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Spectral Camouflage

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Spectral Camouflage

German Marder 1A5 with 'Barracuda' mobile multi-spectral camouflage

Multi-spectral camouflage is the use of counter-surveillance techniques to conceal objects from detection across several parts of the electromagnetic spectrum at the same time. While traditional military camouflage attempts to hide an object in the visible spectrum, multi-spectral camouflage also tries to simultaneously hide objects from detection methods such as infrared, radar, and millimetre-wave radar imaging.[1][2]

Among animals, both insects such as the eyed hawk-moth, and vertebrates such as tree frogs possess camouflage that works in the infra-red as well as in the visible spectrum.


The caterpillar of the eyed hawk-moth Smerinthus ocellatus is camouflaged to match a leafy background in both visible and infra-red light.

The English zoologist Hugh Cott, in his 1940 book Adaptive Coloration in Animals, wrote that some caterpillars such as the eyed hawk-moth Smerinthus ocellatus, and tree frogs such as the red-snouted treefrog Hyla coerulea, are coloured so as to blend with their backgrounds whether observed in visible light or in infra-red.[3][4] Cott noted the importance of camouflage in the infra-red, given the ability of tactical reconnaissance to observe in this part of the spectrum:

Because such screens are effective against direct observation and ordinary photography, by no means does it follow that they will be hidden in the infra-red photograph. Comparison of aerial photographs taken simultaneously on panchromatic and infra-red plates will reveal much that before the advent of this new technique would have been adequately camouflaged...
— Hugh Cott, 1940.[5]

A German-led NATO research project concluded in 2004 that while "the multispectral signatures of most military equipment can be significantly reduced by combinations of various camouflage materials", multi-spectral camouflage for individual soldiers remained lacking. The main problems identified were operational constraints such as mobility, weight, and the soldier's physiology.[6]


Multi-spectral camouflage can be applied to individuals in the form of a ghillie suit, disguising the heat given off by the wearer's body, and to vehicles and buildings with either specialised paints or camouflage nets that reduce the amount of heat given off by an object, as well as altering the shape and size of its radar signature.[7][8][9][10][11] The SAAB Barracuda Mobile Camouflage System provides a degree of concealment in the visible, thermal infrared, and radar parts of the electromagnetic spectrum,[12] as does the Miranda Berberys-R multispectral camouflage system from Poland.[13]

Examples across the electromagnetic spectrum

Electromagnetic spectrum[14]
Name Wavelength Detected by Camouflage Technology Example application
Ultraviolet 10 nm – 380 nm
Visible light 380 nm – 700 nm Eyes, cameras Paint, nets, etc Uniforms
Shorter Infrared 700 nm – 3 µm Image intensifiers Peltier cooling plates Adaptiv
Mid or Thermal infrared 3 µm – 8 µm Heat-seeking missile
Long infrared 8 µm – 15 µm Thermal imaging sensor
Far infrared 15 µm – 1 mm
Microwave 1 mm – 1 m Radar Stealth technology Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, F-117 Nighthawk
Longer Radio waves 1 m – 100,000 km

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ A US 4287243 A, Nielsen, Willi G., "Mat for multispectral camouflage of objects and permanent constructions", published Sep 1, 1981 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Producer's leaflet" (in Polish)
  14. ^
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