British Subs Debunk Conventional Fashion: Is Blue the New Black?
Back in January 2006, DID covered pioneering technology from Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp. that made it possible to quickly and inexpensively apply advanced fractal camouflage patterns to aircraft, UAVs, helicopters, vehicles – even buildings. The fractal camouflage trend has continued in the field of uniforms, and camouflaging other military assets seems to be getting more attention too.
Now Britain’s SSN Trafalgar Class attack submarine HMS Torbay has undergone a transformation from the traditional black hue to a steely blue, in a bid to become less visible to possible hunters. The idea is that blue will soften the sharp outline of black submarines and make them harder to detect. While Hyperstealth’s technology is not designed for use on submarines, they have done further work on air vehicle and ship camouflage patterns in particular. DID offers explanations and previews…
The Sun and Navy News report that the boffins at QinetiQ picked the “steely blue” hue after exhaustive trials and lab tests – which reportedly revealed that black was the worst color to use when trying deceive an enemy using visual search techniques.
The Sun further notes that Britain’s submarines are spending less time in the North Atlantic, where subs spent most of the Cold War, and more time in the brighter, lighter waters around the Middle East and Indian Ocean. Although nuclear submarines don’t have to surface regularly, they do come up to periscope depth where they might be spotted by aircraft or observers on shore. Shallower waters, such as the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean, are particularly perilous with the distinctive outline of a boat scores of feet down visible from aircraft overhead – as World War 2 crews learned to their cost.
As special forces missions involving submarine insertion or extraction in shallow waters become more of a priority, and near-shore surveillance missions become a staple of the submarine’s repertoire, minimizing visual detection becomes more important. The Silent Service and the Fleet Signature Reduction Team will note HMS Torbay’s performance operating alongside her sister boat HMS Trafalgar (still in more traditional black submarine livery).
Various colors have been tried in the past as possible replacements; if the new trials are successful, this new blue could be adopted for current and future British submarines… and beyond. See Royal Navy release.
HyperStealth Asset Camouflage Update
As interest in camouflaging major military assets rises, the camouflage design team of Dr. Timothy R. O’Neill and Guy Cramer have developed the Lightning and Digital Thunder camouflage patterns, designed to conceal aircraft and ships effectively conceals aircraft for ground, sea, overcast and blue sky. The idea is to help match the background at closer tactical distances, and dither the pattern at farther distances for improved disruption.
As DID’s earlier article noted, techniques have been developed by HyperStealth to allow these complex digital patterns to be painted on aircraft (or other vehicle or ship) with little training, and colors would be changed for Arid and Desert regions.
This page has an array of examples involving ships, aircraft, helicopters, and UAVs. Other patterns are being developed for ground-air viewing concealment. Complete concealment is obviously impossible; nevertheless, camouflage patterns can lower the probability of detection in marginal situations via matching, and make precise identification and judgments difficult in all situations via pattern disruption.
Hyperstealth claims that n this case the Lightning and Thunder patterns are designed to break the symmetry axis of most objects by rescale only. In other words, where typically camouflage patterns are designed for each particular type and different shape of each vehicle aircraft, or ship, they claim one need only increase or decrease the pattern’s size and its benefits will be preserved.
N.B. DID created these animated graphics from original Hyperstealth graphics after discussing these advances with them, as an efficient way of conveying information to our readers. Both graphics begin in their standard Canadian Forces camouflage patterns, which includes the false cockpit as a way of confusing enemy pilots re: the plane’s orientation and heading. The CH-146 Griffon/ Bell 412EP shifts to the Digital Thunder Arid pattern, while the CF-18 shifts to standard Digital Thunder, which is a pixilated and altered version of Hyperstealth’s Lightning pattern. Note how further camouflage efforts make the “false cockpit” even more confusing, because they mask shading cues from the engine intakes et. al.