Secrecy News

Questions for the Record: Arctic Camouflage

The camouflage netting used by the U.S. Army in the Arctic region is obsolete and ineffective, Army officials told Congress in response to a question for the record in a newly published hearing volume.

“The existing Arctic camouflage system has not been upgraded since its inception in the mid-1970s. The Army’s current camouflage system, the Ultra-Lightweight Camouflage Net System (ULCANS) was developed in the late 1990s and only included Woodland and Desert patterns. Due to improvements in technology, these variants are now ineffective against current and emerging advanced sensor threats and are in need of updates,” the officials said.

“The next-generation ULCANS capabilities add three new variants (Arctic, Urban, and Aviation) and upgrade the existing systems (Woodland and Desert). The next-generation ULCANS will provide concealment from visual, near infrared, short-wave infrared through long-wave infrared, ultraviolet, radar, and multi-spectral/hyper-spectral detection.”

“Ultimately,” but not yet, “these systems will provide U.S. forces detection avoidance and sensor defeat capabilities as a low-cost force multiplier,” they said in response to the question submitted by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK). See FY2016 Defense Authorization: Airland, Senate Armed Services Committee, March 19, 2015 (published April 2016), at page 95.

Questions for the record (QFRs) constitute a valuable though unpredictable and often neglected genre. At their best, they serve to elicit new information in response to focused, sometimes unwelcome questions. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees are now among the most interesting practitioners of the form. Senate Intelligence Committee hearing volumes used to be a must-read for their QFRs alone, but that Committee ceased publishing them over a decade ago.