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Guy Cramer Talks Camo Part V – Phase IV C3: Camouflage, Color and Cost

In Part V, Guy Cramer continues on with his in depth examination of the US Army’s Camouflage Improvement Effort by discussing his take on the cause of delays, their cost and goes right into some rather interesting comparisons of various candidate patterns. Seeing them side by side in this manner is very enlightening.

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This is just one example of what you have waiting for you at www.hyperstealth.com/c3.

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80 Responses to “Guy Cramer Talks Camo Part V – Phase IV C3: Camouflage, Color and Cost”

  1. KP says:

    I love this show.

  2. bulldog 76 says:

    read it all i can say is *yawn*

    • KP says:

      Really? Side-by-side NIR comparison doesn’t interest you at all? I can see all the patterns doing reasonably or equivalently well in the visual spectrum but this clearly sets them apart. What that separation means, I can’t say, but it’s there and it’s definite.

      • bulldog 76 says:

        but in the last 30 years how many of enemies have had night vision the is up to current US military specs

        • Dan says:

          If the legislation becomes law, this will be the last chance for us to equip our troops with a superior family of patterns against any threat. For all we know it might be 15-20 years before the services are authorized to find a better family. As we’ve been reading, we have a winner, so use it.

          • Strike-Hold says:

            Bulldog – the NODs don’t have to be up to US standard. And as you can see, all you need is a commercial off the shelf lens for your camera, and presto! you’ve got night vision.

            To say nothing of all the easily obtainable hunting and outdoors market NODs that are out there.

        • Mr. Think About It says:

          Bulldog, I understand your point, but many generals throughout history have lost many wars by fighting their “last war”. One would be mistaken to think that a decade of fighting ill equiped Iraqi/Afghan Douche Bags means that none of our future enemies will not be outfitted with night vision equipment. Iran, Russia, China, even North Korea, have been buying and developing NVG technology for quite a while now.

        • mcs says:

          But in the next 30 years, how many enemies might we have that have night vision to current US specs?

          • D1G says:

            By current US specs do you mean gen 3+ NV tubes?Thats the world standard of developed countries not just the US.Gen 2+ level tubes are cheaper,but just as good and have been found on bad guys in Iraq and Afghanastan.If we ever have a real conventional war it will be aginst forces that fight at night as we do with similar gear.Our future enemy will have studied our weaknesses and TTPs for over 10 years as weve been bogged down fighting nothing but rag tag resistance forces.Its important that we field the best combat uniform we can.
            -PO2 Harrison

  3. Josh says:

    Man, its really to the point that any of these will work just fine…except Brookwood’s pattern, heh.

    I just wish the Army would get on getting a decision in place…UCP has got to go…

    .

    • Mac says:

      Work fine, until you deal with a peer competitor nation that has some NOD capability……or creative enemies using COTS solutions, and the “NVG” shots used were taken from a comercially available camera.

      • Dan says:

        My one issue with the NIR comparisons- if they bought off the shelf commercial gear or fabrics from Kryptec, Multicam, etc then these fabrics likely werent designed for NIR. Many of the aftermarket gear uses cheaper versions not designed to be NIR compliant. If that is the case then this comparison is not very accurate- if it isnt then the results speak for themselves.

  4. SteveB says:

    Interesting (well, kinda). The only real way see the patterns effectiveness is to see it in various field environments while being worn by a real person at tactical distances, and that goes for night (NIR) also. One thing to consider, at night (NIR), there are far less shadow effects (no sun to make them-just moonlight), especially in woodland areas, as opposed to daytime. This makes the need for wide color separation at night less important or perhaps even detrimental.

    • Guy Cramer says:

      The requirement is due to the different reflection levels for dirt, sand, Foliage (many different reflection levels), bark…

      • SteveB says:

        Roger, that makes sense.

        • SteveB says:

          It also makes sense that your different patterns are closer together (on a brightness scale) in NIR than in daylight since the various environments (desert, transitional, woodland) are also, as seen via NVGs.

  5. Marcos says:

    why do you say that it is too expensive to have PPE in separate camo patterns to match the uniform? the total number of pieces needed is still the same. soldiers would just have a set to match the environment of the part of the world they were in. from my time in manufacturing, at a certain point quantities of scale are such that there is almost no price difference if the only difference is changing the color of a fabric..

  6. Luke says:

    I find it really interesting how the 4 entries approached transitional differently, kryptek seems to lean towards arid, US4CES looks a little more temperate, and multicam kind of splits the difference.
    brookwood put UCP in a blender and spilt coffee on it….

    • Sentry says:

      Crappy coffee at that.

    • SteveB says:

      Yeah, I agree. The transitional pattern is probably the most difficult to get ‘right’, since transitional terrain encompasses a wide variety of environments.

    • mcs says:

      Hey, shown above is Guy Cramer’s own printing of the Brookwood transitional, not Brookwood’s. You’ll find Brookwood’s to be somewhat different if you look it up.
      The official printing has black choco chips and green spots, which didn’t really turn out well in this version. (and coffee-spit UCP-D is in very different colors, having no really dark colors, and still the UCP light sage.)

  7. Uniform223 says:

    great read. lots of information had to read a few sections a few times over to really get what was being said. Much respect to Mr. Cramer for his efforts and research into camouflage patterns but honestly I am a Kryptek fan and hope that it wins the competition.

  8. ian says:

    I head the only substantial difference in performance was NIR. After seeing this, US4CES will be the winner for certain.

    • Steven S says:

      Yeah, the Army has been looking for NV performance for years. SSD hinted a while ago that it would be one section that make the best pattern stand apart from the others. I believe that section is NV and the best performing pattern is US4CES.

    • Mr. Think About It says:

      Agreed

  9. HFW says:

    I don’t know what is with the Sony IR Camera, but I have conducted combat operations with NVG’s and Multicam does not look anywhere near as washed out as it does in these pics…In fact, it looks nothing like this bedroom experiment. Even though I appreciate the effort and write up, ambient light conditions/High illum with military grade NOD’s is probably how the U.S. Army conducted their testing, and somehow, I don’t believe they used gear you can get at Walmart to do it. GO/NO GO criteria is usually set at 60% Illum unless signed off by Jesus him self. Above that, you don’t need NVG’s. So if this camera is blasting at 100% illum, how do these patterns compare under “Accepted Night Illum go/no go criteria”?…My guess is that there is a where you would see a difference, and then your back to the most important factor…Daytime naked eye acquisition.

    • SteveB says:

      HFW, good points. That night shot camera is also using an IR illuminator(bulb), not ambient night light.

    • Guy Cramer says:

      The Multicam I used is Milspec. The VS version (Visible Spectrum) non-milspec from Propper uses different material 65/35 Poly/Cotton thus reflecting the inks in the NIR differently and actually works better in the NIR than the 50/50 NYCO. Many of those VS versions have found their way into the military mix.

      • Guy Cramer says:

        Also our photos match the measurements from the spectrometer which looks at the reflection level from a distance of inches, that is how they determine the levels – this will translate into images under NIR.

    • mcs says:

      The camera was shooting in the NIR by shining NIR LEDs onto the subject. This part of the EM spectrum is also where the NIR illuminators folks strap to their rifles operate at, because it’s also where most night vision devices are most sensitive.
      When viewing MultiCam, because of the spectral sensitivity of the dyes, the less visible light falling on it, the more “washed out” it will appear in NVDs, as they will use more light from NIR wavelengths. So when viewing it at very dark to completely dark conditions, MultiCam appears as it does in Guy’s experiments. (also seen in some combat photography and independent experiments)

      In your experiences, perhaps there was significant sources of visible light, such as flashlights, headlights, streetlights, or moonlight? This would make the camo appear more as it does in the visual spectrum. Your experience with night vision equipment does sound valuable though, and you raise a good point with the Army potentially not testing to the same standard as the developers do.

  10. Buckaroomedic says:

    Why do I get the sinking feeling that pretty soon all US forces are going to be wearing AOR1 and 2?

  11. Jon Meyer says:

    If US4CES doesn’t win I will be surprised. Kryptek was horrible in the NIR. How it even became a finalist I don’t know. I am willing to bet Brookwood is even worse in the NIR. The Army and the rest of the military need to adopt US4CES. If they don’t that will be the worst decision made in this century.

    • ST Doc says:

      I was shocked at how bad Kryptek and MC did. Unless there’s something we’re missing here, I agree this should be a no-brainer.

      • SteveB says:

        Certainly, they didn’t test the night/NIR performance with a close-up shot under IR illumination. I’m sure the tests were done at tactical distances using NVGs in natural settings. Until I see each pattern under real world conditions, I with-hold judgment.

        • ST Doc says:

          Agreed. I’ve never seen MC stick out like that downrange, so I’m not sure what’s going on here.

    • Even worse than adopting UCP?

    • Mac says:

      When SSD gave their tease they mentioned the source they heard things from said the families all performed similarly across the board, except for one area where one family stood out in performance…. I’m wondering if the pics above aren’t demonstrating that one area.

  12. ME says:

    The real question is whether or not anyone is giving this info to congress so they can help the other services along in adopting the best camouflage. You would hope that someone in the Army is giving congress all the data to show the winner is the best solution, and that everyone should adopt the winner. But we’ll probably end up with AOR 1/2 or MARPAT because the Army’s keeping the lid on this.

    I wish someone would just leak the winner… *wink*

  13. Darius137 says:

    I would like to hear a rebuttal by the other patterns. This is good information and very convincing for Hyperstealth, but it’s also an article made by Hyperstealth.

    • bulldog 76 says:

      im not the only one that thinks this is just a sales pitch ??

      • Mike B. says:

        I have to agree. Great work by Mr. Krammer, but in the end he’s selling his pattern. I’m sure all the companies did the same. But are keeping a lid on their work. I am happy to see that the Army is sitting back and letting the market develop patterns. But they seem to by out of the sloop here. And like it has already been said, the longer we wait the worst things are getting. I agree with there being one Pattern (Or family of Camo) for all the services. But if the Arm Pattern is chosen will this mean the Corps will change theirs, or if the MARPAT is chosen will it mean that the Corps will let this happen. I’m not a fan of these digital patterns. I would prefer something a bit more blurred. But never mind. I liek th eMC Pattern, and the colours, but they need a greener colour range. Anyway, only time will tell.

      • Matt says:

        No you’re not the only one. Let’s see – so we have an article, written by one of the contestans, that under the semi-scientific guise seems to be an advertisment of his product plus a gentle slap towards the competition. It is posed as “objective” with that cute, blurry, non-calibrated IR camera and stuff. I wonder why I don’t see Caleb Crye or Butch Whiting writing such stories up about their entries and competiton?

        Now for a few facts – it is written: “Brookwood has not released their patterns other than a few images. ” That is not quite true – they were all present at Brookwood’s booth at Shot. Both fabric and uniforms in all variants.

        How do we know that Kryptek samples seen in the article have the proper NIR treatment? – they’re again “commercial” samples, so they could be quite away from Mil-Spec in that regard. Again: “Kryptek has released their patterns commercially thus providing us the ability to purchase their three submissions printed on 50/50 NYCO to compare with our 50/50 NYCO submissions.” We can safely assume that Mr. Cramer got his patterns samples treated to NIR reflectancy requirements, but were Kryptek samples treated the same way?

        I would not take this article seriously at all – it mixes some hearsay: “Crye has not released any information on their submission but a couple of people from ADS Inc. have seen…” with some more reflectancy tables to add scientificy to what we see. And what we see as an “ultimate proof” – a number of blurry IR shots from an undetermined model of Sony Nightshot camera, without any warranty that these were digitally altered.

        No matter how true or untrue are Mr. Cramer claims and postulates I’d have to say that this article lacks two things – ethics & scientific objectivity. It’s just and advertisment pretending to be something else.

        • SSD says:

          Brookwood has allowed me to photograph all three of their submitted patterns but has not given me permission to publish them.

        • Guy Cramer says:

          From the Kryptek Facebook site in the Posts by Others section from June 13, 2013 from Clint Newman asking why his hunting jacket colors didn’t match the Vertex hat. Here is Kryptek’s response:

          Clint…The hat is made of “Military Grade” nyco 50/50 that is wet printed with inks that provide nIR and SwIR protection under NVG’s, while the commercial grade is done with heat transer paper, and not IR inks…Both are Kryptek products. Vertx purchased the military grade fabric and produced the hat as well as their Gunfighter series tactical shirts and pants. Thanks for your support though, we appreciate it!!!

          • Marcos says:

            isnt the NIR protection supposed to be to keep certain colors from ‘glowing’ when viewed with NVGs? i dont recall keeping color separation as being the main goal NIR compliant items…

      • Moped says:

        Agreed, this whole series since the beginning, while neat, has made me feel like I’m watching that one kid in gym class jumping up and down waving his arms yelling “Oh! Oh! pick me!, pick me! I’m sooo much better than Jimmy because….”. This all IS a sales pitch. Don’t get me wrong, US4CES is a good looking pattern, but something is to be said about the other companies not having to “brag” and showboat to get public support. The Army already said at this point all the patterns have pretty much leveled out equally effective…

    • The other companies use this same forum quite regularly. I’m certain that SSD would gladly afford them the same “soap box” opportunity if they had data substantiating their submission’s effectiveness.

  14. paul says:

    Seems strange that the other companies would not have met this standard for NIR. And it would be nice to see the patterns in their respective environments in the NIR spectrum – not just laying on a table. I’m not convinced that pixelated patterns fair better than “naturally shaped” patterns in the real world. Anyway, great information. Thanks.

    • SteveB says:

      You are absolutely correct about seeing the patterns in a natural environment and realistic distances using real NV equipment.

  15. Emre says:

    If Mr. Cramer could do something like this for the rest of the popular patterns out there (Pencott, A-TACS, Mirage), basically creating one big camo comparison, I think he’d gain a lot of support and approval. Heck, I’d love to see something like that.

    • Guy Cramer says:

      Sorry, none of those patterns have been printed to function on the NIR to U.S. military specs, as such you cannot compare them properly.

      • With best regards Guy – all of the PenCott patterns are in fact printed to US military quality and nIR standards on US made fabrics.

        Independent testing has verified their performance in the nIR spectrum as well as the visual spectrum – and we’d be more than happy to engage in any further, validated, independent testing that any qualified organization wishes to undertake.

        • Guy Cramer says:

          I did not know that. Usually this is only done when the Military requires it for use as it is more expensive than non-NIR printing.

          • Emre says:

            DCS also says that A-TACS are NIR compliant, Mr. Cramer:

            http://www.a-tacs.com/about/

            Just scroll down a little and you’ll find they address NIR Signatures. And being that A-TACS printed on Defender M and 50/50 Nyco just like MIL-SPEC Multicam, I’d argue that they are indeed printed to function ‘on the NIR’.

          • Guy Cramer says:

            From Propper: The reason why Propper has not manufactured a “NIR-compliant” version of products in A-TACS AU or A-TACS FG is because NIR compliance is a military specification. Since the military does not use either version of A-TACS, they have not determined the color wavelengths standards for either A-TACS pattern. As a result, no product in either A-TACS pattern can be considered NIR-compliant.

  16. Bushman says:

    Kryptek makes me wondering, why did they added these squashed honeycomb sub-pattern there? It should be visible from the close distance only, but when it’s visible, our brain could easily catch it. Human brain is well-adapted to recognize regular patterns, so these hexagonal cells should work like a signal flag from distances less than 20ft (for unaided normal vision). Maybe, it will work good in forest full of ferns or palms (primitive plants with high level of regularity in leaf structure), but in most other natural conditions there are nothing to match these sub-pattern with.

    • SteveB says:

      I have used the Kryptek patterns in various environments and can tell you they easily outperform Multicam and Marpat. The hexagonal pattern when viewed at appropriate tactical distances (20 feet? if the enemy is that close something has gone terribly wrong!) is extremely effective. The hexagonal micropattern is no more un-natural and attention getting than square pixels.

      • Steven S says:

        In simpler terms of what SteveB said, if you can notice the hexagons than you are too close.

        • Bushman says:

          Huh, if the enemy don’t have to see these hexagons, why did they put it there?
          And, I’ve added a remark about 20 ft and unaided vision – even 2x magnification makes the distance more natural for combat conditions.

  17. Max says:

    US4CES is slowly growing on me.

  18. Farragut Jones says:

    SSD & Mr. Cramer: Thanks for posting/writing this—and, in the case of the latter, being available to answer questions. Regardless of Mr. Cramer’s interest in the outcome, it’s been a very helpful and informative series.

  19. lev says:

    Get something fielded quick or watch out when the politicians start liking the idea of running this program…..

    “Oooh, fashion!
    We are the goon squad
    and we’re coming to town
    Beep-beep…”

  20. Tom says:

    Very interesting, Guy you have come along way over the years into developing some of the best knowledge on creation and manufacturing of camouflage.

    I am so surprised how technology such as NVD have changed the battlefield and to think that one side will be able to own the night because they have better NV right now is foolish. The NVD genie has been out of the bottle now for how many years? Is there anything now out there to help mask EMF and thermal?

  21. USMColddawg says:

    Mr. Cramer has his own Facebook and website to toot his horn so even though many will appear that his opinions are biased; I think his is a providing a great service providing his information on this website. As SSD posted; other competitors had opportunities to present their analysis and they have refrained for whatever reason. I applaud Mr. Cramer for having the courage to express his views and not refrain because he feels that his opinions may have an effect on the outcome. I believe that US4CES is the best selection but if the Army now tries to pursue AOR or MarPat because of this recent congressional decision; then I am ok with that too.

    But it makes sense to make a decision now. Like I posted earlier that making a decision now does not mean that we will wear the uniform next month. They could announce knowing that this decision will happen in the following fiscal year and pending other determinations. I sure miss the leadership that had guts of yesteryear.

  22. USMColddawg says:

    I wish we could edit posts to fix the typos. SSD, can you add that option?

    Mr. Cramer has his own Facebook and website to toot his horn so even though many will appear that his opinions are biased; I think he is providing a great service providing his information on this website. As SSD posted; other competitors had opportunities to present their analysis and they have refrained for whatever reason. I applaud Mr. Cramer for having the courage to express his views and not refrain because he feels that his opinions may have an effect on the outcome for political reasons. I believe that US4CES is the best selection but if the Army now tries to pursue AOR or MarPat because of this recent congressional decision; then I am ok with that too.

    But it makes sense to make a decision now. Like I posted earlier that making a decision now does not mean that we will wear the uniform next month. They could announce knowing that this decision will happen in the following fiscal year and pending other determinations. I sure miss the leadership that had guts of yesteryear.

  23. ArmyPA says:

    Bahaha – $6.5 million the most popular pattern? Go home, Kryptek; you’re drunk. Go ADS!

  24. BSB Armorer says:

    I have been following this story as it has developed over the last few months. I would like to thank Mr. Cramer for his insight into his design process and sincerely enjoyed his articles. However, I acknowledge that he may be a little biased in his assessments. As an engineer myself, I am always proud of my inventions, and I’m fully convinced that my way is often the best way.

    To sum up what I have learned:
    - US4CES has the best colors for defeating NVG’s
    - A single geometry is counterproductive when comparing woodland to arid
    - NIR and SWIR will become a major factor in camouflage effectiveness in the coming years
    - UBC still sucks

    I’m not sure that Phase IV has truly determined the best family of camouflage patterns by handicapping the design with “a single geometry”. But whatever pattern is selected, even the watercolor, it will be a significant improvement in the visual spectrum over what we’re fielding now.

    All that being said, could the Army please hurry up and announce the winner. It’s getting harder and harder to convince my company that this is actually going to happen and that I don’t wear a tinfoil hat in my free time.

  25. D Daw says:

    I ran through a few courses with the good old woodland pattern. What I see is the enticement to the active duty soldier to get the newest greatest which also gets contracts awarded by the way, You all debating this should be ashamed. There is no substitute for training. I can disappear in the old woodland pattern and tickle you to get your attention. Most debating this are either lazy, or looking to make money.

  26. m5 says:

    Astonishing. The overall lack of professionalism in camouflage design is simply astonishing, at least if the claims by Mr. Cramer are at all accurate. And I can’t see why they wouldn’t be.

    One would assume that the performance differences of the final four contenders would be subtle. However, now it appears that Kryptek and Multicam are not even camouflage patterns at NIR wavelenghts, but that they offer essentially just a single colour. This is not necessarily that bad, if the colour is right. Just consider that many militaries used (eg) plain olive drab uniforms for visual camouflage until recently. But for the ultimate camouflage pattern selection program, getting to the final with a plain single colour offering seems amazingly weak. Even if it is “just” at NIR.

    The fact that current-issue camo – UCP, OCP, Marpat and AOR – more or less fail to be camoufalge patterns at NIR, while Woodland is better and the Brittish DPM seems excellent in colour separation, is an embarrasement. Not to mention that UCP, Marpat and AOR have borrowed their geometry from Cadpat, while failing to reproduce the good NIR pattern contrast of Cadpat. The NIR threat is by no means new, but has been around since the 1950′s (0th gen, NOD requiring active NIR illumination). The fact that the current enemy happens to be largely lacking night vision capability is not much of an excuse – the next enemy is likely to have it – 2nd gen tubes and CCD NIR cameras are readily available even on the consumer market.

    Sure, the pictures provided by Cramer are from a “bedroom experiment”, as someone put it. But the spectral reflectance *specifications* for the dyes used in OCP (Multicam) is hard data showing that mil-spec OCP isn’t much of a pattern at NIR. And this is consistent with the bedroom photographs where OCP indeed appears washed out. I did not find the references for the spectrometer measurements shown by Cramer, but the graphs appear consistent with the photos too.

    Or, as a second thought, perhaps the lack of (visual) camouflage (pattern) design expertise isn’t that surprising considering the UCP fiasco. Or the design budgets. Heck, US$ 80,000 – 600,000 – 6M for a one-time licensing fee of the next Army uniform camo family. This is peanuts! Compare to the price of, eg, one crashed helicopter, a IED-blown-up MRAP or even just one maimed grunt. If the design of aircraft stealth was done with this kind of resources, we wouldn’t have any for a long time.