Everybody knows how obsessive the world's elite special-ops forces are about preparing for a task. Prior to the recent, headline-making raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed, US Navy SEALs built a complete mockup of the compound where he lived and spent weeks practicing attacks on it, for instance.
In future, as well as this sort of preparation, one American entrepreneur thinks they might also take photos of the target area - from spy planes or satellites far overhead, or even from smartphones held by agents on the ground nearby - and use these photos to create camouflage uniforms specifically tailored to the site. These would be printed out using "direct to garment" textile technology, and would be ready well before the rehearsals in the custom killing-house were complete.
"The best camo is the most specific camo," insists K Dominic Cincotti, the man behind CamoScience™, whose father was a special-forces officer and commanded "Blue Light", an early US Army counterterrorist unit*.
He goes on to say: "CamoScience™ can now be coupled with advances in Direct-to-Garment printing — delivering uniforms at lower costs, in radically faster production runs, with the ability to execute and produce mission-specific uniforms in a fraction of previous production time...
"We no longer need to stockpile millions of uniforms with a generalized, ineffective camo pattern because we are unsure of where the next threat will emerge.
"Just as they used [photo intelligence] to create a replica of the bin Laden compound, so too can we create uniforms — and vehicles — camouflage-specific to that micro-environment, using the same type of intelligence... we can produce the uniforms with Direct-to-Garment printing faster than they can make the site mock-ups."
It's always possible that special-ops teams will decide to use special location-specific camouflage for pre-planned operations like the bin Laden raid, though they already have a very wide range of different patterns to choose off the rack.
Ordinary troops seem unlikely to indulge in such fancies, though it is true that there's always an outcry whenever they go to war to the effect that they are wearing the wrong kind of camo. The British MoD eventually got all our people in Afghanistan sorted out with desert-pattern uniforms, only to take yet more stick when troops operating in and out of the lush "Green Zone" along the Helmand river to to wearing a mixture of green European-style and desert uniforms.
In the end the British forces took the decision to shift onto "MultiCam" (which they call MTP), a pattern intended to work in most kinds of terrain. In time it will become the standard British combat uniform.
It's always possible that garment-printing might come more into play in the field of military camouflage. What seems unlikely to be a big factor is the one part of the process that Mr Cincotti has actually got set up: a mobile application for snapping a pic of a local environment and designing a camouflage pattern based on the pic. This doesn't really seem to add a lot of value over simply taking a picture and emailing it to the relevant specialists. ®
Special Ops Bootnote
*In the late 1970s the US Army recognised the need for an elite "direct action" special-ops force offering similar capabilities to the SAS: until then the US Army Special Forces - aka the Green Berets - had focused more on training and leading foreign troops, sabotage, guerrilla warfare and such techniques.
Colonel Charles Beckwith was put in charge of creating the new US formation, dubbed the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta. (Existing Special Forces units were made up of SFOD-Alphas - "A Teams" - organised under headquarters units known as SFOD-Bravos or SFOD-Charlies. Beckwith's new force was to be a different kind of unit, differently selected, trained and organised and outside the normal Special Forces chain of command. It was thus the first and only SFOD-Delta, and is now generally known as Delta Force or the Combat Applications Group. It is a "Tier One" JSOC unit alongside SEAL Team 6/DevGru and the shadowy "Activity": ordinary Green Berets, SEALs etc are merely "Tier Two".)
While Delta Force was being set up and trained, however, the ordinary Green Berets created a counterterrorist team called "Blue Light". This handed over its operational responsibilities to Delta around 1980.