Such is the power of camouflage that it has become an essential part of military operations of most countries around the world. In order to help soldiers conceal themselves during battle, the camouflage clothing that they wear are coloured with dull hues that match the predominant colours of the surrounding operating environment. For example, camouflage in jungle warfare is generally brown and green so that it will match the forest foliage and dirt. When a soldier is working in areas where there is a lot of snow, camouflage is coloured with whites and greys. In addition to the clothing that they wear, they also paint their face with colours that match their camouflage material.
The human brain naturally perceives things as separate objects. When the brain sees an object, it looks for continuity. So, at a distance if you see ten orange boxes on top of one another, you perceive the pile as one whole piece. If the top half of the pile was coloured green, you may perceive the pile as two different pieces. But if you just mix the orange boxes and the green boxes randomly, you would not group them into coloured units. So, if a person is wearing a single colour he/she is more likely to stand out. But if he/she is wearing clothing in a jumble of colours, he/she will easily blend in with the surrounding environment.
Mottled camouflage enables soldiers to hide from enemies in plain sight. But with modern warfare, hiding individual military personnel has become of secondary importance. In recent years, aircraft are being used to find enemies on the ground. Therefore, military equipment has also been coloured in dull hues of brown and green so that it would blend in with natural foliage. As extra protection, soldiers also carry camouflaged netting and chicken wire which they throw over their tanks and other military equipment in order to conceal them more effectively. They also gather natural foliage from the surrounding environment to cover their vehicles and/or equipment.
During World War II, camouflage was used extensively on tanks, jeeps, planes, guns and other weapons, as well as manufacturing plants and whole army bases.
However, warships were difficult to camouflage as they are always floating on water and almost always have a background with a uniform colour. This made it impossible for warships to blend in with the surrounding environment.
By 1917, the dazzle camouflage design was born. This design resembles a cubist painting where several coloured geometric shapes are mixed together. This makes it difficult for enemies to distinguish which side of the ship they see from long distance.
To this day, the military also uses decoys that are meant to divert the enemy from their locations. During World War II, the Allied forces built over 500 false cities, airfields, bases and shipyards. These were usually built in remote, uninhabited areas so that actual cities ad fortifications would not be harmed.
Unfortunately, with all the improvements and developments in military camouflage comes the development of technology that can see through camouflage. The military today have thermal imaging technology which enables them to "see" a camouflaged person because of the heat that the person or the equipment is emitting. Other forms of technology that the military uses are radar, satellite photography, image enhancement and "bugs" or listening devices.
Because of these developments, the military found ways to counteract image enhancement. In fact, some armies have developed sophisticated smoke screens. These are heavy clouds of smoke that block the path of light which makes the person or object behind the smoke screen virtually invisible.
Stealth technology was also developed to enable militaries to hide all their equipment from radars. Decoy technology has also improved in response to modern detection systems. The US Army now has inflatable dummies that can be easily transported. These dummies resemble tanks and other equipment visually and can replicate the thermal or radar signature of the equipment. Another decoy strategy that the military uses is one wherein an area is flooded with different objects that will show up on radar, thermal imaging and listening devices thus, making it more difficult for the enemy to focus on a single piece of equipment.
Camouflage has helped greatly in military operations. As technology, in general, continues to develop and become more sophisticated, so will camouflage technology. But no matter how advanced the technology becomes there is only one basic approach and that is to find out how your enemy sees you and then do your best in concealing everything that makes you stand out.