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Military Camouflage

Military camouflage is the use of camouflage by a military force to protect personnel and equipment from observation by enemy forces. In practice, this means applying colour and materials to military equipment of all kinds, including vehicles, ships, aircraft, gun positions and battledress, either to conceal it from observation (crypsis), or to make it appear as something else (mimicry).

The French slang word camouflage came into common English usage during World War I when the concept of visual deception developed into an essential part of modern military tactics. In that war, long-range artillery and observation from the air combined to expand the field of fire, and camouflage was widely used to decrease the danger of being targeted or to enable surprise. As such, military camouflage is a form of military deception.



Welcome to our world of colours

This website is for the exclusive use of the researchers in the world of military paint colours and the colours in which aircraft and vehicles have been painted over the years. This intails the diverse world on camouflage colours.


Paint Camouflage for vehicles and aircraft is complicated by the fact that the appearance of the vehicle or aircraft's background varies widely, depending on the location of the observer, the nature of the background the aircraft's motion. For this reason, many military vehicles and aircraft are painted to match the veldt or sky when viewed from a distance  and to either match the ground or break up the vehicle or aircraft's outline when viewed from above or from the sides.

Camouflage is often used to inhibit visual acquisition on or near the ground. A variety of patterns have been used to obscure vehicle or aircraft outlines over specific environments. Light sand colors have been used for vehicles used in the desert, blues and greys for aircraft over the sea, and greens and browns for vehicles that are expected to operate in forested areas. This solution causes another problem: the very pattern that makes it more difficult to spot the vehicle or aircraft when parked makes it stand out when moving, since the pattern provides a high degree of contrast against a stationary background. When the need to hide parked vehicles and aircraft declines, so does the tendency to use such a schemes. A single solid neutral colour (Dark Earth) was chosen by the SADF during 1975 precisely because it provided a better compromise between hiding the vehicle on the ground and in the air.

A camouflaged aircraft either on the ground or flying low over the ground in bright sunlight is vulnerable to being detected from above because of its own bold, black shadow cast on the ground. This can reduce an aircraft's camouflage effectiveness at altitudes up to 3,000 feet (910 m), particularly if the ground surface is light colored and homogenous. The following photographs illustrate the varied selection of paint colours from WW1 to the present day:





ww1aircraft_small ww2tank_small
World War 1 tanks World war 1 aircrraft World War 2 Tanks




moderntank_small modernaircraft_small
World War 2 aircraft Modern tanks Modern aircraft


Camouflage was first practised in simple form in the mid 18th century by jäger- or rifle units. Their tasks required them to be inconspicuous, and they were issued green and later other drab colour uniforms. With the advent of longer range and more accurate weapons, especially the repeating rifle, camouflage was adopted for the uniforms of all armies, spreading to most forms of military equipment including ships and aircraft. Many modern camouflage textiles address visibility not only to visible light but also near infrared, for concealment from night vision devices. Camouflage is not only visual; heat, sound, magnetism and even smell can be used to target weapons, and may be intentionally concealed. Digital camouflage applies patterns made of pixels, often designed to disrupt outlines at different distances, providing a degree of scale invariance.

Camouflage for equipment and positions was extensively developed for military use by the French in 1915, soon followed by other World War I armies. In both world wars, artists were recruited as camouflage officers. Ship camouflage developed via conspicuous dazzle camouflage schemes during WWI, but since the development of radar, ship camouflage has received less attention. Aircraft, especially in World War II, were often painted with different schemes above and below, to camouflage them against the ground and sky respectively.

Military camouflage patterns have been popular in fashion and art from as early as 1919. Camouflage patterns have appeared in the work of artists such as Andy Warhol and Ian Hamilton Finlay, sometimes with an anti-war message. In fashion, many major designers have exploited camouflage's style and symbolism, and military clothing or imitations of it have been used both as street wear and as a symbol of political protest.

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