Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp. recently revealed that they have developed the first true chameleon type camo uniform, which changes colors to blend in with whatever environment the soldier is in. Needless to say this is a major development in the industry and represents a holy grail in the field and science of military camouflage.
Myself on the right wearing a Hyperstealth uniform in Iraq. This is just an example of their product being used in theater and is NOT SMARTCAMO. Currently, no pictures of SMARTCAMO have been publicly released.
Guy Cramer, the mad scientist behind Hyperstealth, has said that the technology itself is a “composite” (presumably of different systems and techniques) but does not involve nanotechnology, ruling out, I would think, some sort of Phased Array Optics of the variety that actually bend light, in line with the kind of technology seen in the “Predator” movies. In this case were are not talking about the user becoming invisible, but changing color to match the immediate surroundings.
According to military.com, Cramer has also confirmed that the technology uses power and logic, meaning that it runs on a battery and utilizes some sort of on board computer. What form this takes is unknown. A small plastic power pack velcroed the uniform, or slid inside a pocket? Embedded into the uniform fabric itself?
I’m on the left wearing the “Desert Dune” pattern uniform offered by Hyperstealth.
Another feature of SMARTCAMO is that it also adapts to the IR spectrum, allowing the soldier to blend in better when viewed through night vision devices. This is speculation on my part, but I wonder if this allows it to also defeat thermal systems. I’m not an expert, but I believe that thermals work by detecting the infrared light produced by a heat source. If this uniform can manipulate the IR levels put off by the uniform to blend in with the background temperature, can is also mask the user from thermal imaging?
Cramer even commented that the uniform feels and wears like any other military uniform and can even be used for maritime operations. The only drawback at the moment is that the SMARTCAMO uniform costs about 1,000 USD to produce, putting it out side the budgets of all but the most well funded Special Operations units.
Reportedly, DoD and USSOCOM are very interested in this technology and have asked Hyperstealth to remove the video demonstration of their SMARTCAMO uniform from their website. Keep an eye on SMARTCAMO, if any mention of the technology dissapears from Hyperstealth’s website and they refuse to comment on it further, than you can bet that it got swept up by some Tier One Special Operations outfit and was classified as Operational Security (OPSEC).
Military.com Chameleon Camo is Here
10 responses to “Hyperstealth reveals SMARTCAMO, the first adaptive “chameleon” camouflage uniform”
Yes, thermal imagers work by detecting the infrared light from a heat source. The article on Soldier Systems you linked to says that Cramer claims that the “technology would work in the IR spectrum.” Seeing as IR emission is thermal in nature, in order to mimic different IR intensities–the camo would have to alter its surface temperature to match the environment. Considering the very wide range of temperatures that exist in the field, such a capability would be extremely impressive.
Thanks for your comment Darkwing. I was extrapolating from that statement, maybe over reaching, to speculate on the possibility of IR/Thermal camouflage. If SMARTCAMO can change it’s IR signature to adjust to the background temp. (am I reading to far into this?) than can it also disguise the human IR signature? With Special Operations command interested, I doubt any further information will be forthcoming, but I will keep an eye out.
I’m a friend of Jack Badelaire’s, who pointed out your site to me. Thermal camouflage would undoubtedly be amazing, and so I’m a bit skeptical on that part of it. Reducing something’s IR signature is doable–eliminating it (or at least, making it equal to the background) is a lot harder.
I was discussing this with Jack just a little while ago–he pointed out that since this camo is powered (and if it’s changing the IR signature of something the size of a human tens of degrees, that’s a lot of power), the power source itself will be giving off a lot of heat. How do you camouflage that?
The other articles talk about it being used on vehicles–e.g., MRAP or even helicopters–they should have the capability to power such a system, but how do you camouflage the exhaust? An IR-homing missile, such as a Stinger, is going to go for the engine anyway–and camo or no camo you can’t prevent the engine exhaust from blazing away in the IR. What such camo would do is lower the visibility of the other surfaces of the vehicle–but not hide it completely. On a human, you’d reduce the IR signature, but a person’s skin (and exhalations) would still show up–and you can’t cover up all the skin on a person (unless you want to suffocate them).
On stealth aircraft like the F-22 or F-35, you can see that the engine(s) are recessed a little into the fuselage–from many viewing angles the engine itself is blocked from view by the stabilizers or the tail. That way the IR signature is reduced by simple masking. That reduces the ability of IR-homings missiles to lock on simply because they need to attack from a favorable direction.
On the other hand–lots of military uniforms are “NIR compliant”. NIR (Near Infrared) is not the same as MIR (Mid-Infrared). MIR is thermal. NIR is in between MIR and visible light–so not quite thermal. Some IR imagers only detect NIR and not MIR (I believe they’re called “NIR image converters”). So it’s possible that the SMARTCAMO works in NIR, which wouldn’t require the additional difficulty in addressing the thermal issue of MIR. It could very well be a misquote in that Cramer said it “works in the IR spectrum”, by which he only meant NIR, but those quoting him interpret that to mean MIR as well.
Amazing what technology can do.
I’m dating myself, here, but with the old PVS4s, it was hard to pick out other troops at night just in plain woodland camo BDUs, until they were almost on top of you.
I did see a documentary (about SWAT, I think) where a sniper used some sort of light-bending outfit. It must have been mad-expensive, and with one heck of a power source.
Thanks for the info Darkwing, I suspect that you are correct in regards to how SMARTCAMO actually works.
Hank, BDU’s were fairly effective at masking a soldier from observation under night vision. I noticed that the black part of the uniform created a 3D effect making it hard to actually focus on a troop when using NODs. One issue is that when you wash your uniform with certain detergents, the chemicals actually bond with the uniform and thereafter make the soldier “glow in the dark.” It is even worse with ACU’s.
I remember that, too. The garitroopers who bleached/starched, etc. their BDUs were a lot easier to see. There are detergents made for hunters that don’t put all the brighteners and stuff in them, but washing with dish soap would probably be just as effective (and cheaper!).
Although this may not be exactly PC in today’s America, a list of “authorized” detergents was put out through the Family Readiness Group so that all the Army wives knew what kind of soap to use. I guess if they were going through a messy divorce they could always just say the hell with it and use the wrong soap, making their soon-to-be-ex-husband glow in the dark for those Iraqi snipers.
Darkwing, your point about the battery pack is interesting. Do you have any information regarding what seems to me as the complete lack of any advancement when it comes to battery technology over the last thirty years or so?
I think there has been plenty of advancement in battery tech–they are capable of a lot more power, and in smaller packages than they used to be. The problem isn’t the amount power generation, it’s endurance. Our ipods and cell phones and etc. suck up huge amounts of energy–so they drain the batteries quickly.
I can see what you mean about rechargeable batteries. Military batteries stalled with lithium. Commo gear is also hopelessly obsolete. Soldiers are still lugging around 5590 batteries half the size of a shoe box. They can power a short range radio for I believe 24 hours or so, but that changes when you start pushing satt. and out to longer ranges if I remember correctly. I was a knuckle dragging weapons sergeant, not a communications sergeant.
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