01 March 2009

Dazzle camouflage.

Someone told me, some time back, about a military technique of disguise called dazzle camouflage. It was a technique of painting war ships out at sea with bright patterns and colours as a form of camouflage during WW1 and WW2.
It seems an odd technique, given that it draws attention to the ship, out there by itself in this vast stretch of water, rather than hiding it. But wikipedia explains that the purpose of this method was confusion rather than concealment; the bright covering made it difficult for visual rangefinders* to estimate its speed and bearing, whether the bow or stern is in view, whether the ship is moving towards or away from the viewer. 
I am curious to know how well this works. How many colours, how intricate the patterns, how much of the ship has to be covered for it to reach its destination unassailed?

*Rangefinders were based, so I've read, on the coincidence principle, with an optical mechanism that is human-operated. The operator in question would adjust this reader/mechanism until two half-images of the target lined up to form one whole. Dazzle worked because the clashing patterns looked abnormal when the two halves were aligned.

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