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  • Global Military Communications

Saving lives at speed: Testing rapidly-deployable military camouflage for hostile environments

To save lives and safeguard assets in a variety of environments, military personnel need to be able to move undetected. Often, their very lives and the security of their mission depend on it.

Teledyne FLIR integrator Thermal Vision Research is working with a leading manufacturer of life-saving protective equipment for military applications, BCB International, to do exactly that.

With 160 years of experience in developing protective technology, BCB International provides bespoke camouflage materials that conceal equipment and personnel across a spectrum of different wavelengths to ensure that secrecy and safety work as one.

Precise insights vs prohibitive environments In these environments, being able to move around undetected is key - but this extends beyond the limitations of human sight and CCTV surveillance: they must also be able to transcend thermography to ensure invisibility.

As camouflage technologies improve, so too does thermography so that it can better pinpoint anomalies and provide insight when it’s needed most. However, on this occasion, the goal is not to be seen at all. Using a custom rig built by TVR using FLIR thermal imaging cameras, BCB is able to test their newest and most advanced camouflage netting up close under a wide range of frequencies to see what shows up on thermography - and what does its job.

To ensure that their nettings are up to the challenge, they use three different FLIR thermal imaging cameras that operate across different wavelengths: a FLIR A62/61 for shortwave, FLIR X8500 for medium wave and FLIR A70 for long wave applications.

This process means that the manufacturer can streamline critical testing in both a lab and field environment with the mobile rig, detecting anomalies from -45°C to 70°C.

Rigorous quality checks made possible with thermal inspection As BCB ‘s range of high-tech camouflage materials (such as those used in military uniforms and netting) are 1/2 designed to be fire resistant with anti-thermal properties to mask ambient heat emissivity, they must be able

to conceal troops and equipment in almost any environment.

To ensure this, BCB worked with TVR in a closed environment, with the thermal imaging rig set up at a distance of 10 metres - which puts the high-tech camouflage under much greater scrutiny than it might face at long-range in the field.

Andrew Howell, Managing Director, of BCB International explains: “We need to see what shows up by thermal imaging so we can see what accurately conceals and what doesn’t - and for this, we use FLIR thermography.

“This process is paramount to our operations as it allows us to identify any issues as they arise and means we can mitigate shortcomings before the product is deployed. We can see what works and what doesn’t, and in this scenario, if we can see something, we set to work refining it so that it can better protect personnel, vehicles and installations on the ground.”

Matthew Clavey, Director of integrator Thermal Vision Research, adds: “Whether the camouflage netting is being deployed over a tank or over artillery or supplies, they'll invariably have different wavelength requirements. This is why it’s so important to test the heat emissivity of different materials across the spectrum of thermographic wavelengths - so we can track where heat is visible and identify any thermal dissipation to ensure this front-line defence technology performs as expected.”

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