Camouflage has been used by military forces since the ancient Roman Empire. It seems obvious that matching the colour of your vehicle to the environment will make you a far less visible target. But using modern scientific techniques, camouflage can be far more than simply painting a vehicle to blend into the background.

Foxhound light patrol vehicle in Army Brown. Courtesy of AkzoNobel.

Foxhound light patrol vehicle in Army Brown. Courtesy of AkzoNobel.

AkzoNobel, a paints and coatings company based in the Netherlands, has announced a new paint for British Army vehicles that not only works as camouflage, but can help to protect soldiers against chemical attacks.

British army vehicles have been painted with sand coloured camouflage since before the Second World War. Warfare has changed a lot since then, so it’s about time they were redecorated. To devise a new colour scheme, the Ministry of Defence collected samples of soil and rocks from Afghanistan, along with high resolution imagery. The new hue was given the, perhaps uninspiring, name of Army Brown.

Army Brown is similar to the tan colour used by the US and Australian militaries, and designed to work well both in arid environments and amongst vegetation.

Tasked with developing the paint, AkzoNobel decided to build in more functionality, and designed a water-based solution that would protect the vehicles from corrosion and is capable of absorbing chemical warfare agents. Thanks to the inclusion of a specific resin, the paint can also be peeled off and disposed of when contaminated or if a quick change of colour is required.

The new paint has already been applied to Foxhound light patrol vehicles, as well as some of the Warrior tracked vehicles in use in Afghanistan. Further developments in the pipeline include a bespoke molecule which builds on the current generation’s ability to absorb chemical agents by changing colour to alert vehicle operators to their presence, and will also neutralise them on contact.

This marks an evolution of the capabilities of camouflage, and should help to keep soldiers safer on the front line in some of the most challenging environments.

 

Please indulge the author…

Hello!  I’m Ben Valsler, the newest addition to the Chemistry World family. I’ve been given the newly created position of Online and Multimedia editor, so amongst other things I’ll regularly be contributing to this blog, as well as inviting posts from occasional guest bloggers.

I must confess, I’m not a chemist. I’ve studied zoology & science communication, and throughout my career so far have concentrated on topics as diverse as genetics, astronomy & materials science. Being a jack of all trades (and some would say master of none) has given me a real interest in the boundaries – the edge effects where one specialism meets another, where theory meets application and where science meets engineering.

That’s why this story caught my eye. What seems initially like a simple request – formulate a new paint of a certain colour – led to the development of a coating that can do so much more.

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