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The (Face) Paint of Darkness

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The guys over at the Soldier Systems blog have a cool entry on face paints that can help a warfighter hide from enemy passive night vision systems.

Here’s what they’ve got:

REDEYE and BLACKEYE camouflage compounds are formulated to eliminate or minimize hazardous reflected “green light” emitted from phosphorous screens on Night Vision Devices. Both of these compounds appear “invisible/black” when viewed by a passive enemy Night Vision Device.

GREENEYE face paint has a signature identical to green vegetation when viewed at night through a passive NVG and/or using an IR Illuminator. It also appears as green in visible light.

Now the site over at Orion Filters, which makes the NVG-beating paint, is all cagey and top secret…it takes a few steps to get to the info and I’m not sure how open the whole site really is. But the folks at Soldier Systems got the gouge somehow and if it’s straight up (which usually their info is) this is a development that could have far reaching implications — for American troops and their enemies.

It seems from Orion’s write up that the face paint can help minimize the reflective light against an operator’s face when he’s using NVGs…and the green paint actually helps make him invisible to a vegitative backdrop.

There’s already been the incorporation of “nano” fibers in Army and Marine Corps body armor that helps reduce reflectivity of ambient light, but that technology is by no means an invisible cloak. The addition of the Orion Filters face paint and other compounds, however, could help make US and allied forces truly “ghosts of the night.”

(Gouge: SS)

– Christian

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Hibby November 3, 2008 at 4:19 pm

That is so cool. I know that Iraq and Afghanistan are a huge strain on our military, but the amazing pace of technological advancement and refining of urban warfare tactics must really be revolutionary these past eight years.
I know we are getting worn out, but just how much more formidable is our military now, after all these advances, than it was at the start of the “war on terror”?

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Steve November 3, 2008 at 5:33 pm

It’s still pretty damn formidable. I’d worry about the troopers instead of the technology. We can buy new tech, we can’t get a new batch of fresh troops from Lockheed. I doubt there is too much revolutionary going on with the tactics, clearing a house or a cave probably hasn’t changed much since WW2, they just have better toys to make it easier/more efficient.

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Brian November 3, 2008 at 5:42 pm

Well, one advantage that has come from fighting the War on Terror is that it has given us an update as far as strategies, tactics, and technologies and how they are employed today. Remember that before this, we were planning every contingency as if the 1991 Gulf War were the way all future battles would be fought. That idea seems laughable today.

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Roy Smith November 3, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Maybe our potential enemies have the right tactics in mind. That is bury your tanks & fighter jets in sealed cellophane wrap &/or sealed caves & patiently wear your opponent down with low tech guerilla tactics like IED’s,mortars,& tactics like what Hezbollah did to Israel in 2006. Nobody considers the Taliban “worthy” enough to send “real” weapon systems to Afghanistan,like Stryker Vehicles. Taliban are kicking NATO’s asses in Afghanistan because of the refusal by ALL NATO nations(including the U.S.) to send “robust” forces with “real” weapons over there.
Pretty soon,the “technically superior” power will wear down,maybe even suffer economic hardships making it impossible to sustain the technological edge in combat. Once the enemy has determined this,then they can take the “Christmas wrapping” off of their stored weapons & put them into use.
The barbarians never defeated Rome,Rome defeated herself,& that is where we are headed.
There is nothing more embarrassing than to see an anachronistic turbo-prop Russian Bear aircraft flying overhead & to not be able to do anything about it because we pissed away our “superior” technological advantage because of stupid idiots who kept saying that the day of such weapons were past & outdated.

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Steve November 3, 2008 at 8:35 pm

Roy, we have very little in common with the Roman Empire. If we were like the Roman Empire, General Schwarzkopf would have returned to Washington with his army and demanded his rightful tribute, or to be Emperor, or both. Rome literally fought itself, hell, they could have conquered even more during Ceasar’s time if he wasn’t so busy in a pissing contest with Pompey. Try actually reading ahistory book as opposed to regurgitating the half-assed assumptions of others.

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gawks November 3, 2008 at 9:52 pm

” … face paint can help minimize the reflective light against an operator’s face when he’s using NVGs.”
Something like this been used in pro sports for quite some time.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/03/sports/03eyeblack.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjects/A/Athletics%20and%20Sports

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Roy Smith November 3, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Steve,
Like all superpowers during the ages,Rome had an advanced army & I’m sure navy also.Like latter day Rome(& other notable Empires/Superpowers) decadence has set into our nation. Like latter day Rome we have been consumed with decadence & debauchery,& we are allowing our military,with its technical advantages,to degrade. I’m very sure that our troops are quite willing to fight the good fight,but our equipment is getting very run down & our government is not willing to put the money into refurbishing or replacing them(& that’s before Obama becomes president). Our enemy is storing their “inferior” weapons until they sense that we are degraded enough that they’ll finally pull them out to use against us. I’m talking Russia,China,Pakistan,North Korea(with China’s aide & help),& Iran(with Russia’s aide & help).I don’t include Syria or Egypt in this list because I believe that Israel will have nuked both countries off the face of the earth.
P.S. there are quite a few people who would disagree with your statement that the U.S. is not an imperial power. The U.S.,like Rome was,is a REPUBLIC.

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Heh November 4, 2008 at 1:22 am

Roy, the insurgency don’t exactly have training in special weapons such as aircraft and tanks. Most of their men come across the border anyway. They’re kicking our asses because we can’t find them.
When they do get into straight combat, they almost always lose unless we’re greatly outnumbered. Either you’re trolling, or you don’t realize just how large of an advantage we have over these people.

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dm November 4, 2008 at 5:29 am

The most recent epidemiological survey estimates that 1.2 million Iraqis have died from violence in the last 5 years of war, about 30% of those directly caused by US forces. An unknown number have been injured (possibly up to double or triple the number of deaths), and an estimated 5 million are displaced. By comparison, the 8 year long Iran-Iraq … Read Morewar, one of the bloodiest wars in recent history, is estimated to have caused half a million Iraqi wounded and dead. The population of Iraq is 27 million.

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dm November 4, 2008 at 5:29 am

The most recent epidemiological survey estimates that 1.2 million Iraqis have died from violence in the last 5 years of war, about 30% of those directly caused by US forces. An unknown number have been injured (possibly up to double or triple the number of deaths), and an estimated 5 million are displaced. By comparison, the 8 year long Iran-Iraq war, one of the bloodiest wars in recent history, is estimated to have caused half a million Iraqi wounded and dead. The population of Iraq is 27 million.

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Steve November 4, 2008 at 10:26 am

Roy, you still haven’t proved any similarity between our system and the Romans. Once troops started swearing allegiance to their general instead of the republic it really started to go downhill for them. Rome depended on constant expansion to keep their society running. Just trying to keep enough slaves to run their world must have been a full-time job.

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TDS4S November 4, 2008 at 10:34 am

Its interesting to read the first few posts and see how quickly the discussion elevated from face paint to grand strategic questions. I think everyone senses something that no one can quite verbalize. Let me give it a try: this face paint doesn’t matter and no tactical advance will matter until we as a nation are less lost… until we know what they hell we are doing with our military and why.
I mean, who cares about face paint, for crying out loud? Face paint provides a tiny tactical advantage for a nation that already has global tactical dominance, and a fat lot of good it is doing us. All of our problems are strategic. The critical question isn’t whether the enemy can see you in NODs. The critical question is what we are trying to accomplish as a nation and whether the military can help accomplish it for us or not. Only after we have decided as a nation what our goals are can we decide what combination of force, diplomacy, economics, etc can acheive them. And only after we have decided that can we begin to talk about what vehicles or weapons or other gear we need. IR absorbing face paint might help you accomplish a mission, but until the nation has decided what missions to accomplish and how, how does it matter?
Russia knows that it wants to dominate Europe… that knowledge guides its energy policy and military actions. China knows that it wants to dethrone America… that knowledge guides its economic policy, exchange rates, and military focus. What vision is guiding America? Toward what end are we coordinating our economic policies, immigration policy, military modernaization efforts, energy policies, etc?
Bottom line: if you don’t know where you are going, going there faster isn’t necessarily good. Maybe IR neutral face paint will help us complete some miiltary actions a wee bit better, but until we know what our national goals are and how those military actions move us closer toward acheiving them, they don’t matter.

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Wes November 4, 2008 at 10:40 am

TDS4S, if you were a soldier and this new face paint saved your life, would you consider it to be an important, worthwhile development?

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Ontos November 4, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Umm…. I thought we were talking about war-paint here fellas…
What gives?

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Steve November 4, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Oh yeah war paint. To think how thrilled I was when they ditched the two-tone stick of pain for the commercial hunter products. Now, you don’t shine as much in NVG’s, I would have just thought that using nano-technology might not be necessary in this case.

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JSALLISON November 4, 2008 at 3:40 pm

New developments in face cammy sounds fine to me. My only beef with it was the whining and snivelling by our scouts because us tankers didn’t use it. Seemed a bit redundant to mask our faces whilst riding within a 60+ ton behemoth though bossman did direct we do so in order to have a peaceful opord. More annoying was the directive to wear webgear onboard, again at the (snivelling) behest of those poor disrespected scouts. I’m sure things are much better, now.

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Steve November 4, 2008 at 6:30 pm

JSALLISON: Reminds me of an NCO instructor I had during chemical warfare training. He said he was smoking a butt in between the old 6 generator trailer set ups, when a 2nd Lt. started screaming at him”you’re giving away our position with the IR ” and he shouts back “what? I can’t hear you over the generators”. Of course this was taking place in the center of the Brigade TOC. It was part of his point to use your brain instead of relying on doctrine every single time.

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