I am guessing TRON-like? Anyways, there have been fan reproductions of the digital camouflage pattern, but no official source on the camo that is called "AVPAT" in the community. It is highly likely that given who James Cameron is, he based the desired look of the SecOps soldiers from the 22nd century on the most current camouflage technology of the time and the official military digital camo patterns coming out at the time greatly influenced the costume production design of the RDA SecOps camo...which is likely based on CATPAT and MARPAT. For the upcoming AVTAR 2, it seems that the RDA SecOps have gotten upgraded uniforms.
"Bravoflage" from Suicide Squad (2016)
In the 2016 DC Universe comicbook film Suicide Squad
, the SEAL accompanying the members of Suicide Squad
are wearing a unique camouflage pattern that was not easily identified. According to the several articles online, the custom camo pattern was named "bravoflague" and was developed by combining six different types of camouflage patterns. This blue-black pattern seems like a urban pattern that fused 6-color US Desert (Chocolate Chip), US Army OCP Multicam, the experimental USMC Urban-T, the German Flecktarn, and the French Lizard. This pattern is not well seen on-screen and the few shots of it make me like the pattern. According to rumor on the internet,"Bravoflague" pattern was made by King's Camo for the production.
The Urban Digital Camo Pattern from BSG
When the Galactica
and the Civilian Fleet arrive at the original home of humanity, Kobol (maybe?), the military portion of the landing party dons this grey digitial camouflage uniform that makes little sense in the dense woodland environment. However, this pattern makes me think of the US Navy "Blueberry" NWU digital camo pattern. Maybe this camo pattern was used onboard the Colonial Fleet and not intended for dirtside use. According to some research, the production of Battlestar Galactica
used civilian made off-the-shelf camo uniforms. The uniforms were sourced from the American uniform maker Tru-Spec and the pattern was their take on "urban digital camo". This uniform was recycled after the Kobol-centered episodes once more in the episode "Shattered". This is pretty much true for so many productions during the time when digital camo patterns hit the civilian market...but...I wished the camo pattern for Galactica
was more in woodland pattern than a urban pattern.
The SDF Mars Camo Pattern from COD:IW
Unlike most of the COD community, I actually liked and still play Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and I see as a game heavily influenced by Space: Above and Beyond. Anyways, in the game, you can customized the look of your weapon with some camo skins and one is "Mars". This deep red pattern is not a favorite of mine, but what is deeply interesting to me is the development of camo patterns based on off-world exo-environments.
The US Space Force "LUNPAT" Camo Pattern from Space Force
Okay, I know that this show is a comedy about the 6th branch of the US Armed Forces, the Space Force...but, damn, the lunar camouflage pattern is damn funny and makes more sense than the actual US Space Force camo pattern uniform, The internet had a great amount of fun at both of the uniforms and I thought it deserved a mention here. Maybe Ronald D. Moore ought to look into using this uniform for his For All Mankind series? Anyways, just marvel in how awesome this off-world lunar camo pattern is!
The Wraiths & Eska Hunters from ST:ENT Episode “Rouge Planet” (1x18)
In one of the final last episodes for the first season of Star Trek: Enterprise, we see the NX-01 investigate an M-Class “Rogue” planet that is maintaining a habitual environment via hot gas vents (also me after Taco Bell). While a scientifically dumb and simple setup, the meat of the episode was that some humanoid alien hunters called “Eska” travel to the rouge planet that they call “Dakala” to hunt (via some 1980’s NVG visors) a most elusive prey, the shapeshifting “Wraiths”. The slug-like shapeshifters use highly advanced biological active camouflage to mimic and fool the Enterprise crew and the Eska Hunting party. For nine generations, the Eska have come to Dakala and some have died hunting the Wraith.
In addition to the prey, the hunters wore a unique alien camouflage “safari” like patterned jumpsuit. This camo pattern is close in some of the coloring to the terrible US Army ACU. To be honest, there is likely no reason for the Eska hunters to be wearing camo due to the local conditions, especially that very pale camo pattern. I recently re-watched this episode and I found the concept interesting, but it is a terrible episode with odd-ball futuristic NVGs, but the DE Eska Hunter Rifles were a good design though.
Next Time on FWS...
For many years, FWS has promised to bring a new serial about space fighters and after years, I am very pleased to announce that will take shape with the first installment of FWS: Starfigthers
! For this first installment, we shall be exploring and explaining the interesting classification of the "Fighter-Bomber" in both the real-world and in sci-fi. So, get into your Y-Wings and join us for Fighter-Bombers!