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Multi-scale Camouflage
- Jun 06, 2018 -

Multi-scale camouflage is a type of military camouflage combining patterns at two or more scales, often (though not 

necessarily) with a digital camouflage pattern created with computer assistance. The function is to provide camouflage over a 

range of distances, or equivalently over a range of scales (scale-invariant camouflage), in the manner of fractals, so some 

approaches are called fractal camouflage. Not all multiscale patterns are composed of rectangular pixels, even if they were 

designed using a computer. Further, not all pixellated patterns work at different scales, so being pixellated or digital does not of 

itself guarantee improved performance.


The first issued pattern was the Italian telo mimetico, which was on a single scale. The root of the modern multi-scale camouflage patterns can be traced back to 1930s experiments in Europe for the German and Soviet armies. This was followed by Canadian development of Canadian Disruptive Pattern (CADPAT), first issued in 2002, and then with US work which created Marine pattern (MARPAT), launched between 2002 and 2004.


Scale invariance

The scale of camouflage patterns is related to their function. Large structures need larger patterns than individual soldiers to disrupt their shape. At the same time, large patterns are more effective from afar, while small scale patterns work better up close.[1]Traditional single scale patterns work well in their optimal range from the observer, but an observer at other distances will not see the pattern optimally. Nature itself is very often fractal, where plants and rock formations exhibit similar patterns across several magnitudes of scale. The idea behind multi-scale patterns is both to mimic the self-similarity of nature, and also to offer scale invariant or so-called fractal camouflage[2] that works at close range as well as at traditional combat range.[3]

flounder's disruptive and active camouflage

Animals such as the flounder have the ability to adapt their camouflage patterns to suit the background, and they do so extremely effectively,[4] selecting patterns that match the spatial scales of the current background.[4]

Interwar development in Europe

The idea of patterned camouflage extends back to the interwar period in Europe. The first printed camouflage pattern was the 1929 Italian telo mimetico, which used irregular areas of three colours at a single scale.[12]

German WWII experiments

Waffen-SS 1944 Erbsenmuster (pea-dot pattern) combines large and small scale patterns.

Main article: German World War II camouflage patterns

During the Second World War, Johann Georg Otto Schick[a] designed a series of patterns such as Platanenmuster (plane tree pattern) and erbsenmuster (pea-dot pattern) for the Waffen-SS, combining micro- and macro-patterns in one scheme.[13][14]

The German Army developed the idea further in the 1970s into Flecktarn, which combines smaller shapes with dithering; this softens the edges of the large scale pattern, making the underlying objects harder to discern.[15]

Soviet WWII experiments

Pixel-like shapes pre-date computer-aided design by many years, already being used in Soviet Union experiments with camouflage patterns, such as "TTsMKK"[b] developed in 1944 or 1945. The pattern uses areas of olive green, sand, and black running together in broken patches at a range of scales.[17]

1976 research by Timothy O'Neill

In 1976, Timothy O'Neill created a pixellated pattern named "Dual-Tex". He called the digital approach "texture match". The initial work was done by hand on a retired M113 armoured personnel carrier; O'Neill painted the pattern on with a 2-inch (5 centimetre) roller, forming squares of colour by hand. Field testing showed that the result was good compared to the U. S. Army's existing camouflage patterns, and O'Neill went on to become an instructor and camouflage researcher at West Point military academy.[18][19]



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