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.
A HyperStealth staffer disappears outdoors behind a section of Quantum Stealth material. This simulated photo shows the effects of the new camouflage system that actually utilizes refracting light to display surroundings behind the user.
Cramer used these insights to use mathematical modeling of fractals and develop military and commercial camouflage designs and techniques never before designed. His unique approach has worked well. The Afghanistan National Army selected the company’s Afghan Forest pattern in 2009 through a U.S.-sponsored contract that will ultimately produce more than a million uniforms. The same year, Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) requested three versions of HyperStealth’s Urban Patterns, a project completed in 2010.
Cramer followed these successes with an “intelligent” textile that changes color to match the wearer’s background in a variety of surroundings. Know as SMARTCAMO, this technique can be adapted for vehicles, the likely first application since the chameleon uniform requires a battery power source and processors that individual troops may be reluctant to carry. Today, the change process is manual, but Cramer is confident that sensors will automate color changes.
To date, Cramer has created more than 10,000 copyrighted patterns, with 27 used for more than 1.8 million uniforms and 3,000 vehicles. HyperStealth is recognized by NATO’s Program for Security through Science. The armed forces or police of Jordan, Chile, the United Arab Emirates, Slovakia, India, Afghanistan, the United Kingdom and U.S. Special Operations Command, as well as several undisclosed countries, currently rely on HyperStealth products for operations or training. Thirty-four other countries are currently working with the company.
Cramer’s designs also are gaining commercial recognition. Hunters throughout the U.S. are using W.L. Gore’s Optifade camouflage lines. “For hunters, our patterns involve elements that deer cannot process,” Cramer explained. “This means game can’t see hunters, depending on the patterns used, either in open country or in tree stands. This success is generating a lot of interest.”
Cramer’s latest project, however, is truly far out. Quantum Stealth utilizes light’s refractory properties to cover the user with imagery from behind. This adaptive camouflage literally mimics the environment in which the operator is concealed. “People don’t believe that making people and things disappear by wrapping them in Quantum Stealth material is possible, but the truth is, we bend light every day with fiber optics. I just figured out a way to do it differently,” Cramer said. Quantum Stealth is effective not only against visual detection and also defeats infrared and thermal systems.
A HyperStealth staffer disappears in a room behind a section of Quantum Stealth material. This simulated photo shows the effects of the new camouflage system that actually utilizes refracting light to display surroundings behind the user.
What Cramer can’t conceal is the rapid pace of camouflage technology. Science truly has taken over a process that recently relied almost entirely on art and appearance. HyperStealth has harnessed the underlying principles of human behavior and perception so that military forces and other users can gain significant advantages in the field, proving that camouflage involves far more than meets the eye.
A set of boonie hats showing some of the color offerings of HyperStealth’s Spec4ce pattern. Colors match environments from winter snow to jungle. Several color variants are classified or proprietary and are not included.