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Multi-scale Camouflage History
- Jul 02, 2018 -


Italian Telo mimetico, first used in 1929

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]

Modern German Flecktarn 1990, developed from a 1938 pattern, is a non-digital pattern which works at different distances.

2000s fractal-like digital patterns

Patterns in nature, like the foliage of this Buxus sempervirens bush, are often broken into visual elements with small and large scales, such as branches and leaves.

By 2000, development was under way to create pixellated camouflage patterns for battledress like the Canadian ForcesCADPAT, issued in 2002, and then the US Marines' MARPAT, rolled out between 2002 and 2004. The CADPAT and MARPAT patterns were somewhat self-similar (in the manner of fractals and patterns in nature such as vegetation), being designed to work at two different scales; a genuinely fractal pattern would be statistically similar at all scales. A target camouflaged with MARPAT takes about 2.5 times longer to detect than older NATO camouflage which worked at only one scale, while recognition, which begins after detection, took 20 percent longer than with older camouflage.[20][21][22]

Fractal-like patterns work because the human visual system efficiently discriminates images which have different fractal dimension or other second-order statistics like Fourier spatial amplitude spectra; objects simply appear to pop out from the background.[20] Timothy O'Neill helped the Marine Corps to develop first a digital pattern for vehicles, then fabric for uniforms, which had two colour schemes, one designed for woodland, one for desert.[9]