Is It Now Time to Rethink AFV Camouflage?

I enjoy following developments within the Canadian military. One particularly interesting development has been the subtle transformation of camouflage within the Canadian Army. Since the adoption of the CADPAT digital camouflage pattern in the early 2000s, Canada has been thrust toward the leading edge of military camouflage theory. As part of this newfound enlightenment, the Canadian Army undertook a break from their long-held tradition of issuing black combat boots, going instead with brown, a more natural and organic colour. They didn’t stopped there, adopting coyote brown as the base colour for much of their individual kit items, such as load bearing vests, pouches, gloves, even t-shirts.


Coyote brown makes perfect sense as the base colour for a Canadian soldier’s personal kit. It’s as equally effective with the temperate green version of CADPAT, as it is with the arid version.


This got me thinking about camouflage for AFVs. What colour works best for today’s diverse battlefield terrain, which can range from sandy deserts to lush green forests?


As a counter to threatened aggression from Russia, the United States has begun stationing armoured units in Northern Europe. As recent American conflicts have taken place in more arid environments, many of their vehicles are still sporting desert tan as the base camouflage colour. The above image demonstrates how completely ineffective this is for deployments in forest environments like Poland or Estonia.


Canada did the complete opposite, deploying vehicles painted NATO green into Afghanistan’s arid wastelands. In that case, the out of place contrast of green was muted by desert dust settling over each vehicle’s surfaces, helping them blend with their natural surroundings.


Israel is one country experienced with combat over a diversity of environments. The Israeli Defense Forces have adopted a hybrid camouflage colour, often called Sinai Grey. Its appearance can vary, depending on light conditions, from vehicle to vehicle, sometimes appearing greenish, sometimes brownish. It’s the perfect colour for Israel’s wide-ranging combat environment.

I would argue coyote brown could be equally effective for much of NATO’s armour fleet. Vehicle’s transported from one area of NATO territory to another would more easily blend into their surroundings. Even if a coyote brown vehicle were deployed to a desert battlefield, it wouldn’t clash with the background.

There’s a deep historical attachment to green for AFVs, but perhaps it’s time to rethink that, and accept the reality that today’s militaries find themselves fighting in areas well beyond the central forests of Europe.

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