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Testing the effectiveness of camouflage

4 April 2012
A camouflage uniform is tested by a DSTO scientist.
Private Taylor Gleeson has a Canadian uniform checked by Dr Bin Lee from the DSTO during the NATO camouflage effectiveness field trial at the Jungle Training Centre in Tully, Australia

Camouflage patterns for military uniforms have been developed to trick the human eye so that soldiers are indistinguishable from the background, whether desert, sky or woodland.

In modern warfare, a growing number of sensors can 'see' in parts of the spectrum where people cannot.

Designing camouflage for a wide variety of terrains, and testing it to see how effective patterns are across the visual, ultraviolet, infrared and radar bands of the electromagnetic spectrum is therefore crucial to increase survivability of service personnel.

For two weeks in March, DSTO participated in an international trial in far north Queensland to test the effectiveness of up to 18 types of current and experimental camouflage uniforms in hot and humid conditions.

Chief of DSTO's Human Protection and Performance Division Simon Oldfield said seven members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and Australia took part in the trial.

Camouflage is crucial to increase survivability of service personnel

"The trial, and our membership of the NATO task group looking at camouflage, enables Australia to have access to knowledge, tools and methodologies that will inform future camouflage requirements," Dr Oldfield said.

"We will also be able to gather a more realistic threat assessment of hot and humid environments that will help us develop assessment methods for camouflage."

Researchers used multispectral image recording and panoramic photography techniques to measure camouflage effectiveness during the trial. Ten volunteers from the Australian Army's 3rd Brigade modelled the uniforms for the trial which took place at the Army Jungle Training Centre in Tully.