CARC and WD CARC Paint

CARC (Chemical Agent Resistant Coating) was developed as the basic camouflage topcoat (described in MIL-C-46168). It is a two component, solvent-based polyurethane that was used on all Army (and other services') combat vehicles, aircraft, and tactical equipment. However, CARC had toxic properties and a high load of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emissions. Something better was needed: WD CARC.

worker sprays olive drab wd carc finish on a uh-60 blackhawk helicopter from the 2nd battalion, 227th aviation regiment, 1st cavalry division, at the fort hood directorate of public works paint facility, ft. hood, tx, 2006
Worker sprays olive drab WD CARC finish on a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, at the Fort Hood Directorate of Public Works paint facility, Ft. Hood, TX, 2006.

Today in WW II: 20 Sep 1943 Italy bisected as U.S and British forces meet at Eboli.   

About the Original CARC Paint

CARC (Chemical Agent Resistant Coating) is a two-component polyurethane paint (defined in MIL-C-46168) used as a finishing coat on military combat equipment since 1985. CARC is designed to be easily decontaminated after exposure to liquid chemical agents, and the coating also is resistant to water, weather, hydrocarbons and acids. It has an infrared signature that makes coated equipment harder to detect. Component A is a polyester resin and Component B is an aliphatic isocyanate curing agent.

Federal and local regulations resulting from the Clean Air Act and its 1990 amendments restrict the amount of VOCs emitted during the application of surface coatings. As a response, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Coatings Research Team developed a formulation with a lower VOC content, creating Water-Dispersible CARC (WD CARC). In addition to improved safety and emissions characteristics, WD CARC has an improved heat signature and enhanced weather resistance, flexibility, and mar resistance.

worker uses a power sander to prepare a hmmwv for a new desert tan paint job, marine corps logistics base, albany, ga, february 2007
Worker uses power sander to prepare a HMMWV for a new Desert Tan paint job, Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany, GA, February 2007.

Unfortunately, CARC chemicals represent a significant hazard to human health if not processed properly. YOU MUST AVOID EXPOSURE TO CARC PAINT!!

carc painting, 325th maintenance company, al jubayl paint facility, saudi arabia
CARC Painting, 325th Maintenance Company, Al Jubayl Paint Facility, Saudi Arabia. Click photo for larger image.

The military applies CARC and removes CARC only in carefully regulated, specially built coating facilities. It should never be utilized without special respirators, protective clothing, and hazardous waste disposal. This warning also applies to removal of CARC: do not sand or use any other process which will generate dust with CARC residue. TB 43-0242, CARC Spot Painting has a full discussion of how to use CARC safely).

There has been some discussion of the possible contribution of CARC paint to medical problems of Gulf War veterans. This paper discusses the use of CARC in the Gulf, including lots of operational details about how and when CARC was used as well as its possible medical implications.

A military contractor who been painting camo patterns on TACOM vehicles professionally for more than a dozen years, working at a facility in Missouri, says this about CARC:

CARC is actually less hazardous than most of your basic enamel and urethane car paint. Have not even seen anyone who had a reaction or health effects due to the CARC paint even with guys around where I work using poor work habits, such as not using a respirator at all times. But I recommend to anyone to use all safety equipment, at all times, when working with sanding, blowing off parts, painting, and even mixing and disposal of paint and paint related materials, and that goes for any typed of paint, even that kind that comes out of a spray can {God forbid}.

Finally, here is an Army page about CARC paint safety from PS Magazine.

Water-Dispersible CARC (WD CARC)

In the 1990s, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Coatings Research Team developed a CARC formulation with a lower VOC content, creating Water-Dispersible CARC (WD CARC). Field testing of Water-Dispersible CARC (originally called water-reducible CARC) was conducted at Fort Sill, OK in January 1998. One HEMTT, one HMMWV, one MLRS Launcher and one water buffalo were painted to demonstrate and evaluate the new coating. After considerable further research and testing, MIL-DTL-64159 was issued 30 January 2002 to define Coating, Water Dispersible, Aliphatic Polyurethane, Chemical Agent Resistant.

WD CARC is essentially a "drop-in" substitute for the previous solvent-based CARC because it could be applied and stripped using existing equipment and processes at military facilities, especially the paint lines at repair and refurb depots. Testing and expereince has shown that painting with WD CARC results in a sharper and smoother finish, eliminates hazardous air pollutants. Furthermore, WD CARC outperforms solvent-based CARCs in flexibility, weatherability, mar resistance and impact resistance. Water-Dispersible CARC retains its color up to three times as long in outdoor testing. WD CARC is more pleasant to use and easier to clean up. All the equipment used to apply the paint, such as paint guns, spray nozzles and mixing pots, will clean up with water instead of harsh solvents.

Todd Bullivant of MILSPRAY authored a paper on the water-dispersible CARC (MIL-DTL-64159) with many interesting details: Chemical Agent Resistant Coating (CARC), Next Generation Camouflage--More than Meets the Eye.

Federal Standards for CARC and WD CARC Paints

The CARC and WD CARC paints are defined by Federal Standards documents, as follows:

  • FED-STD-595 Colors, Use in Government Procurement
  • MIL-C-46168 Coating, Aliphatic Polyurethane, Chemical Agent Resistant, Two Component [Cancelled 17 Aug 2005]
  • MIL-C-53039 Coating, Aliphatic Polyurethane, Single Component, Chemical Agent Resistant
  • MIL-DTL-64159 Coating, Water Dispersible, Aliphatic Polyurethane, Chemical Agent Resistant
  • MIL-DTL-53072 Chemical Agent Resistant Coating (CARC) System Application Procedures and Quality

There are two types of WD CARC. Type I is better than the original CARC but contains silica-based extender pigments that are almost identical to those used in solvent-based CARC. The extender pigments in Type II are replaced by small spherical beads. These beads are the main reason for the paint's improved performance properties and make it the recommended choice. WD CARC comes in two-component kits that have to be mixed before use. The mixing ratio is two parts of component A to one part of component B.

Find More Information on the Internet

There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.

For good results, try entering this: carc. Then click the Search button.

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