For decades most army fatigues, now referred to as battledress uniforms incorporated wiggly patterns of solid colors known as tiger stripes. However, researchers in the field of "clutter-metrics" (the study of how well observers isolate and identify objects) have recently discredited tiger stripes. The new look for this season, as determined by researchers, are uniforms consisting of "pixels" tiny blocks of color coordinated in patterns to blend with the environment around the soldier.
The research however does not stop there. Some camoflauge designers, including those at America's Army Research Lab also study the reflective and light absorbing properties of materials common to a combat area such as concrete, sand, etc. As a result of this research fabric inks are developed with the desired optical properties to enhance a soldier's invisibility.
An "Adaptive" camoflauge line that changes in response to the environment with the use of LED technology is also in the works but let's face it guys, while these battledress uniforms, may look "fabulous" on the runway, Micheal Kors and Nina Garcia would both agree, fabric made of LED material is simply not practical, it's just not ready-to-wear. However, i have no doubt that researchers will eventually find a way to "make it work." If last season tiger stripes were in, the future of camoflauge will take its inspiration from a more "chameleon" perspective.
And how might you ask, does the american soldier make that all important transition from daytime fashion to evening wear? Fabrics are now being developed to block human heat signatures and thus make them invisible to infrared detection devices. American soldiers may be heard on the battlefield at night but as far as visual detection, they will be next to invisible.
Development of this technology is perhaps in response to the now increasing availability of infrared technology. Such technology is becoming less expensive and is now so readily available that the Taliban in Afghanistan are well equipped with it. The U.S., one of the best at conducting operations at night, needs to stay one step ahead of the competition.
However, even as people become harder and harder to spot on the battlefield, new detection technologies are being developed. Radars for foliage penetration and radars which use cell phone signals to detect stealth aircraft are just a few examples. The race is on to perfect the art of being invisible, while at the same time developing technologies to make sure you can see everybody else. Making sure the enemy stays in the spotlight while you can in essence "fade to black"
With all of the money and development that is being poured into the arms race of concealment and detection, one would hope that the distribution of these technologies will not lag behind their development. Having a poncho that can be worn at night to hide your thermal imagery from a Taliban soldier surveying the area with an infrared camera is an excellent advantage. But what happens when this technology is too expensive to produce and distribute en mass to the soldiers that need it? The taliban soldier still has his infrared, but the american soldier is left unfortunately exposed. Such a fashion faux pas...