Camouflage into the “evolutionary history” of field camouflage
Today, the armies of most countries in the world have their own camouflage uniforms. As the first line of protection for soldiers on the battlefield, camouflage uniforms have become a unique symbol of the armies of various countries. All military powers in the world attach great importance to the research and development of camouflage uniforms.
A set of camouflage uniforms with good camouflage effect, the development and production process is quite complicated. Taking Russia as an example, the development of new camouflage uniforms began in 2007 and was not fully equipped until 2019. In the meantime, it has gone through many technical breakthroughs and actual combat tests. So, how did camouflage uniforms develop? What are the difficulties in creating a camouflage uniform with good camouflage effect?
“Reverse design” from the battlefield
Walking in the streets and alleys, camouflage elements are not uncommon. Whether it is on clothes, shoes, or even accessories, camouflage, as a fashion symbol that is highly respected by teenagers, seems to never go out of fashion.
In fact, camouflage has been in people’s field of vision for less than a century. Its birth and use are always closely related to war and military affairs.
Although there have been military uniforms made of tree branches and animal fur in ancient times for camouflage on the battlefield, camouflage uniforms in the true sense are exchanged for failure and blood on the battlefield-for a long time
, Military uniforms with bright colors and unique styles occupy a dominant position on the battlefield. Some legions with a long history are often accustomed to designing various military uniforms according to the characteristics of the legion. For example, the Austrian Hussars in modern history, they wore exquisite blue jackets and red breeches, with short swords on their waists, and helmets decorated with beautiful feathers; or the British Army in scarlet jackets and white trousers. However, it was this brightly colored military uniform that caused huge casualties to the army.
In 1899, the British army invaded South Africa and started a firefight with the local Dutch descendants of the Boers. The Boers found that the red uniforms of the British army were particularly eye-catching and easily exposed in the forests and savannahs of South Africa. Inspired by this, they painted their military uniforms and guns yellow-green, and then concealed themselves in the dense grass jungle to launch a surprise attack, which caught the British army by surprise, but it was difficult for the British army to find each other. Although the “British Boer War” that lasted for three years ended in victory for the British army, the British army also paid a heavy price.
It was this war that made European countries realize the importance of camouflage on the battlefield. As a result, many countries have changed the bright colors of military uniforms to green or yellow to achieve the purpose of concealment. A single-color military uniform close to the natural color of the battlefield can be regarded as the prototype of modern military camouflage, so it is also called “protective camouflage”.
In the 20th century, the appearance of aircraft further promoted the birth of modern military camouflage. In World War I, aircraft were used for aerial reconnaissance of the positions of opposing artillery and vehicles. Based on this information, one’s own artillery fire can directly strike those targets. Facing the “natural enemies” from the air, soldiers began to find ways to make themselves “less conspicuous” on the battlefield. American soldiers soiled their uniforms with mud, and the German army ordered all soldiers to have their helmets painted in different colors.
During the Second World War, with the birth of various optical reconnaissance equipment, soldiers wearing uniforms in uniforms faced more difficult challenges in order to survive on the battlefield. Many countries are stepping up the development of military uniforms composed of multiple colors to adapt to more complex battlefield environments. When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, several SS units were the first to be issued new uniforms. This is a brown, green, and yellow tricolor camouflage uniform, covered with irregularly shaped tricolor patches—in actual combat, these patches can blur the outline of the human body, allowing soldiers to blend in with the background color as much as possible.
Since then, the traditional plaque camouflage has achieved rapid development with the artillery fire of World War II. Researchers from various countries have extracted typical colors and characteristic patches from the background of the battlefield to design various camouflage patterns. In 1943, the Soviet Army adopted camouflage uniforms with birch and broadleaf camouflage patterns. Around the same time, they issued a new type of woodland camouflage with brown foliage and twigs on a dark green base. In 1943, the U.S. military issued “frog camouflage uniforms” to the Marine Corps fighting in the Pacific battlefield. The pattern of this camouflage uniform is similar to the protective color of frogs, and it adopts a double-sided camouflage design.
With the rapid development of psychology and visual cognition technology, people not only need to consider the similarity between the color and characteristic pattern of the camouflage uniform and the background, but also start from the human visual cognition mechanism, and use the theory of visual illusion to design a variety of camouflage uniforms. camouflage background.
The traditional patch camouflage has large spots, smooth edges, and patches that are spliced with each other. It is mainly used to combat close-range, low-resolution optical imaging reconnaissance. Since the 1980s, battlefield reconnaissance has begun to develop in the direction of high resolution and digitalization, and target details have become an important exposure feature, and the confusing effect of traditional plaque camouflage has been greatly reduced.
In 1997, the Canadian Army took the lead in developing digital camouflage, which opened a new era of digital camouflage. In 2002, the US Marine Corps was equipped with MARPAT digital camouflage for the first time. Since then, digital camouflage has become the first choice for military training clothing in various countries. Singapore, South Korea, Argentina and many other countries have developed and equipped their own digital camouflage.
With the rapid development of psychology and visual cognition technology, people not only need to consider the similarity between the color and characteristic pattern of the camouflage uniform and the background, but also start from the human visual cognition mechanism, and use the theory of visual illusion to design a variety of camouflage uniforms. camouflage background. At the beginning of the 21st century, for the first time, the U.S. military developed the “Scorpio” camouflage pattern for soldiers stationed in the Afghan battlefield, which brought the camouflage uniform into a new stage of development.
More and more dazzling camouflage
Many animals in nature are experts in camouflage. There are a few quizzes floating around the web to find animals in natural backgrounds, but few hit their mark right away.
After in-depth research on the way humans perceive shape, volume and color, scientific and technological personnel have found that only a small part of the human eye can perceive color, and the rest is “filled” by the brain.
The high-resolution designs of modern camouflage use this principle to allow the observer to “see” the camouflage as part of the background; even if you see it, you don’t notice it.
At this stage, camouflage with good camouflage effects tends to have a strong sense of three-dimensionality and layering, which can simulate the macroscopic and microscopic texture characteristics of the background, resulting in an “optical illusion”. Their ability to adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions also helps to maintain the effectiveness of the pattern, which can effectively “stealth” even in close range low-resolution patterns and natural environments. Taking digital camouflage as an example, from close range, the color blocks of different sizes and grids pass through the inner and outer packaging, creating a sense of uncertainty in the basic pixels in the digital image, which can simulate the effect of swaying tree shadows and backgrounds such as jungles or deserts The mottled characteristics of leaves, gravel, etc.; from a long distance, different color spots can be juxtaposed and interlaced to produce spatial color mixing, which can form a large spot segmentation effect and easily blend into various backgrounds.
Such a pattern design full of technological sense does not come from a certain designer or artist, but needs to be continuously modified, perfected and realized through background feature extraction, camouflage pattern generation, camouflage effect evaluation, etc.
The main color of the camouflage and the design of the characteristic patch shape first need to extract the background feature information. Researchers use the mean value clustering algorithm to analyze and calculate the background photos, extract the main color, and generate the initial cluster distribution map of the background image to determine the color and shape of the camouflage unit. With the advancement of processing technology, camouflage colors have developed from 3 to 4 commonly used to 5 to 7 today. The minimum unit size of the camouflage pattern is the minimum size value that can be distinguished by the human eye at a certain viewing distance, so as to achieve the best color mixing effect.
There are usually two ways to generate camouflage patterns. The first is based on the existing camouflage template, through computer deep learning, extracting and learning the color and texture features of the background, and generating a new camouflage pattern that simulates the background. The second is to extract the main color, proportion, shape and distribution characteristics commonly used in the background, and the R&D personnel based on their experience draw it with the help of computer pattern design tools. These camouflage patterns, their color distribution, edge outlines, etc. can often blend with the background.
After the camouflage pattern is generated, it first needs to be evaluated by computer camouflage camouflage effect, including edge detection, background texture similarity evaluation, etc. The optimized camouflage patterns need to be printed on fabrics, prepared into camouflage uniforms, sent to the troops for detection probability test, and finally confirmed after meeting the requirements of the military standard.
Therefore, for the designed camouflage pattern, it needs to be evaluated and modified many times before it can be finalized and used. This is also one of the reasons why it often takes several years or even longer for a camouflage to be finalized and installed.
Battle field camouflage evolution is endless
The “spear” of reconnaissance and the “shield” of invisibility are mutually restraining and mutually reinforcing. Combat under the conditions of informationization, the operation area is wide, the background is complex and changeable, and various problems will follow.
On the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2001, U.S. soldiers wearing desert camouflage walked through the woodland and desert. The open geographical environment and mixed and changeable terrain exposed them frequently to the cold guns of the Afghan militia. The continuous casualty reports have aroused the attention of the top US military: Can a camouflage that can have good stealth effects in various terrain environments be developed?
The camouflage design of the “one-to-many environment” was quickly put on the agenda. The US CP Defense Company and the US Army launched the “Scorpion Project” for the development of a new generation of combat systems. After two years of planning, drawing, communication and testing with front-line soldiers, they submitted a new “composite camouflage” scheme. This kind of camouflage incorporates a number of technologies such as “optical illusion pattern” and “ambient light reflection”.
In August 2014, the U.S. military officially released the “Scorpio II” camouflage pattern. The new camouflage inherits the original “multi-environment” camouflage, breaks through the previous square unit characteristics, and uses richer design structures such as “brush”, “shadow line”, “mud dot” and “shadow trail” to make the markings more finely divided , The color blocks are richer, which can better adapt to the combat terrain backgrounds such as woodlands, deserts and cities.
This multi-background adaptable camouflage can only adapt to green tones, yellow tones and mixed backgrounds, and cannot change color as the background changes. In the process of rapid mobile combat, combatants want to achieve “dynamic integration” with the terrain background, which has always been the goal pursued by camouflage technology. It is a general trend for camouflage to develop from passive “static” camouflage to active “dynamic” camouflage. At present, the development of color-changing camouflage that can dynamically display color has provided the possibility to achieve higher development goals.
Inspired by the chameleon mechanism, Japanese scientists tried to develop a color-changing clothing with a camera. This kind of color-changing clothing can project images of the surrounding environment onto the clothing, making the wearer “look not there”, but the system is too large to be practical. American scientists are also developing a color-changing fiber. Military uniforms made of this fiber will automatically change color by absorbing light waves from the environment. Soldiers wearing such military uniforms are like being wrapped in the skin of a chameleon, which can be integrated with the color of the environment and change with the changes of the environment to achieve the effect of “dynamic” camouflage. Another country uses reflective display technology to develop a color-changing camouflage that includes 5 color patches, each of which can achieve at least 3 color changes. Through the color change control of the 5 color patches, the mutual change of “woodland-desert-city” camouflage can be realized.
On the modern battlefield, in addition to optical detection equipment, high-precision infrared night vision devices, and long-range detection individual radars, etc. are also widely installed, which puts forward the requirements for infrared and radar stealth for camouflage uniforms. Multispectral is compatible with high technologies such as stealth, thermal infrared stealth, and electromagnetic stealth, so it has entered the field of vision of camouflage design. According to reports, a foreign company has developed a 3D camouflage system. The material panel has a three-dimensional concave-convex random pattern, which can not only simulate the texture structure of a complex three-dimensional background, but also has infrared camouflage and radar absorbing properties.
”Changable color, capable of stealth”, in recent years, some countries in the world have invested camouflage with stealth function in some battlefields. However, due to the failure to completely reflect light, the difficulty of infrared stealth, and the high production cost, it has been delayed to achieve production and installation.
Despite the challenges, the trend towards stealth in modern camouflage is unstoppable. At present, all countries are stepping up investment in the research and development of optical, infrared, electromagnetic and other camouflage mechanisms, with the hope that soldiers will be invisible or indistinguishable from the environment in front of enemy vision, optical reconnaissance equipment, infrared reconnaissance equipment and individual radar reconnaissance equipment, reducing being reconnaissance The probability of discovery can create a real “stealth soldier”.