US Army's Dual Texture Gradient Camouflage

In the early 1980s, the U.S. Army’s 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) painted their vehicles in an odd-looking “square” camouflage nicknamed,"Dual-Tex."
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M60A1 with turret in travel position--painted in Dual Texture Gradient Camouflage Pattern

 M60A1 with turret in travel position--painted in Dual Texture Gradient Camouflage Pattern

Anyone who spent time in Germany in the early 1980s and came in contact with units of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), will probably recall the odd looking “square” camouflage used on that unit’s vehicles. What was this odd pattern? Where did it come from? What happened to it?

Officially, the pattern was called “Dual Texture Gradient” and was probably the first true “scientific” camo pattern used by the U.S. military. Historically, camouflage patterns used by the world’s militaries have more artistic roots. In the late 1880s, Abbot and Gerald Thayer began to study the natural disruptive patterns of animals and how they helped creatures avoid their predators. This formed the basis of early disruptive patterns which relied on the breakup of boundary features of an object, unfortunately, a disruptive pattern that might fool the eyesight of a lion, my make an object even more obvious to the detection by the human eye.

3/2 CAV M151A2 in Dual-Tex photographed at Border Camp Reed, Roetz, Bavaria.

3/2 CAV M151A2 in Dual-Texture camouflage painted pattern photographed at Border Camp Reed, Roetz, Bavaria. 

For most of WWI and WWII, camouflage design was done by artists and had varying ranges of success. With the advent of night vision in the 1950s and the advances in optics and fire control through the cold war era, many nations lost interest in camouflage patterns.

In the late 1960s with the US involved in the Vietnam War, camouflage research was revived. The U.S. Army’s Mobility Equipment Research and Development Center (MERDC) came up with a vehicular pattern that became the standard pattern from 1974 through the mid-1980s when it was phased out in favor of the NATO 3-color standard pattern.

THE DUAL TEXTURE CONCEPT

Dual Texture Gradient Digital Camo depicted on an M901 TOW vehicle.

Dual Texture Gradient Digital Camo depicted on an M901 TOW vehicle.

In 1976, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy R. O’Neill and West Point professor of engineering psychology applied human science to camouflage. He modified the basic MERDC pattern, keeping the large disruptive patterns of that scheme, but breaking them up further into 4” squares, in essence a camouflage pattern within a camouflage pattern, hence the name “Dual Texture” At distance, the larger pattern or “macropattern” is visible and would be indistinguishable from the standard MERDC pattern, at close range, or through the magnification of a gunners scope, the secondary “micropattern” emerges, the idea was to mimic nature, at a distance you see the tree, up close, the leaves. In his 1979 article in Armor, O’Neill compared the pattern to the art form called “pointillism.”

M35 and M151A2 in Dual-Textured camouflage,  Camp Reed Roetz Bavaria.

M35 and M151A2 Camp Reed Roetz Bavaria 

O’Neill wrote that the MERDC pattern relied too heavily on the application of “garnish,” such as netting and foliage to the vehicle. He theorized that in a rapid, mobile war, such “garnish” would rapidly be lost or destroyed. He sought to create a pattern that could stand alone.

TESTING THE CAMOUFLAGE PATTERN

The rather haphazard method of applying the squares is evident on this M60 turret.

The rather haphazard method of applying the squares is evident on this M60 turret. 

The pattern went through a series of informal tests. One, done at West Point in 1977, involved 260 students. The subjects were asked to find pattern painted shapes in photographs taken at different distances. In this test, “Dual-Tex” fared well, it took, the students an average of 11.97 seconds to find the MERDC painted object, and 15.33 seconds to locate the Dual-Tex painted object.

M60 MBT in Dual-Tex camo, courtesy of Chuck Jaekel

M60 MBT in Dual-Tex.

M577 of 3/2 Armored Cavalry at Camp Gates, near Marktredwitz, Upper Franconia

Mike Chancey took this photo in 1983 or 1984 of an M577 of Co. D, 1st Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry at Camp Gates, near Marktredwitz, Upper Franconia.

A member of the US Militaria Forum spotted this jacket in Dual-Tex camouflage at a show in the 1990s. Does anyone have more info on Dual-Tex used for uniform camouflage during the late 1970s-early 80s?

Anecdotally, the pattern was experimented on uniforms, as well. A member of the US Militaria Forum spotted this jacket at a show in the 1990s. Does anyone have more info on Dual-Tex used for uniform camouflage during the late 1970s-early 80s? 

A second test was conducted at Aberdeen Proving Ground in May 1977. This test employed a group of attack helicopter pilots and some artillery spotters from the 82nd Airborne Division. The men were placed in the commander’s station of a T-62 that had been acquired for the test. They were to use the tank’s TKN-3 sight to locate pattern painted M113s in the test area and then lay the gun on the target. It took the men an average of 22.32 seconds to find the MERDC painted vehicle and 40.35 seconds to locate the Dual-Tex painted M113.

Finally, in 1979, the pattern was adopted by the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The dual texture pattern went public.

M60 main battle tank of 3/2 Armored Cavalry.

M60 main battle tank of 3/2 Armored Cavalry. 

HOW DUAL TEXTURE WAS APPLIED

Page from manual depicting the difference between Dual-Tex and MERADCOM camouflage.

Page from manual depicting the difference between Dual-Tex and MERADCOM camouflage.

Application of the pattern was varied. For the Aberdeen tests, a 4” roller was purchased at a local hardware store. Soldiers from the 2nd ACR report that sponges were cut into 4” squares, dipped in the paint and “blotted” on while others say they used cardboard with 4” holes cut in it and brushed away.

To date, the author has been unable to find an official “Dual-Tex” vehicle pattern, though t seems the Army used the MERDC pattern as a model and applied the paint in squares rather than broad strokes. In fact, in his works on dual texture, O’Neill indicates that the overall pattern is less important than the basic concept. Like many MERDC era paint jobs, they were unit-applied and usually “eyeballed” variation was the standard.

REMEMBERING THE CAMOUFLAGE: TALES FROM THE FIELD

There is a lot of lore surrounding Dual-Tex. Many 2nd ACR veterans attribute the pattern to the regiment's CO at the time, Colonel Robert E. Wagner. How the 2nd ACR came to use the pattern, whose idea it was and what channels approved it, seem to have been lost to time. During the time Col. Wagner was in command of the 2nd ACR, Dual-Tex was used by the regiment..

Col. Wagner went by the call sign “Dueler Six.” Some 2nd ACR soldiers say the pattern was nicknamed “Dueler Dots.”

Dual-Tex painted M113 undergoing track repair

Dual-Tex-painted M113 undergoing track repair. 

The largest, and most consistent, myth behind Dual-Tex is the Soviet optics tale. Though the story is told in several forms, it basically goes like this:

The Soviets milled the optics in their tank sighting systems in such a way as to leave “lines” that formed a sort of invisible grid on the lens, this “grid” translated to 4” squares at 1,500 meters. Therefore, if a Soviet gunner looked at a U.S. tank painted in Dual-Tex, the 4” squares in the paint—meshed with the optic milling lines—and made it hard for the gunner to sight in on the target.

Some M60A3s and M113s of 1st Squadron taken at Camp Gates in 1983.

Some M60A3s and M113s of 1st Squadron taken at Camp Gates in 1983. These vehicles were part of the reaction force. That is  why the gun tubes are over the front--"Ready to roll in 15 minutes."

LTC O’Neill alludes to the fact that the squares were the result of computer modeling, and were a by-product of the limits of computer graphics at the time. This, of course, debunks this theory. This may have been the tale told to the regiment to hide the real experiment.

Dual-Tex M113s including an ambulance.

Dual-Tex M113s including an ambulance.

2nd ACR M113s Camp Reed Roetz, West Germany

2nd ACR M113s Camp Reed Roetz,  West Germany

M113 Camp Read Roetz, West Germany

This view of an M113 at Camp Read shows the camo pattern along the top of the hull. 

View of an 3/2 ACR M113 showing the front hull camouflage pattern

View of an 3/2 ACR M113 showing the front hull camouflage pattern

In the 1986-87 timeframe, the 2nd ACR switched from the M60 to the M1 tanks and Col. Wagner moved on. The 2nd ACR removed Dual-Tex from its vehicles to conform to the new NATO 3-color standard.

A 2nd Cav M60A1 in Dual-Texture Gradient Camouflage.

A 2nd Cavalry M60A1 in Dual-Texture Gradient Camouflage.

AFTERWORD: Pixelated Camo Patterns Considered

In 2004, the Canadian Military and the U.S. Marine Corps announce a new “digital” camouflage pattern. After years of research, the scientists agreed: The human eye has a hard time tracking “pixilated” patterns. The Marines were granted patent number 6805957 for their new pattern. The extensive patent documentation cites Col. O’Neill’s work and the Dual-Tex concept in depth. It seems that the good Colonel was years ahead of his time!

Editor's note: We are desperately seeking more photos of vehicles painted in Dual-Tex camouflage pattern.  If you own one that you can share, please send a high-resolution photo to jadams-graf@aimmedia.com. We will update this article with new images and proper credit.  Keep 'em rolling! 

RELATED:

*NATO 3-Color Camouflage

*US Army's Dual-Texture Gradient Camouflage

*CARC: A Cold War Camouflage

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