Thermal camouflage

Some companies offer suitable equipment to camouflage the thermal signature of troops on the battlefield - at least for short duration.

But a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Non-camouflaged weapons give away the position of soldiers in daylight as at night. To camouflage the soldier's thermal signature alone won't suffice, as barrels of guns become hot when fired. A hot surface is visible as a suspicious very bright or very dark spot on a thermal sensor monitor.

Daylight camouflage of weapons is possible in classic sniper style with textiles wrapped around. Airspray technology offers further camouflaging possibilities, but that's for wartime only - difficult to train in peacetime.
But how to camouflage the thermal signature of a rifle or even machine gun at night?
The old water-cooled machine guns were probably best in this regard, at least during the first couple hundred shots.

Maybe thermal sleeves as seen on tank guns might help? Tank guns have these insulations to prevent accuracy loss by uneven thermal influences on the barrel. An insulation should help to keep the thermal signature down for at least the beginning of the firefight.

A special challenge might be posed by the necessarily exposed flash suppressors, whereas real suppressors ("silencers")might be covered with a thermal sleeve just like the barrel.

Thermal camouflage might also be interesting for other items, like the launching units of ATGMs and in general many metallic equipment items that tend to become very hot in sunlight.

We need to make a good all-round, full-spectrum job concerning camouflage to increase our troops' survivability in high-intensity conflict; the chain is only as strong as its weakest link!


  1. Sven,

    There can be few things as quaint as watching almost "disembodied"
    hot weapons barrels "floating", held only by shadowy ghosts traversing the field of view of one's thermal sight. Amusing to watch I'm sure, but not so much fun for an enemy trying to move after a firefight, flashing their
    "heaters" for all sundry to see through their thermals.



  2. Norfolk;
    to cure the probelm with camouflage might be simpler than it seems at first sight.

    Even the heat of the barrel should be containable with a thermal sleeve for a short period.
    The receiver could be kept hidden from thermal sights with some no-R&D thermal insulation measures - it doesn't heat up much.
    Plus it's possible to pour some water on an insulation material too cool it.

    The barrels would be the greatest problem. Barrels get very hot and to just pour water on barrels is not really an option; it would be quite awkward at night and could warp the barrel, requiring re-zeroing at the very least.
    A simple fix might be to simply change the barrel and hide the hot one in an insulated container till it's OK to reveal it again.

    A Beretta representative was quite nice on the Eurosatoy 2008 and explained their new "ARX 160 automatic rifle" to me in detail. An assault rifle with quick change barrel!

    This anti-thermal sensor camouflage problem is a typical "we didn't need to fight against modern opponents for sixty years" problem. It doesn't have enough attention simply because it's not obviously enough by combat experience.