Taiwan takes the possibility of urban combat in the homeland more seriously than most; in the event of a Chinese invasion, the entire country would become a battleground on Day One. In the recent annual Combat Readiness Week, Republic of China (RoC) armored units were spotted on the streets of Taipei as usual. This time though they were trying to blend in with the cityscape disguised as construction vehicles, scrap heaps and other urban features.
A spokesperson for Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense told a press conference that this year the armored brigades were experimenting with new approaches to combat concealment, using camouflage netting and borrowing features of urban scenery to improve their survivability.
The old military saying, “if we can see it, we can hit it; if we can hit it, we can kill it,” has never been truer than with modern precision weapons. While invisibility may not be possible, being less obvious and being able to see the enemy before they see you is a key to survival.
A CM-32 Clouded Leopard Infrantry Fighting Vehicle disguised as a construction vehicle
Youth Daily News
Several images released by Youth Daily News, the Ministry of Defense’s media outlet, show CM-32 Clouded Leopard armored vehicles disguised as bright yellow construction vehicles. The CM-32 is an infantry fighting vehicle, armed with a 30mm cannon and carrying eight passengers, with a role similar to the U.S. M2 Bradley. Rather than making something the size of a truck disappear, the RoC Army cloaked them as civilian vehicles with a combination of cloth and yellow-painted wooden boards.
A tank concealed in a junkyard with metallic grey sheeting and scrpt metal
Youth Daily News
Other images show a main battle tank, possible a CM-11 Brave Tiger, concealed in a junkyard. Rather than the usual camouflage netting it is draped in shiny grey material with strategically-placed pieces of scrap metal, completely breaking up the outline of the tank. This is similar to the normal approach used to camouflage tanks, except that the method usually involves branches and other vegetation. The same hermit-crab principle of borrowing from the surroundings work just as well here.
Elsewhere the RoC units took advantage of the cover provided by the environment and took shelter under the city’s many underpasses and bridges. In a combat situation armored vehicles are rugged enough to simply drive into a building for cover, but obviously this is not possible in peacetime.
Personnel carriers shelter in an underpass. They grey color and the vegetation on the netting match … [+] the background.
Youth Daily News
Concealing armor in urban settings has always been a challenge. During the Cold War, the British Army painted the tanks in its Berlin Brigade with an unusual camouflage scheme of dull rectangular blocks. Again, the aim was to break up the silhouette of the vehicle so it melts into a background of straight lines and right angles. The idea has been recently revived with the new Challenger 2 ‘Streetfighter’ upgrade.
The ‘Streetfighter’ upgrade to the UK’s Challenger II tank has a blocky camouflage to make it harder … [+] to pick out in urban scenery.
UK Ministry of Defence
Technology may one day provide better types of urban camouflage. In 2011 BAE Systems unveiled their Adaptiv system, a covering of hexagonal tiles to change its appearance at will, not unlike James Bond’s Aston Martin Vanquish with a fictional ‘adaptive camouflage cloak.’ The makers claimed that Adaptive could make a tank look like a car or even a cow. The initial version only covers the infra-red range, but the makers believed a visual chameleon effect would also be possible. In 2014 a Polish company showed their PL-01 ‘stealth tank’ using BAE’s Adaptiv technology.
The Taiwanese exercise demonstrates their forces’ willingness to fight an invasion street by street if need be; preparedness is important, and camouflage is likely to play a significant part in getting off the first shot. However, if deterrence does fail, the RoC’s best chance of stopping an invasion may lie more with an arsenal of new missiles now being acquired from the U.S., which could break up any attack before it even gets close to Taiwan.