A Slovakian Air Force MiG-29 painted with the HyperStealth Digital Thunder pattern.
Surprisingly, the camouflage industry is small, with an improbably eclectic group of experts who have revolutionized its techniques and products. One of these experts is Guy Cramer, CEO of HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp., a company near Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada that specializes in camouflage pattern design and development.
Unlike his associates, Cramer claims absolutely no degrees or conventional professional credentials in the camouflage craft—except for an amazingly creative and effective eye for design and more than a decade of successful experience. Cramer’s background is unusual to say the least. His grandfather was Donald Hings, a Canadian electrical engineer and inventor who created the walkie-talkie in 1942, earning the Order of Canada and the Order of the British Empire for his efforts. Hings, Canada’s leading scientist in World War II, was the country’s only professionally certified engineer to earn that designation without a college degree. Cramer followed his grandfather’s path, working as his apprentice for several years after high school. Among other accomplishments, he developed the ‘passive negative ion generator,” a system that produces negatively charged molecules, or ions, in the air. Physiologists have proven that breathing an overabundance of positive ions for long periods can be debilitating. When humans ingest or inhale more negatively charged ions, however, their physical performance improves. Athletes and others, including special operations forces, who must perform at physical peaks for extended periods use generators to increase capabilities and avoid possible side effects of performance-enhancing drugs and dietary supplements. NASA considers Cramer a world authority on air ions and consults him frequently.
So how did this home-grown scientist get into camouflage? Strangely enough, the answer is paintball. Cramer also is an accomplished paintball competitor. He became interested in camouflage designs to avoid getting seen and shot. “If you’ve ever been shot with paintballs, you know they really hurt,” he said. Cramer relied on his own scientific background in creating new camouflage designs, and within a year, King Abdulla II of Jordan selected HyperStealth to develop a digital camouflage pattern, aptly named KA2, for the nation’s military and police forces. Nearly 400,000 KA2 uniforms have been produced, and the same design is painted on military and law enforcement vehicles.
After more investigation, Cramer joined forces with retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Tim O’Neill, the expert who promoted the digital designs now in heavy use. According to O’Neill, effective camouflage patterns combine macro and micro patterns to break up the human body’s symmetric shape and also match the camouflage to backgrounds with smaller fractal geometric designs with “cryptic coloration,” matching fabric hues to surroundings. Fractals are shapes that replicate themselves in successively smaller sizes that generate unusual shapes that blend into surroundings. Digital patterns accomplish these dual goals efficiently and effectively. Most camo is geared for short-distance use, since at long distance observers see most objects in shades of gray, a condition known as isoluminance.
Cramer also consulted with Dr. Jay Neitz, a scientist at the Medical College of Wisconsin and an ungulate vision specialist, which means he studies how hoofed animals see things. Neitz helped Cramer understand what animals see and don’t see. Neitz established that deer, cows and other ungulates have dichromatic vision, which means they only see two primary colors, blue and yellow, but their ability to detect light in the blue and ultraviolet spectra is a thousand times greater than humans. Shades of red appear black or gray to ungulates. Also, deer and other animals have wider fields of vision but less visual acuity than people because their eyes are on the sides of their heads. In human terms, ungulate vision is about 20/40. Obviously, deer hunters are interested in Neitz’s work.