In the desert, camouflage problems are encountered
that require imagination, ingenuity, and intelligence. The lack
of natural overhead cover, the increased range of vision, and
the bright tones of the desert terrain place emphasis upon siting,
dispersion discipline, and the skillful employment of decoys to
achieve deception and surprise. Total concealment is rarely achieved,
yet proper camouflage measures can reduce the effectiveness of
enemy observation, and consequently enemy operations.
Cover from enemy direct fire may be afforded
by dunes, hills, and other irregularities in the desert terrain.
Camouflage is an essential part of all operations in the desert
and the importance of the concept must be impressed upon fresh
units and individual replacements upon their arrival in theater.
Poor camouflage may also compromise a high-level plan and lead
to an operational failure. One poorly concealed vehicle can compromise
an entire task force. Improvisation of available assets is just
as important as being able to properly use camouflage systems.
As previously described, deserts generally do not offer much natural
concealment or means for camouflage; therefore, make maximum use
of any artificial means available.
VEHICLES AND AIRCRAFT
Movement of vehicles produces dust, diesel plumes,
and distinctive track marks. The slower the speed, the less dust
that is produced; however, the need for speed must be balanced
against the amount of dust that may be produced. Drivers must
avoid harsh use of accelerators, the main cause of diesel plumes.
Shine from optical instruments (which should
be kept shaded), and matte paint that has been polished by continual
wear, or from tracks, particularly if rubber blocks have been
removed, are difficult to camouflage during the desert day. See
Figure E-1 for shading optics. Running gear on tracks that has
been polished by wear should be covered with burlap when stationary.
Windscreens and windows should be removed or lowered to prevent
reflection of the sun and heat. Vehicle silhouettes can be reduced
in the forward areas by removing cabs and tops.
Disruptive pattern painting for vehicles and
aircraft is described in FM 20-3. Local materials can also be
used. The color and texture of the local terrain is best represented
by placing dirt on vehicles and using a little water to make it
The effects are increased by covering a vehicle
with a wide-mesh net and using foliage brackets to attach local
vegetation. Twine or wire may be used as an alternative to the
mesh net, provided vegetation is available.
Some or all of the equipment listed in the following
paragraphs should be available for every vehicle and aircraft,
although aircraft will not necessarily be able to carry all of
The preferred net is the lightweight camouflage
screen system (LCSS), desert
version, which provides concealment against visual,
near IR, and radar target acquisition/surveillance sensor devices.
Additionally, the transparent version of the LCSS allows US units
to camouflage radars (less CW type radars) without degrading operations.
A desert camouflage net should be a complete cover, as it depends on its limitation of the ground surface, and both color and texture,
for its effect. The alternatives to the LCSS in order of priority
include the following:
- The specially produced desert-pattern net of
the lightweight screen system.
- An open-weave cloth (colored as appropriate to
the soil or "patched) stitched to an ordinary wide-mesh net
and used with the string uppermost. This provides both color and
texture and can be suitably garnished with radar-scattering plastic,
such as that used in the lightweight screening system, and with
any local vegetation.
- A cover of close-weave cloth, colored as appropriate.
- A standard net garnished solid, threaded in long
straight strips that have been colored to harmonize with the terrain.
The garnishing must be maintained.
The number of nets issued depends on the size
of the equipment to be covered, but should be sufficient to allow
a gradual slope of not more than 15 degrees from the top of the
equipment to the earth. Each company-size unit should be equipped
with a spray gun and various tints of paint to provide for temporary
variations in net color to match the terrain.
When using nets for stationary equipment--
- Do not allow nets to touch sensitive items
such as helicopter rotor heads and radio antennas which may cause
a net to catch fire.
- Do not pull nets so tight that each supporting
pole stands out.
- Ensure the net does not prevent the equipment
from fulfilling its primary task. In some equipment, such as helicopters,
a net must be easily removable to reduce reaction time.
- Avoid straight-edged patterns on the ground,
which indicate something is there.
- Use burlap spray-painted in a nondescript desert
color to cover all reflecting surfaces (excluding fire control
optics) and shadow-producing areas under vehicle bodies, including
tank suspensions. Aircraft equipped with windscreen covers will
not require it.
- Cut desert scrub in the immediate area.
- Use poles, natural or man-made, to raise the
nets from the equipment, thereby hiding its shape. They must be
brought into the area of operations by the force and are extremely
difficult to replace in the desert if lost or damaged.
- Make a "mushroom" out of thin iron
tubing locally, It resembles an open umbrella without its cloth
cover and with the end of the spokes joined together. Slotted
into a socket that has been welded onto the top of a tank, self-propelled
gun, or personnel carrier, it lifts the net above the vehicle,
concealing its shape, increasing air circulation, and permitting
the crew or team to use the top hatches.
- Hook and hold a camouflage net to the ground
away from the vehicle by using wooden pegs or long steel pins,
depending on soil consistency.
- Use mallets to drive pegs and pins into the
After dismounting local security, camouflage
is the first priority when a vehicle halts. Actions to be taken
- Site in vegetation or shadow, if available.
- Cover shiny surfaces and shadow areas with
- Drape the net.
- Add any available vegetation to the net.
- Blot out vehicle tracks for 50 meters behind
Stationary aircraft take a relatively long time
to conceal as they are fragile in comparison with other equipment,
have a considerable heat signature, and must also be readily accessible
for maintenance. The more they are concealed, the greater their
response time is likely to be. Tactical flying is discussed in
Appendix B, but take the following actions in sequence when approaching
a landing site where aircraft will stay for some time:
- Ensure aircraft approach the site terrain-masked
from enemy surveillance.
- Close down aircraft as soon as possible.
- Cover all reflective surfaces.
- Move aircraft into shadow if it can be towed
- Shift the main rotor (depending on the type)
until it is at a 45-degree angle with the fuselage and drape a
net over the rotor and fuselage. The rotor must be picketed to
- Conceal the remainder of the aircraft.
Position selection is critical at all levels.
One of the fundamentals of camouflage in any environment, but
particularly the desert, is to fit into the existing ground pattern
with a minimum of change to the terrain. A wadi bottom with vegetation
or a pile of boulders that can be improved with grey burlap and
chickenwire are good examples. Sites chosen must not be so obvious
that they are virtually automatic targets for enemy suppressive
frees, and antennas must be screened against the enemy, if possible.
Shadows, particularly in the morning and evening,
identify objects; so equipment must be placed in total shadow
(rarely found), or with its maximum vertical area facing the sun
so that minimum shadow falls on the ground ("maximum vertical
area" is the rear of a 5-ton truck with canopy, but the front
of an M88, for example). See Figure E-2 for the effects of shadows.
The shadow can be broken up, which is normally achieved by siting
equipment next to scrub or broken surfaces, such as rocks. Equipment
should not be sited broadside to the sun, and it is usually necessary
to move as the sun moves. Digging in reduces the length of any
shadow that is cast (on the principle that the lower the object,
the shorter the shadow).
Vehicles passing over pebbles or heavy ground
surfaces press the pebbles or gravel into the soil, causing track
marks to be prominent when viewed from the air. Avoid such areas
if possible. Use existing trails and blend new trails into old
ones whenever possible.
Soil texture suitable for digging must be a consideration
when reconnoitering for battle positions. Holes must be covered
to avoid shadows being cast. If vehicles will be in position for
more than a day, trenches should be dug for them.
In forward areas, tactical operations centers
are probably the most difficult positions to hide although their
need for concealment is great. They require strict camouflage
discipline. Vehicles and aircraft should not be allowed to approach
closer than 300-400 meters. They must be dispersed and concealed
so nets may have to be readily available for aircraft. Pay special
attention to lights and noise at night.
Generators will have to be dug-in and allowed
adequate air space for cooling. Radios and antenna systems must
be remoted as far out as possible, and in different directions.
Whenever possible, dig in the entire command post. Use engineer
assets to build a berm around the perimeter and to help break
up the silhouette and to enhance security. Other equipment should
not be placed too close to minimize the possibility of the enemy's
attention being attracted to the site.
Engineer activity often precedes operations,
which makes it important that such work be concealed from enemy
surveillance. The following guidelines should be used to conceal
- Employ the minimum number of equipment and personnel.
- Keep equipment well away from the site, and dispersed
and concealed if not in use.
- Complete all possible preparations well away
from the site.
- Follow the ground pattern, if possible.
Combat service and support assets must rely on
concealment for most of their protection. The following guidelines
will assist unit commanders in concealing trains while stationary
or on the move:
- All vehicles of a given type should look alike.
This will make it difficult for an enemy to pick out critical
vehicles, such as water and fuel trucks, in a column. Canopies
over fuel trucks disguise them and prevent radiant heat from striking
the fuel containers.
- Vehicles should follow the tracks of the preceding
vehicle if it is possible to do so without breaking through the
crust, as this reduces the possibility of an enemy intelligence
analyst to calculate how many vehicles have passed.
- Screen exhaust systems to reduce heat signature.
- Vehicles must never form a pattern, either
when stationary or on the move.
A supply point is likely to be in a location
where its main threat of detection will be either by the eye or
by photograph. Normally, greater emphasis can be placed on selecting
supply positions from the point of view of concealment rather
than for tactical efficiency, particularly in situations where
air defense cover may be limited. The following guidelines should
be used when setting up supply points:
- The location should be selected where trails
already exist. Vehicles must use existing trails to the extent
- Stocks should be irregularly spaced, both in
length and depth, to the maximum extent possible so that there
is no definite pattern.
- Stocks should be piled as low as possible and
preferably dug-in. For example, a stack of gasoline cans should
be only one can high.
- The shape of the area should not be square
or rectangular, but should follow the local ground pattern.
- Stocks should be covered with sand, gravel,
burlap, netting, or anything else that harmonizes with the local
terrain, and the sides should be gradually sloped with soil filled
to the top of the dump.
- The contents of each supply point should be mixed so that the destruction of one supply point will not cause an immediate shortage of a particular commodity.
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