Guns and Gear

Friday Night Lights: Thermal Camo 2.0 – Testing Resumed

Thank you for joining us here at TFB and specifically my Friday Night Lights series. Last week I wrote about the Nocturn Daisho bridge that combines two Nocturn Tanto monoculars into an articulating dual-tube binocular goggle. This week I will be showcasing some results from my Thermal Camo 2.0 tests where my friends and I resume testing off-the-shelf products as thermal camouflage.

More Thermal @ TFB:

Thermal Camo 2.0 – Testing Resumed

Last March I wrote about some thermal camo tests my friends and I had performed. Since that time, I acquired some other thermal devices like the BAE UTBx and FLIR See Spot III. So we used them for this Thermal Camo 2.0 test. In the last thermal test, we compared some materials against each other. One of them was a Predator Ghillie Spectralflage blanket from Beez Combat. When we tested it the last time, my friend Albert used it but he hid behind a fallen log. That invalided the test because from our vantage point, the log was obscuring him so well that we could not see how well the blanket performed. We brought the blanket back out for further testing. Beez Combat Systems also sent in their Cobra Lite and Viper Lite ghillie hoods and so we tested those as well.

The bride’s maid helps the bride with her veil. LOL

Here is the Beez Combat Systems Predator Ghillie Cobra Lite worn over a First Spear Smock field jacket.

My friends Kythe and Kevin wore the Beez Combat Systems Cobra Lite and Viper Lite. This kicked off our thermal camo 2.0 test. When they went out to set a target at 700 yards I observed them with the FLIR See Spot III. With the 2.5x magnifier attached to the See Spot III, I can see them a lot closer than any other device at my disposal.

Here are Kevin and Kythe 700 yards away. Kevin is on the left wearing jeans and a Tad Gear soft shell under the Viper Lite hood. This was daytime and the Flir See Spot III was set to white hot. Kythe is standing on the right all dressed in Multicam with the Cobra Lite on top.

thermal camo 2.0 test

Kythe turned his back so I could see how the Cobra Lite covers his back.

Kythe laid down on the ground.

Ametrine Tech USMC Issued Thermal Camo?

My friend Albert bought some surplus tops made by Ametrine Tech and wanted to test that in our thermal camo 2.0 tests.  The Ametrine tops were allegedly USMC issued. I found photos from a Gov Planet auction that had brand new ones that were never issued.

Photo by Gov Planet

Photo by Gov Planet

Photo by Gov Planet

Here is a photo from a current eBay auction selling Ametrine Tech tops.

Photo from eBay Auction

I used the BAE UTBx for our close-range tests. These were performed just after dusk and the ambient temperature was around 58º-60ºF. When Albert showed us his Ametrine Tech top, I noticed it had glitter-like flakes embedded in the material. So we had Albert walk out to 50 yards and I used the UTBx to observe him. The Ametrine Tech top did “block” his heat but it has a reflective aesthetic to it. See the screenshots below. The UTBx was set to black hot.

While the Ametrine Tech top seemed to work in our thermal camo 2.0 test, it has the opposite effect. It looks too cold and stands out from the background. It does not blend in with the background. It is very unnatural looking.

The Ametrine Tech top sort of looks like those heat protection suits firefighters use or volcanologists use to research lava flows up close.

While the Ametrine Tech top did not work as Albert had hoped, it did seem to work as an insulating layer so we put the Beez Combat Systems Cobra Lite on top of it. Here is what it looks like up close.

Here is Albert walking out to 50 yards.

To our surprise, if Albert tucks his arms and legs in and then faces away from the observer, the Cobra Lite does a pretty good job masking his thermal signature. Again the UTBx that captured these images was set to black hot. Look at the black line across Albert’s shoulders. According to Jeff at Beez Combat Systems, that is heat venting between the layers which they designed it to do.

For the thermal 2.0 test, Albert brought out the Beez Combat Systems Spectralflage blanket and threw it on top of himself. When he squatted in the open, the dark color of the blanket was very obvious under analog night vision. When we reviewed the video captured, Albert suggested he reposition himself to be in front of the tree to the left. This made a huge difference.

In the triptych below, the left image is Albert squatting in front of the tree with the Spectralflage blanket draped over him. The middle image is when Albert took off the blanket and stood up. You can see the heat from his legs and face. I had Albert turn around to face the tree and squat back down, the result is the third image of the triptych. The Multicam Cobra Lite actually blends better and breaks up his shape.

The image above is pretty impressive but these were taken from a PSQ-20 which does not have a very good thermal sensor in it. Here is what the same scene looks like through a much better thermal device, the BAE UTBx, and it shows a completely different story,

The ametrine is very obvious but the Cobra Lite hood has slid off his head.

The Spectralflage blanket did a decent job masking his thermal signature. But now it stands out from the tree. This is why it is important to consider multi-spectrum. Not just VIS and NIR but thermal as well.

Looking at things up close under thermal can be misleading. While the Cobra Lite seemed to look great amongst the grass, how does it look further away? Kythe and Albert went out and I observed them with my thermal devices for this thermal camo 2.0 test. Below are screenshots captured by the UTBx using the 75mm lens. You can see the ATV side by side. Albert is standing on the left and Kythe is on the right. Kythe was wearing his First Spear LWAG with jute tied to it. Albert is still wearing the Ametrine under the Cobra Lite. He has been wearing this for over an hour.

Standing in the open.

Squatting/kneeling in the open.

I had them move to their left to squat behind the tall grass/weeds just under the tree. This was by far the most effective. I am not sure how much of the vegetation is hiding them or if it is the effectiveness of the thermal camo gear we tested.

What Happens When The Eye Of Sauron Looks At You?

Here are screenshots I captured with the FLIR SeeSpotIII.

Albert is on the left and Kythe is on the right. Albert is still wearing the Ametrine and Cobra Lite

Here they are squatting in the weeds.

This is what the FLIR See Spot III sees when I add the 2.5x magnifier.

Albert has the Beez Combat Systems Spectralflage blanket draped over his head.

Here he took the blanket off.

Albert turned to face away from the thermal and you can see how the Cobra Lite masks him better than the First Spear LWAG.

When Albert and Kythe got ready to drive back, I had them hold the Spectralflage blanket in front of the ATV to see how well it could mask the heat from the engine and exhaust.

One more look at the First Spear LWAG and Cobra Lite from the back. This time Kythe is on the left and Albert is on the right.

Conclusions from Thermal Camo 2.0 Test

This test is just one data point. The materials we used, other than the Ametrine Tech top, were not designed for mitigating thermal signature but we were curious if they could. We were mostly focused on thermal mitigation and not optical camouflage.

The Cobra Lite worked rather well with the Ametrine Tech layer underneath but this was at close distances. Further out, the user stands out under thermal sensors. I used the uncooled LWIR BAE UTBx as a scanner and it was easy to see Albert and Kythe in a worst-case scenario. Once they hid behind the tall grass and weeds it was harder to see them. But then I can’t tell how much of the thermal signature is mitigated by the vegetation or if it is the Beez Combat Systems products. Given we know what they look like outside of the vegetation, I would say it is more the concealment and cover that is helping to block their thermal signature than the camo itself. We should have had a control, a person not wearing any thermal camo who stood next to someone who does. Kythe was sort of that control but we were comparing ghillie hoods against each other so we did not get to see the worst case scenario.

The Ametrine Tech material is interesting but does not seem to work that well. While it “blocked” heat up close, it is very obvious as it stands out from its background. Curious how the US Marines are using it. At further distances, it does not seem to do anything. I could still see Albert and he was even wearing the Cobra Lite hood on top of it. Thermal sensors are very hard to hide from. The simplest and most effective method is to get behind or under something to physically block you from a thermal sensor observing you.

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