Monday 15 December 2014

Tank Camouflage and Concealment Rules

The rules for how to camouflage your tank are a pretty frequently visited topic, but this article by Engineer-Colonel D. Sheglov and Engineer P. Yakovlev definitely mentions a few things we have not yet seen, and puts a new twist on some old tricks.

"In battle with tanks or any other kind of forces, surprise is one of the main factors of success. It takes significant effort and skill in the art of concealment order to achieve surprise when the enemy is carefully attempting to deduce our aims through constant observation.

Every commander and soldier must keep in mind the stealth of his actions and correctly use already known means and techniques, as well as discover new ones.

Tanks can be found in many ways: due to light revealing their shadow or shining off their unpainted parts, due to track marks in soft terrain or bushes, due to broken or bent vegetation, due to fresh or tramped ground where the tanks turned or stopped. At night, their lights can be seen, their engines and tracks can be heard. The task of concealment is to hide these traits, or at least reduce their magnitude.

Concealment is split into natural and artificial. Natural concealment is achieved by hiding with natural means, trees, bushes, etc. One measure of natural concealment is keeping tanks in the forest, in the shadows of trees. When placing a tank underneath a tree, it is important to check that the shadow of the tank is covered by the shadow of the tree, otherwise an observer in an airplane can still see it (fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Incorrectly (left) and correctly (right)

Artificial concealment covers techniques of hiding a tank or an armoured car, consisting most importantly of camouflage paint and camouflage netting. It is important to know how to conceal tanks with any means that the unit has, since regularly issued materials might not be available in some cases, such as during an offensive. Improvised materials can always ensure that tanks are hidden, but remember that not all materials can be used in all terrain. For instance, covering your tank with tree branches when it is on a background of freshly dug dirt does not conceal the tank, but gives away its position. Similarly, a tank covered with straw on a grassy field will hide your tank, but a tank covered in straw on a ploughed field will only arouse suspicion. 

The so called T-net is a staple of camouflage. It is a 10 by 10 meter net that has square pieces of green fabric sewn to it, frequently in the middle, and less frequently around the edges (fig. 2).

The T-net is placed atop the tank and spread out with ropes. In order to make the shape irregular, you can use wooden stakes of various heights in two-three places underneath the net. In addition to the fabric squares, scatter branches and grass over the net.

In order to make the tanks less visible on terrain and to aid other concealment methods, use three kinds of paint: green, grayish-yellow, and dark brown in a disruptive pattern. At the factory, oil paint is used. In the field, painting is done with dry chalk.

When applying disruptive camouflage in the field, follow the following rules:
  1. Paint should be applied to all parts of the tank except the tracks.
  2. The main colour of the tank should be green, 50-60% of the surface. After that is yellow, 25-30%. Then dark brown, 15-20%.
  3. Paint spots should be variable in size and shape (fig. 3).

Temporary disruptive camouflage can be applied with dry coloured chalk. This chalk is made at the factory, and is meant to rapidly colour vehicles, equipment, and other materials.

When these regulation paints are missing, improvised paint can be used. Since they are made with water, they do not prevent the tank from rusting, so they may only be applied on top of painted metal.

The following materials can be used to make paint:
  • Dark brown paint: use crushed wood coals in combination with crushed brick. Dilute the powder with glue or casein. It is also possible to use natural or artificial varnish. This paint can also be made from filtered soil combined with varnish.
  • Earth gray: use filtered road dust or clay, diluted with water and glue. 
  • Green: use various plants (leaves, grass) burned with boiling water, then dried and crushed. Cover the tank with glue, varnish, tar, or bitumen, and sprinkle the powder where necessary. The best plants for this purpose are nettle, fern, and clover.
Disruptive camouflage can alter the tank's shape and reduce visibility on multicoloured terrain. There will be instances where the terrain is monochrome, and a single colour on your tank is preferable. In this case, paint all tanks in the colour of the background.

In open terrain, use T-nets, covering the net with improvised material. If no net is available, position the tanks according to terrain. For instance, on ploughed land, place the tanks parallel to the furrows. This method will make the tank less visible by changing the shape of its shadow, as it will fall on the dark and light parts of the furrow.

If the landscape is irregular and has many features, place the tanks in their shadows to hide them. Make sure the shadow of the tank does not peek out of the shadow of the terrain.

Try to move in unfavourable conditions for enemy aircraft: fog, low cloud cover, rain, night. When movement during the day is necessary, use the terrain to your advantage. The commander of the tank unit and his crews must examine the map or the terrain itself and determine the most covered routes: forests, bushes, ravines. On open terrain, the movement must be done in short marches from cover to cover one echelon at a time.

During movement, it is necessary to confuse the enemy. For instance, each tank group should travel on a different road. These methods should be used on open terrain, when the possibility of discovery is at its highest.

A good way to confuse the enemy is to leave an imitation of a base in an area that you have already left. In order to do this, use half-covered tank models, half-models, and flat cutouts (fig. 4).

When leaving your base, imitate movement in false directions. For this, one or two tanks should make a trail leading to a concealed area close by, and a fake tank should be left in this direction, pretending to have broken down or fallen behind. For added realism, put it by the side of the road in some light concealment, to imitate repairs. 

When moving on the open road in daylight, drive on the side of the road with shade, and cover the headlights with covers, paper, or rags so that they do not shine. 

When choosing a place to stop, pick an area in the forest or in bushes near the edge of a ravine. Burned villages are also very good places to stop. Put your tanks underneath trees near walls of buildings that are still standing or hide them among structures. Choose a location with the aim that the approach to it is covered and it can be driven to from the main road in places with trees or bushes. Hide your track marks.

Practice discipline, do not move or walk about unnecessarily. Never bunch up your tanks or place them in rows, as this will make your stop more noticeable. Good techniques still do not guarantee that your maneuver will remain a secret. Even the best hidden tank can be given away by its uncamouflaged tracks or movement of soldiers or groups, and cancels out good camouflage techniques and puts your unit at risk of enemy attack.

In practice, there were many cases where the enemy discovered our tanks only due to an ignorance of basic rules of concealment. For instance, one tank unit on an extended march remained hidden due to using concealment techniques, but one tank that was parked in sparse bushes without any additional means of concealment gave away the location of the unit, and it was attacked by bombers. It is necessary to remember that any violation, even a seemingly insignificant one, of camouflage rules will result in undesirable consequences."

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