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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fear Gear Camouflage Takes the U.S. Army Challenge

Fear Gear Camo - MEC-GB
Over the past couple months we have reported on a few camouflage design companies that would be submitting their best camouflage patterns in response to the solicitation placed by the U.S. Army. Phase IV of the Army's Camouflage project requested Family of Pattern submissions from vendors, including three types of camouflage variants for uniforms. Each vendor must provide a woodland, desert, and transitional variant, as well as a universal option that would go on personal equipment, to be utilized with all of the uniform options. 

Fear Gear is one of the companies that has drawn some buzz in the industry, and was referred to me by an insider that follows recent developments with the Army's Project. I am quite impressed with what they had developed for commercial use prior to gaining word of the solicitation, as well as their new creation for submission to the Army. Over just two years in development, Fear Gear has created a unique pattern with a multitude of color palettes. 

The name of the company is an acronym formed from Fractal Enhanced Ambient Resolution, which is how the pattern functions in providing a modular concealment system. Micro and Macro patterns are utilized to make the pattern functional at both long and short ranges. Depending on the variant, certain colors appear in large blocks to give a perception of depth which can further trick the human eye. You will also see a unique shape to the fractals which provides a more organic "seen in nature" design to better conceal in real world environments. You can definitely see some resemblance to the popular German Flectarn pattern. 

Woodland Test - Subject Hiding- MEC-GB
Fear Gear had the intention of creating eight unique color palettes as shown in the image below for their pattern. This will allow any uniform or object utilizing the camouflage to have many variants to choose from, depending on the environment. Color samples are taken directly from the field to most appropriately choose a five-color palette for the best application to the pattern and given terrain.

Far before the Army's Family of Pattern solicitation, the idea of having a Universal Pattern was all the rage. Being able to operate in multiple environments and not need different camouflage selections to meet your needs, seemed like a great concept for functionality and budgetary concerns. However, the tide has turned, and it is apparent that the technology is currently not available to outfit the armed forces with a pattern that covers all terrains. This was made apparent by many complaints from troops stating that the Army Combat Uniform's Universal Camouflage did not blend in well with many of Afghanistan's diverse environments. 

The Marine's Desert and Woodland MARPAT variants are currently seen by many as extremely viable options that can be relied on when in different areas of operation, that call for a change in uniform camouflage. The pattern utilized is well respected and was utilized as a base in creating their Army Universal Digital Pattern. One aspect that is not covered with the Marine Corps Camo is a transitional option and clearly this is something that the Army now wants, or perhaps already has.

Environment Mapping - MEC
MultiCam could be the answer to those in-between environments, where desert, forest, woods, etc. don't quite fit the profile of the camouflage being used. MultiCam was brought into Afghanistan for this very reason. Lush valley and agriculture regions have much more vegetation than other parts of the country. However, with the solicitation it is clear that the Army wants to keep their options open and see if there are better options for the transitional variant.

Fear Gear has produced uniforms utilizing their original "FEAR CAMO" pattern but only in one color palette, which happens to be a  transitional variant for multiple environments with a bias towards grassland/semi-arid. This particular variant is called MEC-GB and is definitely the focal point in testing the effectiveness of their design.

The latest product test images below (matching "hide" photo above), displays the camouflage's ability to conceal the end user of the ACU Uniform for a woodland environment. They also have a transitional variant with a sand bias called MEC-SB for those more arid terrains. The map above-right gives a good visual of these regions and which transitional Fear Camo variant is most suitable. 
Woodland Testing - Subject Revealed - MEC-GB
Commercial success for a camouflage designer can be hard to obtain. Some have worked 10 plus years without a commercial product in their camouflage, but continue to create new patterns. Perhaps there is some obsession with creating a pattern that can conceal in the best possible fashion. There is definitely an art to the design, but a lot of science and technological knowledge is required with the advent of digital camouflage.

Over the past two years Digital Concealment Systems (DCS) has commercial licensing achievements with their A-TACS camouflage pattern that other Military/Tactical camouflage designers would drool over. Yet DCS currently has no military licensing. Crye Precision has to be one of the fastest growing companies in the industry with their MultiCam Camouflage Pattern, but also have military contracts to drive in funding along with great free advertising.
Side by Sides Tests are Fun (MEC-GB Left, MultiCam Right)
The U.S. Army's Camouflage Phase IV Family of Patterns solicitation is putting all camouflage designers to task. When a government contract is issued, it is truly awarded. Especially, when it means the possibility of troops carrying your product on their backs. Fear Gear is not taking any chances in missing this opportunity and have pushed their pattern design to the next level with what they call their Outrider "Family of Patterns" Camouflage line.

In respect to the Army solicitation, Fear Gear has focused on creating a more dominant macro element in their pattern to offer concealment in the largest range of environments. They have also provided the necessary color palettes for Woodland, Desert, and Transitional Camouflage variants.  The company's founder, Iain Collinson, feels that the Outrider Family of Patterns incorporates the right scientific principles to provide a pattern that is functional and versatile for any type of environment. You can also see in the photo below that there are two additional variants, including one for an urban environment and one for Snow. Mr. Collinson noted that they would be using the Transitional Variant (OR-T) for personal equipment.
Outrider (OR) Woodland (W) - Transitional (T) - Desert (D) - Urban (U) - Sand (S)
A true test will come from transferring pattern to fabric and then to the field for proper testing. Adjustments are bound to be needed in order to perfect the intended pattern. We will definitely be keeping up with the camouflage development of Fear Gear's new Outrider Family of Patterns, and hope to show uniform photos sooner than later. The Army recently delayed the deadlines established, so it could be a game of sit and wait. In the meantime we will be on the look out for the best contenders and reporting on what could soon be the U.S. Army's next camouflage pattern. 

2 comments:

  1. Digital patterns are out.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Majority of all new camouflage are digital. Name a popular one that is not.

    ReplyDelete