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Hidden in plain view: developments in modern camouflage.

Forty-something Guy Cramer is passionate about the art of camouflage. And he has turned that passion into a highly successful business: HyperStealth Biotechnology Corporation. Located in a nondescript, former grade school in Maple Ridge, B.C., the company has no identifying sign. This is perfectly appropriate for one of the leaders in the art of camouflage and concealment.

The grandson of Donald L. Hings, the man who invented the walkie-talkie, Cramer was no stranger to the power of innovation. His interest in camouflage started in the late 1980s, when he was a member of the Taxi Drivers from Hell, a competitive paintball team. He was able to obtain a complete British Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM) uniform even though this clothing was not available to the public during the UK forces' conflict with the Irish Republican Army.

"When I wore the DPM during paintball competitions I wasn't observed even though guys came right up beside me."

This intrigued him and he took the science of concealment in a bold new direction.

In 2002, he created a website devoted to camouflage and the following year it was noticed by none less than the King of Jordan. King Abdullah II personally engaged in business deals with Cramer's company and in the initial order of a couple of hundred uniforms for the Royal Guard and Special Forces. The Jordanians were so impressed with the quality of Cramer's design that 750,000 uniforms, in seven different colour schemes, were produced.

This was the first big deal for the company and, although Cramer won't discuss the exact dollar amount of the contract, he says, "It was enough to get us in the black." Furthermore, the deal with the Jordanians led to other lucrative orders from armies around the globe.


The history of camouflage goes back centuries. The first recorded tactician who ordered his Mongol mounted units to place twigs and leaves in their helmets was Genghis Khan in the 12th century. His invasions led to the conquest of most of most Eurasia and were. successful in part because of his use of concealment.

Centuries later, during the American Revolution, General George Washington was able to overcome the disadvantage of having fewer troops under his command than his seasoned British opponents. He employed the art of subterfuge as he left campfires burning to cover his army's night manoeuvres, making the Redcoats believe that the Army of the Republic remained in bivouac.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the British 60th and 95th Rifle Regiments were the first to employ natural colours as they dressed in "rifle green" jackets. Positioned under cover at greater range, they also used the more accurate Baker rifles while their scarlet-clad line regiment comrades continued to employ relatively inaccurate weapons designed for close-quarter combat.

The First World War saw camouflage used on a large scale for the first time. During this war, the word camouflage--originating from the French word "cagoule" or "to disguise"--entered popular language. Specialized training in concealment to support offensive actions was also conducted for the first time.

The Germans replaced their Prussian blue tunics with "feldgrau" or field grey uniforms in 1910. Meanwhile, the French standard uniform still consisted of bright red trousers and blue jackets. In 1911, when modern tacticians attempted to introduce a concealment-friendly uniform in France, there was significant opposition. Minister of War Eugene Etienne cried, "Abolish red trousers? Never. France is red trousers." It was not until the French experienced the maelstrom of modern warfare that they moved toward the introduction of a less colourful uniform.

During the Great War, the appearance of the dazzle pattern was the first attempt at camouflaging sea vessels. Condemned by traditionalist critics as "floating art galleries/1 the dramatic colours that were applied to the hulls and funnels of British warships drastically reduced shipping losses. Naysayers were silenced forever.

The ability to mass-produce fabrics during the Second World War led to the greater distribution of camouflaged uniforms. Initially, the patterns were issued to special units, and when these troops were captured their uniforms were often recycled by the enemy.

In 1940 the British military created the Camouflage Development and Training Centre at Farnham Castle, Surrey, but it was not until 1942 that the first disruptive-pattern uniforms appeared. The hand-painted Dcnison smock was issued to paratroops. The Finnish army, engaged in battle with Soviet forces, were the first to employ white winter camouflage uniforms, and the Russians were quick to develop similar attire.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created experimental camouflage uniforms, but it was not until 1942 that General Douglas MacArthur ordered 150,000 leopard spot suits for Marines fighting in the Solomon Islands. Fxperience in battle indicated that these uniforms were unsuitable for moving troops and, in 1944, the single-tone military clothing returned. In the same year, frog skin camouflage was issued to members of the 2nd Armoured Division in Normandy; but was withdrawn as a number of soldiers were killed in friendly fire incidents because the uniforms were too similar to those worn by the Nazi Waffen SS.

D-Day's Operation FORTITUDH was the first massive-scale deception operation. The creation of fake oil tanks, jetties, antiaircraft guns, tanks, planes and landing craft convinced the Nazi High Command that the invasion of Fortress Europe would take place at Pas de Calais instead of Normandy.

The period after the Second World War saw limited development of camouflage. Some significant introductions took place during the Vietnam War as traditional olive drab (OD) uniforms were replaced by the popular tiger stripe pattern for U.S. special forces and the more universally issued Woodland design.


Soldiers who served in the Canadian Forces about 30 years ago will recall that camouflage and concealment equipment was limited to helmet covers and two-tone green face paint. In the 1980s, camouflage jump smocks were issued to airborne units and members of the Special Service Force. These uniforms were withdrawn from wide distribution and the OD combat uniforms prevailed. At this time the widely scoffed at "Crappy Tire Combat" jackets were issued as garrison dress only. The civilianized pattern was chosen as it was deemed to be non-aggressive and in keeping with Canadian sensibilities.

It was not until 1997 that the Canadian Disruptive Pattern (CADPAT) appeared in the form of a helmet cover. These items were issued to all members of the CF as a precursor to complete CADPAT uniforms that are now issued to soldiers in both green and desert colour schemes. The CADPAT design was so effective that the U.S. Marine Corps sought permission from the Canadian Department of National Defence to use it for their troops. DND agreed with the request on the condition that the Marines use a different colour scheme from the one employed by Canadians, Studies at the time proved that CADPAT was 30 per cent more effective than OD in providing protection for soldiers.

Guy Cramer's current camouflage design partner Timothy O'Neill, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant-colonel who served for many years as a psychology engineering professor at West Point, was the first person to create a pixelated camouflage pattern. In 1976 the Dual-Tex design was applied to tanks with remarkable results, however the U.S. Army leadership did not believe the technology actually worked and let it drop. The Canadians picked up O'Neill's research in the mid-1990s and went into full-scale computer-assisted design production.

Cramer becomes animated when he speaks of the waste of time and money that apparently went into the creation of CADPAT. "The CF took three years and several millions of dollars to develop CADPAT. This was far too much."

By contrast, the pattern he produced for the website that caught the attention of King Abdullah was created in two hours using a $100 computer program, however, another three months was required to satisfy the Jordanians' specific requirements.

Bob Balma is another Canadian developer of camouflage. Balma, who was one of the persons responsible for the development of CAD PAT, served with the Royal Canadian Artillery for 32 years and for the past two and a half decades has worked as a technical expert in the DND office of the assistant deputy minister for materiel.

He is a friendly man who chooses his words carefully. He first began working with pixelated camouflage for Canadian Forces vehicles in 1987, when he was tasked to define Canadian background colours. This was no easy job due to the geographical peculiarities of our vast country as well as seasonal changes in colour. This assignment occupied about four years time. In 1991 two young staff officers of DND's Directorate of Land Requirements thought it would be a good idea to develop a disruptive pattern for soldiers. Initially, the officers were not taken seriously.

However, with the onset of the Afghan war and "the realization that soldiers were going to fight again," Balma said the project for pixelated combat uniforms gathered momentum. Cramer was first tasked to design a pattern that would be suitable for the Canadian environment and thus was born the Temperate Woodland pattern that is in use today. Development of the original CADPAT design took about a year.

Bob Balma disputes Guy Cramer's claim about the time and money that DND spent developing CADPAT. "It didn't take four years and certainly didn't take millions of dollars," he says. "I can tell you that had it taken millions of dollars it wouldn't have happened."

He would not say specifically how much was spent but did state, "It was significantly less than one million dollars."

In 2009 Guy Cramer was surprised when he was contracted by the Canadian government to create a prototype design for a Canadian Urban Environmental Pattern (CUEPAT), originally proposed for use by defenders against urban targets of chemical-biological warfare. He thought that because of his criticism of the high expenditure during the design phase of CADPAT he had been blacklisted by his own government. When CUEPAT is finally implemented it is expected that it will be issued to members of Joint Task Force Two (JTF2), the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) and any others who may be engaged in urban warfare.

The total cost involved in the design, development and testing of CUEPAT is only around $30,000.

Cramer's interest in camouflage continues on other fronts. Currently in development is adaptive camouflage that changes its colour, shape and brightness. Smartcamo is a low-powered material that, with the flip of a switch, a combatant can adjust the camouflage to suit his particular environment. The price per unit is about $1,000 and this may be cost-prohibitive for boots-on-the-ground, but Cramer is convinced that governments will gladly spend about $20,000 to protect a multi-million dollar tank.

He condemns what he believes is highly inflated price fixing on the part of his competitors. Comparable adaptive camouflage produced by others is sold for about $15,000 per soldier and can only be issued to a select group of warriors. Cramer believes that, as a result, the lives of military personnel are being sacrificed because of the lust for profit, and he is firmly committed to making his designs so cost-effective that all combat troops will be adequately protected.

Mathematics is a huge component of contemporary camouflage design; where patterns were once artistic designs they now require intense scientific applications. It is necessary to interpret what the brain sees, says Cramer. Effective new camouflage tells the subconscious mind to ignore concealed objects and to conclude, "I've seen this before, and don't waste time on it."

The most exciting concept is camouflage known as Quantum Stealth. It is able to bend light in such a fashion that backgrounds are placed in front of a target to provide effective concealment. Cramer will not divulge details about this development, but will say that last November he travelled to the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Tampa, Florida, where he met with civilians and military officers who were impressed with the technology--and mighty pleased with the $100 per sheet, per soldier price.

"Light-bending camouflage and disruptive patterns that change with their environments have been in the works for six to seven years," says Bob Balma, but to his knowledge there is nothing that is currently practicable. He has never met Guy Cramer but is aware of the HyperStealth Biotechnology website and some of the work the company is currently engaged in, but Balma believes that bendable and changeable camouflage will not be available for another decade.

"There are a lot of people who are working to improve the lot of the individual soldier on the ground and it would be ideal if something would be as good as is claimed by this gentleman [Cramer)," concludes Balma.

Camouflage has come a long way. Guy Cramer alone has produced 10,000 patterns for more than two million military and emergency personnel and who knows what the future holds. Genghis Khan would have recognized the value of this tactical cool as do his modern counterparts, including specialist snipers in Afghanistan who relied on concealment for the success of their missions.


* Camouflage exists naturally in both the plant and animal kingdoms. For example, the leopard's coat is covered in spots, which are beneficial to animals that leap at their prey; stripes, on the other hand, are advantageous for hunters like tigers, which creep slowly towards their target.

* During the American Civil War, the Confederate army used dummy cannons built from logs to deceive Union generals into believing that the number of rebel soldiers was greater than reality.
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Title Annotation:FEATURE
Author:Leswick, Rick
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Date:Feb 1, 2012
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