Camouflage and Concealment

Saab soldier system
Camouflage using Saab Barracuda Ultra-Lightweight Camouflage Screen (ULCLAS) Frequency Selective Surface (FSS) technology. (Saab)

The art of camouflage is turning into a science in this technology rich world.

The ongoing war in Ukraine continues to provide the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and international partners around the world with invaluable lessons as their armed forces prepare for potential conflict with peer adversaries in the age of strategic competition.

One significant capability gap emerging from the conflict is the ability to successfully implement camouflage, concealment and deception (CCD) strategies – particularly relevant across the modern battle space which continues to witness a proliferation of multi-spectral sensors.

Today, the ability of armed forces to remain undetected on the modern battlefield is significantly more difficult with highly capable and well-equipped adversaries employing mature intelligence-gathering and electronic warfare methods.

Capable of identifying even small unit teams visually or elsewhere throughout the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), sensors provide early warning to commanders who are then able to rapidly cue precision guided munitions to destroy these targets.

Such a threat has led to an escalation in so-called ‘shoot and scoot’ operations which require mobile rocket, artillery or mortar units to identify targets before coming to a halt and engaging, then leaving the area as quickly as possible to avoid counter-fires from enemy forces.

Many of these lessons were highlighted in the Royal United Services Institute’s (RUSI’s) Preliminary Lessons in Conventional Warfighting from Russias Invasion of Ukraine: FebruaryJuly 2022 paper which highlighted “…pervasive ISTAR on the modern battlefield and the layering of multiple sensors at the tactical level [is making] concealment exceedingly difficult to sustain”.

According to the paper, survivability was “…often afforded by being sufficiently dispersed to become an uneconomical target; by moving quickly enough to disrupt the enemy’s kill chain and thereby evading engagement; or by entering hardened structures”.

“Shell scrapes and hasty defences can increase immediate survivability but also risk the force becoming fixed by fire while precision fires and specialist munitions do not leave these positions survivable. Forces instead should prioritise concentrating effects while only concentrating mass under favourable conditions – with an ability to offer mutual support beyond line of sight – and should give precedence to mobility as a critical component of their survivability.

“Ukrainian troops have tended to sacrifice camouflage for clear identification (using coloured bands) for their manoeuvre forces, relying on speed rather than concealment for survivability,” the paper concluded.


Today, there are multiple solutions available for armed forces seeking to optimise the survivability of units on the ground and at sea.

According to industry sources, an undisclosed number of BAE Systems CV90 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) are currently deployed in Ukraine following their donation from European countries including Sweden. They are equipped with Saab’s Barracuda camouflage system – a modular solution designed to protect a wide range of platforms from multi-spectral threats. A Saab spokesperson was unable to comment on the deployment of Barracuda systems on board CV90 or any other vehicles.

At the DSEI Expo in London, September, the company unveiled the latest member in its Barracuda family of camouflage and concealment solutions. The Ultra-Lightweight Camouflage Screen (ULCLAS) which, according to officials allows small unit teams the capability to “…combine protection from the enemy with the possibility to communicate with friendly forces”.

Essentially, this means ULCLAS allows personnel to remain undetected across the EMS while at the same time enabling them transmit and receive signals across certain radio frequency (RF) bands.

“Barracuda camouflage nets provide vital protection for a soldier, hiding the operator from, for example, radar sensors. However, the same characteristics that provide that protection, also limits the use of GPS and/or VHF communications to and from underneath the net,” a Saab official explained to Asian Military Review. 

Such capability is enabled by the Saab’s Frequency Selective Surface (FSS) technology which, according to officials, allows “selected radio frequencies to pass easily either way through the camouflage net, while protecting against the higher frequencies of electromagnetic waves used by radar systems”.

Suggesting there is “great interest” globally for the ULCAS FSS, head of Saab’s Barracuda business unit, Henning Robach described how FSS allows users of specially produced ULCAS nets to make full use of radio and GPS systems while remaining fully concealed.

“Traditionally truly multispectral camouflage nets can inhibit the reception and transmission of such systems due to the frequency range within which the net is seeking to function. In such situation users face a dilemma about breaking cover to enable their use but with UCLAS FSS users can still operate these systems under the net while retaining the benefits of the wide frequency cover of the net. The nets can be customised to specific frequencies as required by the customer,” he said. 

“This represents a significant advancement in modern signature management technology…we are taking camouflage to the next level with this novel feature. It changes how soldiers communicate while keeping multispectral protection, and so introduces a new era of tactical communication flexibility, offering unparalleled capabilities,” he added before highlighting emerging levels in demand for camouflage and concealment solutions was growing across the Indo-Pacific, particularly concerning protection of maritime assets.

Speaking to AMR, Robach explained: “In Asia, we see a lot of interest for signature management for land and maritime use in particular. Both unit camouflage [such as] camouflage systems used to cover equipment, tents and then platform camouflage [such as] a second skin on vehicles and other platforms like combat vehicles, tanks, trucks, smaller boats.”

Across the region, Saab is marketing its Barracuda Camouflage Marine solution, a combination of the company’s MCS and ULCAS systems designed to provide surface vessels with the ability to avoid detection by enemy sensors.

According to Saab material, Barracuda Camouflage Marine “reduces detection by up to 90 percent” with the “ultra-lightweight design” rapidly deployed using telescopic poles for support.

“Barracuda’s Camouflage Marine Solution has been designed to offer complete confidence to soldiers operating from the water, whether cutting through waves at breakneck speeds or moored to the coastline. Comprised of interlocking, fully customisable panels and an advanced multispectral camouflage net, this innovative solution delivers unrelenting protection from state-of-the-art enemy sensors in times when uncertainty could mean defeat,” according to the company.

“Our maritime Barracuda Camouflage Marine solution allows for the covering of vessels docked or tied up to minimise their visual and other spectral profiles when most vulnerable,” Robach added.

Saab Marine
Saab has also designed the Barracuda Marine system to camouflage surface vessels when static and on the move. (Saab)

At the Eurosatory exhibition in Paris, France in June 2022, Saab also unveiled the Barracuda Soldier System (BSS), designed to provide dismounted personnel with the same multispectral protection as tactical ground vehicles. Coverage includes protection against near and short-wave infrared; ultra-violet; and visual frequencies.

The BSS is 2×2 metres square and weighs just 21 ounces (600 grams) and can be packed into a small pouch, making it ideal for forward-deployed personnel. Worn as a poncho or used as a camouflage net to protect hides or observation positions, multiple BSS can also be connected together to protect increased areas, particularly from airborne sensors. The BSS is currently available in a variety of camouflage designs including Arctic; Desert, Urban; and Woodland patterns.

Similar to Barracuda solutions mounted on board CV90s in Ukraine, Saab was unable to discuss the material make-up of BSS due to operational security concerns. BSS is currently in operation with more than 10 countries.

But a company official did describe BSS as a more cost-effective solution over the company’s own Special Operations Tactical Suit [SOTACS] product which is used by sniper pairs and special operations units. Saab’s Robach stated that the BSS continued to be upgraded based on user trials and feedback.

“The Barracuda Soldier System has been adapted in a number of ways as part of Saab’s continued focus on product evolution and customer engagement. This included an improvement in detection from thermal sensors when taking advantage of its reversible nature to use the side intended for night use, but also practical changes to the shape of the hood, tailoring for including pockets. This product is ideally for users who need to leave the protection of a UCLAS net or exit a vehicle covered with Barracuda MCS while avoiding detection by thermal or visual sensors, thereby ensuring the integrity of the work undertaken to camouflage in the first place.”

Elsewhere, Fibrotex USA continues to devise next-generation camouflage and concealment solutions following its selection in 2018 to support the US Army and US Marine Corps Ultra-Lightweight Camouflage Net System Increment I (ULCANS Inc 1) programme of record.

ULCANS Inc 1 was primarily focused on protecting small unit teams at-the-pause or at-the-halt. However, Fibrotex used the Modern Day Marine exhibition in Washington, DC in June to unveil its its latest solution – the Mobile Camouflage System (MCS) which has been designed to provide protection for tactical ground vehicles and crew even when operating on-the-move.

“Fibrotex has developed and deployed mobile camouflage systems to a variety of customers and platforms, including Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) like Leopard 2, Merkava Mark IV; armoured personnel carriers including Stryker and CV90; as well as other ground vehicles including the Land Rover Wolf, SandCat and Toyota Hilux,” a company spokesperson informed AMR.

Fibrotex USA
Fibrotex has supported the US Army as it seeks a next-generation camouflage solution for dismounted troops but continues to upgrade solutions in line with emerging operational requirements. (Fibrotex)

“These MCSs are tailor-made for each platform and are designed to reduce the platform’s multispectral signature while the vehicle is fully operational in any terrain,” they added.

Fire retardant, water repellant and reversible, the MCS provides protection against NIR, radar, SWIR, thermal, UV and visual signatures and is “quick and easy to assemble”.

Alternative products include German company GhostHood which provides material to original equipment manufacturers of military tactical ground vehicles including Polaris Government and Defense.

Speaking to AMR, Polaris vice president, Nick Francis described how the company’s inventory of MRZR light tactical all-terrain vehicles were “open-concept and modular to accept a variety of camouflage and concealment packages” in line with specific end user requirements.

“The cab kit for the MRZR Alpha has been seen with an arctic camouflage wrap, but that’s just the beginning. The cab can be painted and repainted for different theatres of operation. Also, the relatively small size of our vehicles provides concealment by allowing for operation in more narrow environments, be it forest, alpine or rocky terrain,” he informed AMR.

GhostHood solutions provide “multispectral, lightweight [IR reflectance] camouflage systems which are compact and effective”, according to the company. The focus lies on the multi-functionality of the products. “You can cover many applications during the mission with just one product,” it states.

Specific solutions include what GhostHood describes as “confusion camouflage” or “conCAMO” which is currently in service with an undisclosed German special operations unit. “conCAMO patterns are based on perceptual psychology [with] 25 superimposed layers creating a chaotic illusion, tricking the viewers‘ sub-consciousness as our brains cannot fully resolve them. All patterns are fully tested and deceive humans and all kinds of different animals with outstanding results,” company literature claimed.

GhostHood solutions provide “multispectral, lightweight [IR reflectance] camouflage systems. (GhostHood)
“Because night vision devices become more prevalent, each piece of fabric is printed both inside and outside with high special NIR-colours (Near Infra Red Reflectance). The combination of infrared printing with the conCAMO camouflage pattern guarantees camouflage day and night.”

Typically, GhostHood camouflage nets measures 6×8.5m in dimension, meaning they can be used to camouflage a sniper hide or observation position while also allowing personnel to “see-through” the breathable material to optimise levels in situation awareness.

Nets weigh approximately 13.3lbs (6kg) and are manufactured using 100 percent polyester in a variety of colour schemes.


Camouflage solutions from the likes of Fibrotex, Ghost-Hood and Saab will play a critical role in the operational success of armed forces moving forward, whether on land, at sea or in the air. But they will need to be integrated into a wider CCD strategy to ensure mission success and optimal levels in survivability of forward deployed personnel.

by Andrew White