It's about disguise. More precisely, on the disguise of military equipment and weapons. The fact is that even among the military there is a somewhat misconception about camouflage as such. Not to mention civil readers. Covering the whole topic is difficult. Therefore, I will reveal only the most significant and important aspects and talk about some types of camouflage. And let's start with the basics.
What is camouflage?
First of all, about the very concept of camouflage. In the most primitive sense, camouflage is the process of hiding one's own forces and means from the enemy. In fact, disguise is not only a game of hide and seek, but also an imitation of the composition of its own forces, weapons, fortifications, bridges, pipelines, airfields, and more. This is a system of misleading the enemy.
Classic examples of this disguise are known to all. Moscow and Leningrad during the siege. When, with the help of certain measures, cities became practically unknown to enemy pilots and gunners. On the map, one thing, in fact, another. Or a less well-known fact is the use of pseudo-tanks and pseudo-aircraft in the battle on the Kursk Bulge by the Soviet side. When at the front line suddenly appeared out of nowhere more than 500 tanks and 200 aircraft.
Disguise events are held at various levels. On the scale of the event, camouflage can be strategic, operational and tactical. Naturally, various engineering, technical and organizational measures are carried out.
It is clear that camouflage cannot be absolute. It is impossible to practically disguise an object from everything at once. Theoretically, this is possible, but practically ... In a real situation, success can be guaranteed only with 100% knowledge of enemy intelligence.
Hence another division of camouflage, by enemy intelligence. From “classics” like optical, thermal and sound to exotic ones such as acoustic, hydroacoustic, radio engineering and others. Only complex masking is effective.
Some types of effective camouflage. Camouflage net
The most famous way to disguise equipment and weapons is known to everyone from films and their own service. This disguise has been over a hundred years old. The camouflage net was first used in World War I to cover artillery batteries and headquarters from aviation and enemy intelligence. And as the number of networks increases, the infantry positions and even entire fortified areas become masked.
The main requirement for a camouflage net is its complete identity with the surrounding area. And installing such protection from a prying eye does not take much time. True, such a network can only work efficiently at a certain distance. It rarely saves from visual observation of enemy intelligence.
There is another important drawback of this method of masking equipment and weapons. A classic grid cannot protect from a thermal imager or radar. Today, the classic mesh is more of an auxiliary camouflage than self-masking. More precisely, one of the elements of camouflage.
True, at present there are networks that can protect not only from visual, but also other types of reconnaissance - such as radar and thermal imagers. They are used to cover the mines of strategic missiles, headquarters and other important objects. Moreover, camouflage nets are used to completely block radio waves in both directions.
Despite the simplicity of construction and worldwide fame, camouflage net remains one of the most commonly used camouflage. Moreover, there are no restrictions for using the network. She can cover a freestanding machine, gun, or disguise the firing position of the squad, platoon, company.
You can make a forest road, field airfield, field hospital or ammunition depot “disappear”. There is a known case when a part of a large highway in Africa “suddenly disappeared”. The grid can work even in motion! Cars and other military equipment when driving on field roads, especially in the woods, are perfectly hidden under this camouflage. Aviation simply does not see them.
In general, the capabilities of camouflage networks have not yet been fully disclosed. New production technologies give rise to new opportunities for their use.
Under this scientific term is another well-known household name that came to the army from antiquity. Smoke screen. True, in modern times the combat mission of aerosol camouflage has changed somewhat.
In ancient times, smokes masked positions to conceal the size or location of troops. And since the First World War, smoke began to be used to disorient the work of artillery. You must admit that during direct fire firing, it is quite difficult for gunners to fire at an enemy that appears and disappears.
For some reason, it is believed that fumes are ineffective and work for a short time. Meanwhile, the use of this type of disguise is quite large-scale. The most grandiose smoke in navy. The areas hidden from the enemy are measured in tens of square kilometers! Smokes that can hide a squadron!
On land, such a disguise is also used quite often and on a large scale. Remember the movies where tankers simulate a car hit with a bucket of diesel fuel and rags. This is a classic movie trick actually used during World War II.
But were in stories wars and smokes of "naval scale". Even a special order was on the use of smoke (order on the Western Front of 26 on October 1943 of the year “On the mass and everyday use of camouflage smoke”).
When crossing the Dnieper, chemists created camouflage smoke with a length of 30 km! And during the capture of Berlin, more precisely, when the troops forced Marshal Konev Neisse, the river was simply hidden by smoke. Artillery dealt a powerful blow to the second line of defense, raised huge clouds of dust, and the troops forced the river under a smokescreen. How many tens of thousands of lives were then saved is unknown. But saved for sure.
But smoke is also used "vice versa." There are a great many ammunition that interfere with the effective work of the enemy directly in his positions. These are artillery shells, and air bombs, and other methods of moving smoke towards the enemy’s positions (in particular, special machines that create a powerful smoke screen with a fair wind).
In general, aerosol masking remains relevant today. The emergence of new substances that are used by military chemists makes this disguise quite long in time and resistant to the vagaries of the weather. So, during the exercises there was a case when smoke covered the group of forces for two days continuously!
Unfortunately, this type of camouflage is used quite a bit today. The reason is simple: the emergence of many devices that allow you to see what is in reality. Perhaps that is why few people think about this type of disguise. Even when it is in meters from an object disguised in this way. The essence of this disguise is not in complete merging with the terrain, but in the distortion of the real image of the object. What is it for?
The answer to this question must be sought in the history of the First World War. The British fleet then suffered huge losses from German submarines. It is impossible to hide ships from the periscopes of submariners. But to make sure that the German torpedoes did not hit the ships was possible. The task was to create the illusion of the submarine commander. That's right, an illusion. By the size of the ship, by range ...
The problem was solved by ... coloring the warships. Invented a special coloring for ships British naval officer Norman Wilkinson. He proposed to color the warships in the style of ... cubism. Moreover, the coloring should be bright enough.
Those who at least once saw paintings by cubist artists of the early 20 century remember the strangeness of this style of painting. Pictures are perceived by different people in different ways. And even a minimal change in the illumination of the picture completely changes this perception. Ghost paintings, or "living" pictures.
The first ship, which in a new coloring went on a military campaign, was the HMS Alsatian. It happened in the year 1917. Spectators on the shore were amazed that the ship at a short distance from the shore suddenly turned into a pile of some obscure different-sized parts.
Moreover, the ship became larger. But most importantly, the audience could not even determine such a simple thing as where the feed is located, and where the bow of the ship. With the help of special coloring, the battle ship turned into a ghost!
By the way, Soviet armored trains and armored cars of the times of the Great Patriotic War were sometimes painted precisely using the technology of blinding camouflage! The blurring dimensions of the train significantly reduced the effectiveness of enemy aircraft. One of these armored cars in yellow-green coloring today stands in a museum in St. Petersburg.
Today, such a coloring is used little. More precisely, it is modernized. Remember the sea battle boats and small ships with their coloring. Wilkinson's idea in modern execution. Camouflage, which combines the effect of a camouflage net and the disappearance of dimensions, blurring the appearance of a dazzling camouflage.
By the way, the idea of a sailor was picked up by the British army. The British in the same way painted several of their tanks. For the infantry, a new helmet coloring was proposed. Visually, such a soldier made a terrible impression: a certain analogue of the “headless horseman" ...
Overall, blinding camouflage is a thing of the past. Today, the use of weapons, especially in the Navy, has little to do with the visual perception of the object. The commander today focuses little on his own perception of the enemy ship. This is done by smart devices that do not respond to visual special effects.
Imitation of military equipment and weapons
Probably not among the readers of a man who would not know the saying about a needle in a haystack. Indeed, finding a small needle in a pile of dry grass is difficult. But there is an even more difficult and impossible task. Find a needle in a pile of other needles!
The next type of camouflage is precisely the same needle in a pile of other needles. We are talking about fake equipment and weapons, which mislead the enemy regarding opposing forces and weapons.
In general, ways to “increase” one's own power and thereby scare the enemy have always been used in war. Remember the famous bonfires that, on the orders of Macedon, Suvorov, Kutuzov and many other generals, were burned by soldiers before the decisive battles? Purely visual, the number of bonfires increased the number of troops at times and spread uncertainty in the ranks of the enemy.
Even earlier, the knights used roughly the same disguise. Huge armor, various wings, horns and the like, wide cloaks created the illusion of the power of a knight in the enemy. A huge rider against a small infantryman.
The modern version of the knight’s wings is inflatable weapons models. It is doubtful that the pilot who noticed the C-300 complex will not react to this installation. Especially when the devices confirm that it is a real machine.
The beginning of the use of "balloons" is considered the Second World War. It was then that the Americans first used the Sherman tank inflatable mock-ups. By the way, the layout was made very high quality. It was difficult to distinguish a “sell” from a real tank.
By the way, the Americans transferred several of these “cars” to the USSR. The effect pleased our command, and the production of inflatable tanks was established in the USSR on an industrial scale. Even special teams of artists were created who painted the models as close as possible to those machines that were used on this sector of the front.
On the one hand, producing inflatable mock-ups is simple and not particularly expensive. But on the other hand, in war conditions, they count every penny. And here, savvy came to the rescue of the Soviet soldiers.
Remember the recent film "28 Panfilov"? An episode with an imitation of a German tank that needs to be destroyed, and an episode with an artillery battery of logs a couple of hundred meters ahead of real positions. These are real episodes, more than once described in the memoirs of front-line soldiers.
Soviet commanders did exactly the same during the war. Artillery batteries, tank units in waiting areas, headquarters and even airfields were built from improvised material. There were even sapper units that were constantly engaged in this.
In the old Soviet film about the clumsy soldier Ogurtsov and the mother foreman Semibab under the title "Restless Farm" just one of such airfields is shown. Wooden mock-ups of aircraft that take on the attacks of enemy aircraft.
But let's leave history to the present. Today, in the presence of a large number of identification devices, it is difficult to deceive the enemy with wooden or even inflatable models. It is necessary to bring the layout as close as possible to reality in many ways.
Those mock-ups of C-300 launchers or aircraft of various modifications, which sometimes flash on TV screens, for devices create a complete picture of reality. Radars fix mock-ups as real cars (special fabric is used), thermal imagers “see” hot motors (special imitators) and so on.
Probably the only drawback of layouts today is their limited "range". The T-72 and T-80 tanks, Su-27 and MiG-31 aircraft, and S-300 air defense systems “fight” in the Russian army.
Prospects for the development of modern camouflage
Much of what is used today to effectively camouflage troops in the Russian army remains behind the scenes. The format of the article does not allow to touch upon all aspects of this activity of the Russian military. And the work of camouflage specialists requires keeping your mouth shut.
The rivalry between intelligence and those who oppose it has always been and will continue. The value of information from the enemy camp in a war is determined by the thousands of lives of their own soldiers. If we consider the experience of the Great Patriotic War, it should be noted: there are many examples of just such mistakes.
The episode of the crossing of the Neisse River by the troops of Marshal Konev was mentioned above. But there was another episode, which is little voiced by our historians. Crossing the river with troops of Marshal Zhukov. And this episode is directly related to the topic of this material. When the German maskers surpassed our scouts and replaced mock-ups instead of real troops.
Realizing that the Russians would advance with great forces, the Germans created many imitations of firing positions on the first line of defense. And immediately before the start of the offensive, the troops were sent to the second line. The most powerful fire raid fell on the layouts. And our soldiers were advancing with the backlighting on anti-aircraft searchlights on the raised dust. But the Germans saw the advancing at a glance.
The emergence of new detection systems, new weapons, new methods of warfare will always lead to the emergence of counteraction systems. This means that the art of disguise will not only live, but will also constantly develop. These are interconnected processes.