Armed Forces

Abrams Main Battle Tanks Deployed to Poland Wearing “Local” Camo

Image Credit: SSgt. Elizabeth Tarr/US Army.
Image Credit: SSgt. Elizabeth Tarr/US Army.

The American soldiers, making use of the opportunity provided by the exercise in Poland, are learning how to adapt their tanks to the local climate. Camouflage netting, as well as “natural” camo elements are being applied.

The American soldiers of the 3rd Armoured Brigade Combat Team, besides controlling the status of the incoming equipment, maintaining it, conducting test firing and adjustments, are also following a training programme defined by the plan. The specific nature of the new conditions in the operational area makes it possible to introduce atypical elements into training, in line with which some of the operations and missions are conducted. The aforesaid also applies to the training covering the process of camouflaging the armoured vehicles or other equipment remaining in service.

Abrams main battle tanks or Bradley IFVs that have been deployed to Poland are wearing a desert camouflage. Thus, skillful re-camouflaging of those vehicles with the use of the natural operational environment, so that they are not easy to spot and recognize with the use of a naked eye or optical instruments, is not an easy task, and it requires a certain amount of proper expertise. Not only should the camouflaged vehicle be invisible, it shall also function properly.

As US soldiers told, regardless of the color covering the vehicle originally, the crews shall have a skill of tailoring it to the battlefield environment in which they are operating. The first stage of preparing the vehicle is focused on covering the tank with a special-purpose camouflage netting which, according to the Americans, also absorbs the radar signal, and then, elements such as branches or leaves shall be attached to the aforesaid netting, so that the vehicle’s characteristic outline is broken. Everything may be also covered with an extra layer of snow which would make it possible to blend the vehicle camouflaged with the surrounding environment.

In case of using such natural camouflage, it is also important to properly adapt the operational tactics. For example, the vehicles headed towards the battlefield, should a signal of enemy presence be received, or should enemy be detected, shall move towards a forest from a road, or an open area, where the new camouflage would be much more effective. The vehicle camouflage and tactics training is taking place during the 30-days long courses at the National Training Centre in Fort Irwin, California. 

What is more, elements based in Poland were to originally carry out the very same tasks, but in a desert environment. It is planned that during the upcoming months, all of the brigade’s vehicles are covered with a new camouflage pattern, more suitable for the natural conditions at the locations where the training operations are being conducted.

Since some time now, the US Army has been looking for a new, optimal vehicular camouflage pattern, since the solutions that have been used so far do not meet the expectations in full. Not only is the above applicable to “blending” with the surroundings in the visible light spectrum, as this also concerns the IR or radar observation systems.

Up until now, US Army has been utilizing the SAAB Barracuda multi-spectral camouflage systems, however, the rivalry in the procurement process also involved the Polish Lubawa S.A. company. Lubawa’s camouflage systems (winter and other camouflages, tailored to the specific climates) have already gone through a long term testing process. The tests have proven that the standard US-made netting is too dark in the European conditions, and thus the Americans have spoken highly of the Lubawa netting, as the said product is optimized to be used in the local terrain conditions.
The colors applied also behave similarly in varied ranges of radiation, including infrared. Thanks to the above, the observed vehicle is “blended” with the background better, not creating a glowing spot. The system also does not create a “black hole” effect, should all of the radiation be well absorbed - this makes the tank easily recognizable, almost as well as a hot and illuminated spot formed by an uncamouflaged platform.