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Camouflage is, whether natural or manufactured, an adaptation to help lessen the ability to discern an object from its surrounding environment. This can mean anything from decreasing the chances of getting shot to blending in to a background outright. Also, camouflage can be as simple as the specially-designed uniforms of GDI Sniper Teams to the high tech optic camouflage systems used by the Brotherhood of Nod.
Military camouflage did not enter standard military service until the 1900s. Prior to that, most armies adopted brightly colored uniforms for service, in order to make identification easier and foster unit cohesion. During the 1700s and 1800s, the poor accuracy of rifles and the tendency of armies to march in rows and columns largely eliminated the need for camoflague. Scouting units and militia would wear neutral tones, in order to make them harder to spot, but it wasn't until Western armies started to suffer enormous losses that they gave regular soldiers drab uniforms.
The First World War was the first major war where all the major participants began experimenting with camouflage. While the majority of the soldiers simply had duller, less noticeable uniforms, snipers and scouts developed specialized camouflage gear, including netting to mimic plant life.
Second World War
During the Second World War, the Allied forces issued their troops with "olive drab" patterns. They also experimented with the gap generator, which could reset the fog of war over a battlefield, concealing a base from enemy incursions. The first experiments in active camouflage, the Allied Phase transport, was invented. This system rendered the phase transport invisible to the human eye by bending light around the tank. A Soviet cyborg named Volkov stole the prototype and the designs were lost. With the fall of the Soviet Union, it seemed as though the unique invisibility system was lost forever.
The Soviets also used camouflage. While their infantry were generally given standard olive uniforms and brown coats, their vehicles had several camouflage patterns designed for urban, forest, and desert environments. Interestingly, Soviets tanks were most often seen painted with black and grey urban camouflage, even in snowy environments.
First Tiberium War
During the First Tiberium War, both GDI and Nod forces experimented with camouflage. GDI troopers operating in desert regions were equipped with "chocolate chip" camouflage (known officially as 6-color desert camouflage), a design incorporating six dull colors, effective in desert situations. Nod designs varied, but most units were given typical urban camouflage. Commandos on either side generally chose camouflage to fit the situation.
- Main article: Optic camouflage
Nod also had developed active camouflage systems. Black Hand Chameleons wore an integrated stealth system, rendering them invisible. The Nod "Ezekiel's Wheel" stealth tank possessed the Lazarus shield, which allowed it to be cloaked from view. While unconfirmed, it is possible that Nod somehow acquired the plans for the phase transport.
Second Tiberium War
During the Second Tiberium War and Firestorm Crisis, GDI equipped all of its forces with (3-color) desert camouflage, as much of the earth had begun to turn into an inhospitable wasteland. Nod forces dressed all in black, generally, since they preferred nighttime raids. Nod's spies and stealth tanks were equipped with more advanced active camo systems. Also, Nod developed the Stealth generator and a mobile variant, which, like the Allied Gap technology, could conceal an army from view, this time by creating a "bubble" that bends light around it. Instead of making the area impenetrable to view, it makes the units themselves invisible.
Third Tiberium War
The GDI maintained the usage of tan camouflage in the Third Tiberium War, except for Sniper Teams, who used specialized camouflage patterns and covert ops training to render themselves almost invisible.
Nod Militia wore civilian clothing, and those with rocket launchers often dressed in bright red ponchos, with no regard for stealth. The Black Hand soldiers wore black powered armor with large red capes; their bulky armor and use of flamethrowers made disguising them difficult. The Chameleon Spy program had been shifted to a combat role, and these new Shadow Teams were given advanced stealth generators and ninja-esque training, making them virtually invisible. Nod Commandos carried portable stealth systems as well. The stealth tank was even more lethal, and the stealth system was vastly improved as well. Nod Avatar Warmech pilots found that due to design similarities, they could "borrow" a stealth tank's cloaking system, rendering the Avatar invisible. Nod also fielded a stealth bomber, the Vertigo. Stealth generators gave way to Disruption towers, which were cheaper but less effective. Nod also developed the ability to temporarily cloak many of its units, but the effect was lethal to infantry.
Interestingly, although the alien Scrin appear to have no regard for camouflaging the bulk of their forces, the Assimilator, a scrin "engineer", has a natural ability to blend in with the environment except when moving.
The mutants also have their own kind of stealth/camouflage; they can hide themselves in Tiberium. This could be made possible by their obvious connections and familiarity to Tiberium and their extensive experience in guerrilla tactics. They reveal themselves when they attack, after witch they once again disappear amongst the crystals.
Fourth Tiberium War
In the Final war Nod still maintained camoflage like their hijackers and their Cyborg commandos got stealth generators to hide them from plain sight.