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DGA eyes next stage in Caméléon adaptive camouflage project

5th April 2022 - 16:32 GMT | by Flavia Camargos Pereira in Kansas City

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Caméléon offers real-time camouflage and changes the shape and colour of combat vehicles. (Photo: DGA/Nexter)

The next phase in the long-running Caméléon programme in France will comprise the implementation of a full-scale demonstrator installed on Scorpion vehicles, as well as an adaptive camouflage demonstrator for dismounted soldiers.

After conducting two test campaigns in its Caméléon project, the DGA now plans to develop a system for ground vehicles based on the use of AI that provides real-time adaptive camouflage which changes shape and colour according to the surrounding environment.

An official at the French defence procurement agency explained to Shephard that ‘several avenues for continued research have been identified to further improve the performance of this active camouflage skin’.

A full-scale demonstrator system will be installed on Scorpion vehicles and an adaptive camouflage demonstrator will be created for dismounted soldiers.

The DGA also plans to work on further technological refinements of the hexagonal pixels that comprise the active skin.

The official noted that adaptive camouflage enables land vehicles ‘to blend into their background while on the move, making them practically undetectable at a distance, whether in the visible or thermal infrared spectral bands’.

Caméléon comprises the feasibility study, design and evaluation of a camouflage demonstrator system for the protection and increased stealth of military systems, in particular land vehicles.

It also involves an AI-based software system that computes the characteristics of the surrounding environment and determines the best pattern to apply to the adaptive pixels.

Caméléon includes this active skin made of hexagonal pixels. (Photo: DGA and Nexter)

Initially, the active skin was designed in the form of a flexible kit for the platforms of the Scorpion programme.

The Caméléon project was launched in 2008 as an initiative by experts within DGA. In 2011, the French company Nexter Systems joined the initial phase of this effort as industrial project manager, in association with SADAL Engineering and several French university laboratories.

This first stage comprised the design and development of the adaptive pixelated screens, which were ‘based on different families of controllable materials selected after a preliminary study phase’, the DGA official highlighted.

The initial step also comprised the development of an algorithm and a pixel control interface as well as the advancement of the performance of the pixels.

Called Salamandre, the second phase of the programme began in 2016; DGA again partnered Nexter to work on the land domain and it worked with Airbus Helicopters to explore airborne applications.

This effort comprised the design, implementation and land-based evaluation of a complete 3m² demonstrator of the active skin composed of adaptive pixels mounted on a trailer.

Initial field tests with a prototype were conducted in September 2021, and a winter campaign was completed in January 2022 at the research and test facility of the DGA Land-based Technologies (DGA TT) division in Bourges, central France.

The trials were intended ‘to validate the potential and the robustness of the adaptive camouflage concept under different scenarios, in different environments and a variety of meteorological conditions’, the DGA official stated.

Caméléon is part of a broader effort by the French MoD to equip its armed force with cutting-edge defence systems. It involves several R&D and R&T programmes as well as investments in new technologies and the acquisition of new platforms.

Away from France, adaptive camouflage R&D has been undertaken by BAE Systems, both in its Cuttlefish solution (which differs from Caméléon by employing reflective LCD devices as a lightweight, low-powered modular display system) and the Adaptiv system that was developed and patented in Sweden for land vehicles to avoid detection from thermal sensor systems.

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