Towards a unique “multi-environment patchwork” for the French armies – FOB

One side turns for the French military. From 2024, the Central European and desert camouflage of their battle suit will disappear in favor of a new “multi-environment discoloration” (BME) common to all armies, directorates and services. The result of six years of work, it involves an investment of € 200 million from the Ministry of the Armed Forces.

A unique F3 truss

Swatches directly contribute to the success of the combatant’s mission because it allows camouflage that is indistinguishable in its environment day or night. It is also the visual identity of the French army “, Sums up the General Staff of the armies. If they constituted one significant operational progress “However, when they were adopted in the 1990s, the current regionalized models are no longer suitable” to the challenges of the 21st century “and” to tighten operations “.

The first drafts go back to March 2016 on the initiative of the Army. Many Allied armies then opted for “multicam” to suit virtually all terrains and seasons. The preparatory work in connection with the F3-espalier and then the choice of France’s brown earth color for the land vehicles made the armies think about the development of their camouflage. BME was born. Its design has since been carried out by the Army Technical Section (STAT), an expert in combat equipment, and the service of the Commissariat of the Armed Forces (SCA), which is responsible for industrialization.

Credit: EMA

The new F3 outfit, which has been delivered since 2019, preserves the old Central Europe, desert and mountain markings. Its distribution was nevertheless limited to infantry units and those deployed in external operations. From 2024, this version will be phased out in favor of a final F3, a BME model this time extended to all armies, directorates and departments in the ministry. All will be delivered in parallel, according to quantities adapted to each.

This BME is in a way a change of the F3 market announced at the end of 2018. The industrial assembly therefore does not change, the companies in question continue to produce, but on the basis of a different substance and a different matrix. A € 200 million envelope is planned under the Military Programming Act to address the fatigue of this new generation. The investment is significant, but the replacement of the old models with a single BME is also synonymous with rationalization and logistical efficiency.

Generate a trompe l’oeil effect

This BME is the answer to an equation that connects a background, shapes and colors, six in total. As a backdrop, STAT relied on the brown land of France, a multi-purpose base chosen for Army vehicles. To deceive the enemy’s eye, BME then consists of ” a tangle of large cracked shapes softened by modulation effects and other small sharp spots Among these shapes and other vertical branches, a few triangles inspired by Extractable geometric patterns for Scorpion vehicles.

After some distance this became variegated ” merges, i.e. the eye no longer distinguishes the spots beyond the reach of small arms and presents itself in the brown earth tones of France characteristic of the Scorpion force; “, Indicates the army. Result: increased stealth for the fighter and a 25% gain in detection time.

BME swatches and, mixed with other spots, its triangles inspired by Scorpion camouflage (Credits: EMA)

The BME will be effective in all environments, from desert to undergrowth and from urban to snow-free or slightly snow-capped mountains. The only exceptions, totally snow-covered and Arctic environments required a specific declination. This version uses the same matrix of spots, but is based on a white background, to which are added light gray elements and a few hints of a dark ” close to the stems inked by moisture “.

This new variation has as much an aesthetic vocation as an identity vocation. ” The soldier very often becomes the first ambassador when he is in operation “, Points out Lieutenant Colonel Sébastien, project manager at STAT. The soldier, wherever he is stationed, must therefore have a visual signature that enables the military and civilian actors encountered to easily identify him.

But the development is not just visual. STAT and SCA have actually utilized the initial feedback from the “intermediate” F3 to rework the material and ergonomics. The cut is thus better adapted. The drug will gain in comfort and flexibility thanks to a small reduction in weight and a lower percentage of Aramid, EMAT specifies. All this without compromising thermostability and abrasion resistance.

Six years of development and evaluations

At first glance, this “multi-environment” pattern does not seem revolutionary. Others, long before France, extended its use to all their armed forces. The Americans and the British at the forefront, but also, very recently, the Belgian neighbor through program Belgian defense clothing system (BDCS). BME is explicitly designed to match or even surpass the performance of these foreign systems. Ambitious and therefore complex, its development required six years of effort.

Shaping a tangle of forms of BME would have required no less than 1200 hours of work. To validate its development, STAT evaluated and compared the operational performance of 12 different bariolays in multiple environments. ” For each of the bariolayers, the goal was to identify distances and detection times by type “, Explains Commander Arnaud, detection specialist at STAT. The comparison has also been extended to current French uniforms as well as to the most successful foreign stripes, such as.Operational camouflage pattern American or the Multi-terrain pattern British.

Only three of the 12 assessed solutions eventually reached the required level, ie. at least 10% operational performance gain “. The selected matrix was then screened through to identify imperfections, correct certain details and achieve a few efficiency points. BME was also subjected to the assessment of a panel of 300 soldiers from the three armies and responsible for measuring aesthetic and modernity criteria. Achieving this result will have required more than two years of evaluations and changes.

The prototype phase also brought its share of challenges. One of them, printing gradients, was not possible with current funds. The sponsors approached a historical player in the French textile industry, Tissus d’Avesnières. This company based in Laval (Mayenne) specializes in the development and production of complex prints on fabric. The various challenges have been met, the industrial component is now ready to launch large-scale production to be there in two years.

BME striping is ultimately intended to be a precursor to future developments. Because behind the scenes, others are already working on the next generation. STAT estimates that camouflage in 2030-2040 may become “active”. The substance, potentially intelligent, then instantly adapts to its environment to make its carrier virtually invisible. The necessary technologies do not yet exist or are very immature. Some are developed through CHAMELEON / SALAMANDER programin connection with CENTURION program of DGA.

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