A new textile technology could help soldiers blend in with their surroundings by reducing their heat signatures.
The Conceal camouflage technology, created by Milliken & Company and SSZ Camouflage, does not entirely mask a heat signature. However, it enables the fabric to mimic the surface temperature of the surrounding environment.
With the advancement of various sensors, it has become easier for troops to be identified by enemy forces, said Erik Cobham, a military liaison for Milliken.
Aside from protecting soldiers from being detected by thermal imaging devices, the technology also provides some concealment in the visible, near and short-wave infrared regions of the spectrum, the company said in a news release.
It functions in both cold and warm climates and can be adapted to different environments by varying the color of the fabric. The masking effect is “generally instant,” though changes in the user’s body temperature can affect how quickly it works, according to the Milliken team.
The practicality of Conceal camouflage technology is in part what makes it valuable. “We can actually put it on the current uniform that’s in service right now. It’s something that the war fighter is comfortable [with], is familiar with and understands how to use. Now we can take it to the next level by adding the tactical protection [and] greater concealment,” said Cobham.
The technology won R&D Magazine’s research and development award, given to the 100 most technologically noteworthy products introduced in the previous year.
Conceal camouflage technology has been under research and development for roughly a year and is currently undergoing testing at the Army’s Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts and at Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla.
Milliken intends for this technology to be broadly used by the military, but for now, it remains expensive because it’s still in testing.
The company believes that the product could be used by snipers or troops performing reconnaissance missions, and it intends to target SOCOM first. “As we learn a little bit more about how to better use it [and] as we also assess each of the different threat environments, then we’ll put it into broader use,” said Cobham.
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