Soldiers could get uniforms for urban jungle
Camo tailored for Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver -- but not Ottawa

The Ottawa Citizen | November 17, 2009
By David Pugliese

OTTAWA Future Canadian soldiers could be wearing new uniforms designed to provide camouflage on the streets of our largest cities.

The Defence Department will know by March what designs might work for what is being called a Canadian Urban Environment Pattern.

Those designs are to be based on the "unique requirements" of the urban settings of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, according to an outline of the project being co-ordinated by scientists at Defence Research and Development Canada in Suffield, Alta.

Ottawa, the nerve centre of government and the military, was left off the list because it doesn't rate as a major metropolitan centre.

"We're not trying to slight any city in the country," explained Scott Duncan, head of the soldier and systems protection group at DRDC Suffield. "We chose the three largest urban centres to have baseline data in this early development project."

He said information gathered on what patterns might work best in those three cities could also have applications for other urban centres.

Duncan said the $25,000 study to come up with camouflage patterns did not necessarily mean a new uniform would be produced for the Canadian Forces anytime soon. Once the patterns are determined, the results will be presented to the Canadian military and it will be up to the leadership on how to proceed, he added.

"If you were to refer back to the Canada First Defence Strategy, one of the principal mandates that has been given to our military is that they must provide protection to the citizens of Canada and help exercise Canadian sovereignty," Duncan said.

"Given our large urban population, should any operations be required, there's a good probability that some of them will be taking place in urban environments."

However, Eric Graves, the editor of Soldier Systems Daily, a U.S. website that reports on the uniform and equipment industry, questioned whether it made sense to have camouflage based on the landscape of Canadian cities. Various studies indicate the world's population in developing nations is becoming more focused in urban areas and military officers often talk about future warfare being in those areas.

"It makes zero sense for the Canadian military to produce an urban pattern based on their own cities unless they plan on fighting there," Graves noted.

"If that's the case, then it is the perfect choice."

Still, Graves said, if the Canadian military strategy is to continue supporting the United Nations and NATO on its operations, "the answer is that they have to take a broader look, and develop a pattern more suited to use in ungoverned or under-governed areas that are rapidly urbanizing."

The contract for the Canadian camouflage pattern was awarded to HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp. in Maple Ridge, B.C.

The original contract requirement from DRDC Suffield noted that the current military uniform to protect against chemical, biological and radiological substances was available in only the desert and temperate woodland patterns.

Clement Laforce, deputy director general for DRDC Suffield, said the patterns that would be produced are not just for chemical or biological protective suits, but also for general use for the Canadian Forces.

An urban camouflage uniform was designed in the U.S. in the 1990s based on slate grey patterns. It is used by some U.S. police tactical teams, U.S. special forces on urban missions and a number of foreign special forces and law enforcement units.

However, Duncan said uniforms designed for a U.S. urban environment might not work in a Canadian setting. "There's factors such as light, the amount and types of vegetation and weather patterns," he said. "These are all parameters you take into consideration when you develop these patterns."