FN Herstal

The Camouflage Bubble – Will It Burst?

Over the past 100 years thousands upon thousands of camouflage patterns have been developed and issued to various military, paramilitary, law enforcement and other groups around the world.

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But, ever since the United States Marine Corps began fielding MARPAT in 2003, kicking off the US military camo wars, commercially produced patterns have been all the rage. Adding fuel to this explosive growth has been a multi-front war with troops looking for a better mouse trap as well as the US Army’s Camouflage Improvement Effort that looked to industry to fulfill their concealment needs into the 21st century.

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It’s a bubble all right and we Americans love bubbles. Name an industry that hasn’t had one. Shoot, there wasn’t even a camouflage industry until about 10 years ago and it grew itself right into a bubble. The question is, if and when it will burst.

Between the Army’s upcoming announcement of a new family of camouflage and Congressional interest in forcing all of the US services to adopt the same pattern(s) an argument could be made that the market for camouflage is getting ready to stovepipe.

But I would make the opposite argument. The genie is out of the bottle. Aside from patterns that perform very well in virtually any environment imaginable as well as some really cool looking patterns, the age of the digital printer is upon us. Companies like HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp offer their Ghostex and Deceptex custom camouflage print on demand services. Additionally, Special Ops Apps offer a mobile device app called CamoScience that allow you to design you own camouflage for the environment you are in and can print the new pattern on demand.

In addition to the availability of these custom solutions, military, law enforcement and even tactical and outdoor enthusiasts offer a sophisticated consumer base that demands performance. And that’s not to mention the consumer market that wears camouflage just because it can.

Will the camo bubble burst? Not anytime soon.

18 Responses to “The Camouflage Bubble – Will It Burst?”

  1. DANGER CLOSE says:

    What is the middle right Camo Pattern, anyone? Thank you sir!

  2. Hopper says:

    perhaps we are just nearing the end of camo generation. with leaps in technology and a much different battlefield than the 1950’s we will probably see the simple 2D patterns subside to a few major companies. I feel like we will likely see more placed into 3D patterns (ghillie’s work great) or active camouflage. Also we probably will see much more interest in dampening nIR and heat signatures the next time the branches look for a drastic change in the way we conceal our soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors…well at least these are just my ramblings.

    • SSD says:

      I think you’re right about extending protection into other portions of the electro,agnostic spectrum. Interestingly, the Army Camouflage Improvement Effort rejected 3D camouflage designs or other novel concepts in favor or the use of current wet printing technology and standard uniform construction techniques.

      • Lawrence says:

        Its going to take a while, and a lot of investment in technology and infrastructure, before the textile production and garment manufacturing industries could reliably and cost-effectively deliver durable, wearable, 3D-printed and/or effective multi-spectral concealment capabilities.

  3. Haji says:

    I don’t think the bubble bursting will be as devastating to the industry as it might be in some others, but there will be some companies that don’t survive in the long run. The major difference there is the number of segments to the industry that there are. If it was just the military there wouldn’t be as much variety, but the hunting industry has supported niche patterns for 20 years or more. The big dog is the Army, though. What they decide will have a very large impact on what happens in the cammo industry.

  4. Steven S says:

    IMO, It’s not going to burst until it becomes obsolete.

  5. majrod says:

    IF we go to common uniforms it’s going to burst.

    Business relies on volume. On top of a reduced OPTEMPO shared military patterns will reduce the number of businesses out there. SOCOM will kepp a select number of companies going but not many. Companies may merge to bring unique capabilities and customers under one umbrella to survive in a smaller/merged fashion.

    Hunting, heck it’s six months after Newtown and we still can’t get ammo at Wal Mart.

    Camo industry’s best bet is the fashion world.

    • Steven S says:

      I disagree.

      You are coming from the perspective of that the military spending/wars is the biggest factor in the health of the camo industry. This may have been true before 10 years ago when it was mostly countries and big companies who developed camouflage patterns but now it is enthusiasts with skills in image editing programs. That has resulted in opening up the untapped commercial camo market. People have different tastes and want variety. Before it was only some people who could make camo. this prevented camouflage from being a big industry since there wasn’t a big enough variety or “supply” to meet the “demand” of the human fashion sense. Now that individuals with computers can make camouflage patterns. The camo industry can now meet that “demand”.

      The commercial market is now the biggest contributor of sales for the camo industry which is why it is the most important factor in determining the health of the camo industry.

      The genie is out of the bottle sort of speak. There will be this big camo industry until it becomes obsolete or until we as humans decide we don’t want it. It’s kinda like the clothing industry. It will always be huge until we as humans don’t wear clothing anymore.

      • majrod says:

        Did you miss my, “Camo industry’s best bet is the fashion world.” comment?

        • Steven S says:

          Yeah, I missed that comment somehow.

          Still, the rest of your comment appears as if you think the impact of the lower optempo and military cuts will severely cripple the camo industry.

          “IF we go to common uniforms it’s going to burst.”

          “Business relies on volume. On top of a reduced OPTEMPO shared military patterns will reduce the number of businesses out there. SOCOM will keep a select number of companies going but not many. Companies may merge to bring unique capabilities and customers under one umbrella to survive in a smaller/merged fashion.”

          A big point I am trying to say is that the military impact is not really big. It’s not like a typical military industrial company. The camo industry exists more in the textile industry NOW rather than the military industry (before 10 years ago). So the impact is much less than you think. The commercial industry is the one few things that could have a big enough impact to burst this “bubble”.

          • majrod says:

            I guess we’re not seeing the term industry and camouflage the same. I’m thinking varied companies doing business in camo fabrics being industry and camouflage being a product that let’s someone blend into their environment as opposed to a pattern that the fashion industry sells because it’s cool.

            There will be less business if the conventional side goes to common patterns. Seven of the eight patterns (all but AOR1 which is NSW specific) in use will fall by the wayside for a decade at least and if we stay true to the new law we won’t fall victim again to the lunacy of each branch having its own camo with all the research, competion and volume that keeps a company in business. Further less conflict in the world is going to cause less need to develop new patterns (war always drives innovation in tools of war) and in Afghanistan alone we have dozens of nations involved. That’s dozens of nations who are going to be less interested in new patterns.

            Agree camo developers are here to stay because the techis ubiquitous and the “look” is cool but many of these camo patterns aren’t camo (what does pink camo blend with). They just are cool patterns and that number will increase as “camo” moves into the fashion industry which is more interested in patterns that are cool and pleasing to the eye than functional.

            There’s also the reality that fashion is ever changing and camo will soon become so “last season”.

  6. Stephen says:

    I blame Canada.

  7. Jon Meyer says:

    I don’t think it is going anywhere anytime soon either. Until technology catches up with our current imagination and we can viably make uniforms that can change to our surroundings (think predator) the current camo “industry” isn’t going anywhere. We will see companies come and go, some merge and some expand but it isn’t going anywhere. Especially with the huge commercial/civilian market with a ton of veterans who love to train and the like who want quality military gear and camo.

    My vote is still A-Tacs > the rest.

  8. Stefan S says:

    I hope so! (Bubble Bursting)

  9. Joe says:

    The Industry as a whole is not that concerned with the NIR or SWIR or let alone the LWIR parts of the spectrum, ITW is one of the few who comes to mind when it comes to companies that are aware of the IR signature of there products and use it in there marketing.

    What’s the signature of a pair of boots or Cerokote or even a PMag in NIR-SWIR-LWIR?

    TNVC did a write-up w/pics about a low IR reflecting paint on a helmet and a rifle

    http://www.ar15.com/forums/t_2_209/191253_New_NV_Helmet_Set_Up__Updated_with_a_Holographic_Paint_Job_and_Tested_with_IR_LASER_HITS__PG3.html&page=2

    but that’s about it, many items that SOCOM uses are made by small venders and this necessitates there awareness of NIR-SWIR-LWIR spectrum and the wide availability of raw materials with the desired attributes for every piece of equipment, knives, hats, sunglasses, webbing, firearm coatings, etc.

    This brings up the touchy subject of either having these materials regulated or unregulated.

    Regulate it to LEO-MIL only will limit the selection, availably and heighten the cost.

    on the other hand

    Unregulated the variety, availably and price will be lower, but any Tom, Dick and Harry can get one, but with the austerity and downsizing the “Modern Warfare” “Paintballers” “Airsofters” may be the only way for most of them to make ends meet and before anyone says it will allow it to fall into enemy hands, the Bazaars in Pakistan show what happens when you let indigenous personal have access to clothing and equipment and China doesn’t mind making knockoffs since most materials come from there anyway.

    The next advancement in uniforms will be a combat oriented compression type jumpsuit in a HyperStealth or Crye developed pattern that’s quickdrying and has FR properties along with specific NIR-SWIR-LWIR characteristics, the rear echelon will wear something else.

  10. Stone06 says:

    This is the only type of war we won’t need camo in.

    http://youtu.be/usoZDm0JvA4

    The only good bug is a dead bug!

  11. Gonzalo says:

    Considering the amount of money used in the camo related topics, there is any other use for this technology? or just militar and hunting?