Dull, blendy camouflage is not the best thing to wear in war. This has now been scientifically proven. Let us jettison the green and black, and usher in a new era of "dazzle camouflage".

There was a time, a beautiful time, when tanks and ships were painted in bright colors. They were decorated using bold, geometric designs that seemed to interlock with each other and other vehicles as they rolled along the battlefield or out across the water. Sadly, this was the time of black and white photography. This kind of camouflage went out of favor by the end of World War II, and since then large military craft have been an uninspiring mix of dull green, black, and gray.


A brighter future, though, may be on the horizon. A recent study, done by the University of Bristol, showed that so-called 'dazzle camouflage' may be the safest way to go into battle. No one could mistake a pink and orange zebra-striped tank for a piece of the landscape, it could help baffle the enemy in more important ways. Bright geometric patterns confuse the senses. This happens regularly in life. Large objects appear to be moving more slowly than small objects, even if they are moving at the same speed. Changes in contrast, or texture, also affect the perception of speed. If two objects, one dark and one light, are moving at the same speed along a dark background, the light object will appear faster. These tricks can greatly throw off a person's idea of speed and position. If someone aiming for a ship focuses on the movement of the pattern, and not the craft itself, they could misjudge the speed or position, throwing their aim off enough to save the vessel.

This finding comes as a surprise for many, since dazzle camouflage was tested in two wars and ultimately scrapped. The authors of the study say that the problem with the early vehicles wasn't the camouflage, it was the speed at which it was moving. A pattern sittting still or moving slowly doesn't cause any visual problems. It has to be moving fast to work. Older military vehicles didn't have the power or the technology to move quickly enough to make dazzle camouflage effective. Newer vehicles might.


This study might spell the end of the appropriate solemnity of military vehicle coloration, but it could inspire some really good looking boats and tanks. It might also merge art and militarism. Graphic designers, fashion houses, and painters might be able to sell their talent to the military instead of the public. In fact, Norman Wilkinson was an artist who came up with the early dazzle camouflage designs. Military bases could become art installations. It might breed discontent, though. Everyone would try to get the Versace tank.

Via Plos One.