back to article WW2 naval dazzle-camo 'could beat Taliban RPGs'

Researchers at Bristol uni say they have performed experiments indicating that if British troops were to use the "dazzle camouflage" favoured for warships in the World Wars on their vehicles in Afghanistan, this would make them harder to hit with RPG anti-armour rockets, a favourite Taliban weapon. Dr Nick Scott-Samuel, …


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    1. Anonymous Coward


      Your not a very good scientist then Dave 62.

      If you're a neuroscientist and you want to understand the brain, one of the high difficulty-to-scientific value areas of study is the visual system because:-

      1. The area is accessible to imaging, probes etc. on most animals as its located at the back of the head

      2. The input is controllable (shine patterns on the eye)

      3. Vision is the humans primary sense

      4. Grey matter is structurally similar across brain regions (so insights in the visual system, to some extent, may carry to other areas like speech, executive control etc.)

      Thus visual illusions found by psychophysicists are valuable effects that can be studied by in vivo experimentalists to find neural correlates between high level perception (it looks nearer) and low level neural representations.

      I'll not defend some of the wacky practical implications, but the data generated in the experiment is not art.

      1. Dave 62


        butthurt psychologist detected.

        From what's said in the article it doesn't seem any imaging was done, I agree that neuroscience, especially imaging, is very interesting and a valid area of study.

        But "psychophysicists" sounds like a title designed to give the impression that the field is something other than what it is, I don't think it's really physics and I don't think this study in particular is particularly useful nor do I think it adds anything to scientific knowledge, I'm sure this pattern tracking stuff has already been done, although I could be wrong. Anyway I know that any study that feels the need to justify its self with ridiculous assumptions as to practical implications is probably a load of bullshit.

        coolguy because I'm cool.

  1. Robin Bradshaw

    If they have money to waste :)

    Well if they have money to waste they should paper the sides with colour e-ink paper displaying a video feed of whats on the other side of the landrover, a sort of really rubbish predator invisibility :)

    At least untill they get the invisible shed technology working.

  2. Citizen Kaned


    everyone who has played any battlefield game knows the best method is to hit it from behind or infront. no horizontal movement that way...

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge


      You've just invented active camouflage or at least one version of it. (Other versions include Lewis' beloved invisible sheds .) Better give DARPA a call.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Anybody who has actually been in a tank knows

      The front of the tank has the heaviest armor and anybody behind has been run over, and is kinda flat.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anybody who has actually been in a tank knows

        And anybody who has basic infantry training knows that tanks will roll straight over suitably constructed foxholes, leaving the shaken but unharmed infantryman behind the tank - and able to twat it with a shaped charge or satchel bomb (or even a Molotov cocktail in the vents if you're a Finn).

        1. pepper


          You have to hit it between the upper front armour and the gun mantle, the shot will bounce back and do a 1 shot kill on the tank. This also works with AP shells.

  3. Graham Marsden

    Don't worry, Lewis...

    ... I'm sure the Americans have something better that we could buy for half the price...

  4. t_lark

    @Dave 62

    No, Dave 62, I do robotics. In my field some people use psychological data generated in manipulation tasks to understand the functional block diagram of how humans recompute trajectories in uncertain situations (in order to make our robots manipulate better).

    I am defending an area of research that I am not personally involved in, but that I see has genuine scientific value in other areas.

    I find people like you that leap to the rubbishing of other peoples work generally ignorant. I don't think you have a broad enough range of knowledge in enough areas to make that call rationally.

  5. M Anton
    IT Angle

    The British Army tried this in Berlin in the 80's

    Granted it wasn't dazzle' schemes but blocks of urban colours applied to various vehicles.

    Chieftain tanks appear to be the most popular subject to get painted. and here's a shot of one I took in Bovington in 2008

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      RE: The British Army tried this in Berlin in the 80's

      Thanks, I'd seen a similar pic but thought it was a one-off experiment, I didn't know it had been as widespread. Interesting theory on how to hide a Chieftain tank, I wonder if it worked from the air as a defence against Hinds?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      Fascinating. Wonder how effective it was if the vehicle wasn't stationary?

  6. Asgard

    Taliban RPGs title

    @"WW2 naval dazzle-camo 'could beat Taliban RPGs"

    Ok who else first thought Taliban RPGs meant Taliban Role Playing Games. :)

    Ok so I'm a gamer … But then come to think of it, a texture map like this in games may help reduce the effectiveness of enemy rocket attacks. :) … might make a nice extra upgrade option. :)

    (Although I have my doubts of its effectiveness, as even invisibility doesn't stop some very good players getting you).

  7. Anonymous Coward

    I was thinking something like this...

    But instead of a sport car painted, some dinky old car that is supposed to exist in the area of conflict. Preferably with someone using white clothes and thick beard at the 'wheel' painted too.

  8. Peter H. Coffin


    Does not work on Gatso. Do not try.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Maybe not but are Gatso's RPG resistant?

      over to you Captain Gatso!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    that camo would be way more effective if it had a 'skirt' over the tracks (patent pending lol)

  10. Charles Manning

    Dazzle also confuses the aimer

    Sure anyone can see the vehicle, but it takes a few seconds to actually process it and figure out what the vehicle extents are and how it is moving and generally disrupts decision making.

    In a fire fight those few seconds can mean the difference between you getting your shot in before the other guy.

    I did some (not very scientific) experiments on the impact of dazzle in sports. I put some Ouchi patterns (google will find) on a hockey goalkeeper and it really impacted badly on the strikers' ability to score goals.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe not so implausible after all

    Well, what if you move the pattern at a different speed than the tank? Say, the pattern is painted on a cloth stretched between two rollers at each end of the tank? Or you put some lights (or those flipping, coloured disks on bus displays) at regular intervals along the side and then scroll a pattern along the side?

  12. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    The museum called...

    they want their Picassoes back.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    Cloth stretched between 2 rollers?

    How long before they are carrying ads for injurylawyers4u on them?

  14. Mr Ian

    Next page: Come off it

    Haha... I love you Lewis!

  15. Apocalypse Later

    "wasting paint"

    Like "go faster" stripes on the family saloon?

    They're going to paint the vehicles anyway, so might as well give it a try.

  16. Ed 13

    PLoS ONE

    In the defence of the PLoS ONE journal, it's not their place to determine how useful a piece of research is. They are there to ensure that the research is done to a decent quality and standard.

  17. Will 20

    Low threat

    RPG's aren't a particularly large threat to armoured vehicles. The Slat armour and "foam" are both designed to combat the threat of an RPG weapon. A much larger threat, is command detonated roadside bombs, which rely on the trigger man spotting the vehicle, in relation to the weapon, and how long it takes to denote.

  18. The elephant in the room

    Pimp my horse

    Zebras are not stripey just to look cool. You can prove anything with theoretical calculations, but evolution suggests that there probably is some merit in this camo scheme, even for small relatively slow moving targets. Admittedly this sort of scheme works best in heards and not for lone individuals, but that is just a tactical nuance for the army to take into consideration.

    NYPD crime data from 1970s shows that pimps wearing leopard-skin overcoats and rolling in rides with zebra-hide seats were less likely to get whacked than other more sartorially disadvantaged playas. The data also notes that it is more difficult to apply cap to ass at night if you are wearing sunglasses, and holding your pistol sideways doesn't help either, but that is a different story.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sorry looks like someone already implemented the tank skirt - no ads on them though - so i suppose there is still an opportunity for life insurance or injury lawyer ads.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Thats it!

      Strap worthless personal injury lawyers to the sides of our vehicles. Let the Tallybin take RPG shots at those.

      1. Ted Treen
        Thumb Up

        That's NOT a joke...

        It's a PLAN !!

  20. Sandy106

    Some letters and or numbers

    Why are they even trying to camoflauge tanks against RPGs? Those things bounce of most tanks and even our (American) Strykers.

    1. Reg Blank

      Please stop...

      I think you should put "abrams rpg hit" into Google Images and see the result. I'll save you the trouble: images of blackened and toasty M1s. Just because a round won't penetrate a tank's armour doesn't mean it isn't vulnerable. First image:

      Additionally, your statement is only vaguely true if you are talking about the traditional image of a terrorist toting an RPG-7 (2nd image in link above). A terrorist toting an RPG-29 will fuck up a tank like you wouldn't believe ( found in Lebanon). An RPG-29 penetrated the frontal armour of a British Challenger 2 in Iraq. If you have any knowledge of tanks you'll know the frontal armour is the thickest a tank has.

      Your second statement is so ludicrous as to border on delusional. A good hit on a Stryker with an RPG is an insta-kill. The armour of the Stryker was only designed to take hits by from 14.5mm HMG rounds, and not an RPG. RPG-7 armour penetration: 250mm rolled steel. Stryker armour: ~15mm. you might be thinking of slat and reactive armour. The last image in the link at the top is of a Stryker fitted with slat armour. Notice something? No protection from above or at wheel level. Unfortunately Iraq and Afghanistan have lots of hills or lots of buildings to fire RPGs from.

      Not that either add-on armour makes any difference to some RPG-7 models and RPG-29s, whose tandem-charge warhead defeats both.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Please stop...

        "....An RPG-29 penetrated the frontal armour of a British Challenger 2 in Iraq...." Not quite. The round ricocheted off the road in front of the tank and hit the thinner armour under the nose. Even then, the armour was thick enough to soak up so much of the round's power that the damage to the tank was a coin-size hole and the driver lost three toes. The tank was not "destroyed" or "disabled". After an investigation, all Challengers in the theatre were fitted with additonal counter-measures under the nose which ensured the "success" could not happen a second time. Other attacks with RPG-29s and even the latest Iranian anti-tank weapons failed to penetrate the Challengers. In combat against Shia militia in Al-Amara, Iraq, one Challemger2 is reputed to have taken 27 hits from RPGs and missiles in one engagement without any impact on its fighting ability. The only weapon the crews really worried about was the larger IEDs being fired under the vehicle against the thinner floor armour.

        The Abrams pictured looked to be the victim of an IED, not an RPG, and was probably destroyed by Allied air forces to stop the vehicle's systems falling into terrorist hands. AFAIK, the US claims the only Abrams ever lost to an AT weapon were a couple of "friendly-fire" victims hit by much bigger Hellfire missiles. So far, the upgraded Abrams does not seem to have a problem with RPG-29 hits.

        Maybe that's because the tandem warhead on the RPG-29 "Vampir" is designed to defeat the external reactive armour added to many MBTs in the '80s, and is largely ineffective against more modern Chobham-type laminate armour. The RPG-29 got a lot of publicity after it was claimed that they had stopped many Israeli tanks in the Lebananon in 2006 (the Merkavas used reactive armour), but an Israelli investigation showed only five Merkavas had been total losses in the Lebanon. Four of those were due to large IEDs, the fifth (a Mk3 without the latest armour) had been stopped by a Kornet E anti-tank missile. All the other occaissions where Merkavas were penetrated by Hezbollah AT weapons were put down to the latest Russian-made Kornet and Metis AT missiles, and possibly the older AT-5. Since the Lebanon battles the Israellis revised tactics and upgraded just about all their Merkava units to the better Mk4, with the result that not one Merkava was lost in the Gaza operations in 2008, despite Hamas having plenty of RPG-29s. The Israelis have since added their Trophy missile defence system to the Merkava Mk4, which should stop even the Kornet getting a hit.

        Maybe the MoD should take note that the Israellis have experimented with urban and disruptuve camo on armoured vehicels and decided it had little value, going back to standard olive-khaki schemes.

  21. Sam Therapy

    Why not just use...

    Adaptive camo tech? You know, the invisible shed stuff, or something similar?

    Relatively simple and very effective.

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Sounds like the best advice is still that they used in Armagh

    Drive fast at *all* times especially over culverts (probably not too common in Afghanistan).

  23. Jemma Silver badge

    As previously mentioned

    The whole point of the dazzle style and variants of it - is indeed to confuse a potential enemy as to which end is which - and therefore the direction in which the target is travelling.

    There are some problems associated with Dazzle on tanks and units like that since the gun makes the silhouette directional. But this is less of a problem in vehicles such as trucks and non turreted vehicles of which there are substantial numbers - in the case of those (and non turreted tank conversions) dazzle would be useful to a much greater extent.

    It should also be realised that in vessels such as the Flower and River class sloops the design of the vessel was such as to ambiguous. They had straight stem and stern - a central funnel uptake and upperworks designed to be as similar as possible at both ends. This made the Dazzle camouflage on these boats much more effective.

    There is another point that it seems alot of people have missed on here. The primary target ID is often by eye, the very mechanism that the Dazzle is designed to fox. However secondary guidance systems on a lot of the single person weapons is either by IR, laser painting, radar or other means, which would not be affected in any way - and would improve the possibility of a hit with a suitably equipped weapon system.

    Dazzle does have a place - but only in situations where the opponents have low tech, visually guided weapons. That said, paint isn't all that expensive and in the majority of situations not all members of an infantry force will have guided weapons.

    So, on balance - given that survivability in war is a result of a collection of factors - a moderately cheap paint job is worthwhile, given that it helps to some degree.

  24. Anonymous Coward


    Firing that thing from 100 m at a moving target is a waste, unless your intent is to signal your position.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Works for motor/cyclists

    Dayglow breakup pattern with narrow profile makes it even harder to judge their approach speed.

  26. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Where's the usual Lewis rant?

    Isn't he supposed to have told us (again) that what we really need is more Septic-made choppers so none of our troops even have to poottle about in APCs? Or that the RN can do it all by firing (a small number of) cruise-missiles from a sub?

  27. Andy Farley

    Camo only works when you're stationary.

    When moving the extra edges catch the eye. In WWII the allies had uni-colour uniforms as they were meant to be attacking while the Germans tried lots of different camo patterns.


  28. mr-tom

    Similar has been done on tanks before.

    My granddad was in tanks in North Africa during the war. As he was in at the start, he had Matildas, which were fine for seeing off the Italians, but less than useless when it came to sterner German engineering, especially in view of the bigger guns employed why Hitler's bully buys.

    The brilliant British solution was to remove his gun turret altogether and replace it with an arc light. The idea was that he could focus it in on German armour at night, blinding them for long enough for another tank to get close enough to dent the Bosch armour.

    Needless to say, they were grateful when they got their next upgrade.

    Sadly, he is dead now, but I used to love taking him around the Bovington tank museum.

  29. avileidner

    beep beep

    in an unconfirmed story that might have some loony relation, apparently U.S. special on-site 'armed' corporate consultants have suspended an order with ACME (on-line paints, track shoes, hang gliders, radio controlled rocket kits and and governmental infrastructure virtualization next-day-delivery) LLC, while in the process of transferring the intellectual property licensing of plans that describe - "painting big, black archways and round holes on walls and mountains that look like tunnels and caves, to snare Taliban forces into being lured with roadrunner drones." The rational for suspending the deal (and forfeiting the credit card deposit by default), is supposedly somewhat different from that which was applied to second-guessing the cam-tanks, in that presently ACME's subsidiary manufacturer of drone roadrunners in India (Maruti ACME), has issued a warning that the roadrunners have not been evaluated for transubstantial motion through solids, igniting debate that the drones smashing into the decoys ahead of their pursuers might open too large a window of opportunity to the would-be Taliban to suss out the ruse and just fall down laughing.


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