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Camouflaged Ships: An Illustrated History

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Friday’s deployment of USS Freedom (LCS 1) will revive a tradition of camouflaging warships. Outside of smaller patrol boats, the U.S. largely abandoned elaborate color schemes and stuck with haze gray. 

USS Freedom in its new paint scheme on Feb. 22. US Navy Photo

USS Freedom in its new paint scheme on Feb. 22. US Navy Photo

But with the advent of the Littoral Combat Ship, a combatant designed to operate close to shore, the concept has returned. To put Freedom’s new look in context, the following are some examples of patterns from the past.

 

Birth of ‘Dazzle’

At the outbreak of World War I, navies struggled how to conceal their ships on the open seas. Painting vessels grey helped reduce visibility, but it was difficult to consistently blend with ever-changing environments and weather conditions. Prominent trails of smoke and wake also left ships vulnerable to being identified by ene