Morale: Many Shades Of Green

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July 18, 2016: A year after the 2015 announcement that China was organizing a fifth service (in addition to army, navy, air force and Aerospace Force), the new Rocket Force has distinctive uniforms. Each of the five services has a distinctive color for its dress and work uniforms. For the Rocket Force the color is dark green. The army has, since 2007, been pine green, the navy dark blue while the air force and aerospace forces have been blue-grey. The Rocket Force controls the strategic (long range) missiles armed with nuclear weapons. The Aerospace Force controls satellites, launchers and ground based units that can jam or otherwise electronically interfere with enemy satellites and space vehicles.

China undertook a major modernization of its military uniforms in 2007 when it was announced that over a billion dollars was being spent to buy new combat uniforms for all its troops in addition to new non-combat uniforms. The new combat uniforms use a digital camouflage pattern similar to the one used by American soldiers and marines since 2003. The new dress and work uniforms had the distinctive color scheme long standard in other nations.

The new Chinese combat uniforms got the most media attention. Digital camouflage uses "pixels" (little square or round spots of color, like you will find on your computer monitor if you look very closely), instead of just splotches of different colors. Naturally, this was called "digital camouflage" when it was first invented three decades ago. This pattern proved considerably more effective at hiding troops than older methods. For example, in tests, it was found that soldiers wearing digital pattern uniforms were 50 percent more likely to escape detection by other troops. What made the digital pattern work was the way the human brain processed information. The small "pixels" of color on the cloth makes the human brain see vegetation and terrain, not people. One could provide a more technical explanation, but the "brain processing" one pretty much says it all.

Another advantage of the digital patterns is that they can also fool troops using night vision scopes. American troops are increasingly running up against opponents who have night optics, so wearing a camouflage pattern that looks like vegetation to someone with a night scope, is useful.

By 2010 China had nearly two million troops equipped with the new uniforms. There are four camouflage patterns (urban, forest, desert and ocean), although the woodland pattern also works in urban areas, just not as well as the special urban pattern. The new uniforms have a lot of other improvements, based on feedback from the troops. The new uniforms are also sturdier, and are able to survive 700 washings, versus about 140 with the current uniforms.

The government gave the new uniforms a lot of coverage in the state controlled media. This was very visible evidence that the Chinese military was being modernized. Now the new dress uniforms are getting a lot of media play because China needs volunteers with crucial technical and other skills to volunteer to make a career of the military.

 


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