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Army Camo Improvement – What’s Up?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the US Army is currently looking for a replacement for the so-called Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) currently worn by Soldiers in virtually all environments except Afghanistan. Now, after months and months of silence, PEO Soldier has provided an update to the US Army Camouflage Improvement Effort. I know, this thing seems to be going on forever, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The results of the most exhaustive camouflage testing in history will be briefed to the Army Uniform Board on 28 February.

If you’re familiar with how the Army Uniform Board works, they don’t announce their findings directly from the board but rather later, an announcement will be made once the Chief of Staff of the Army gives his approval. Considering the gravity of this decision, the Secretary of the Army will most likely also give his approval. There is precedent for this. When the Army officially announced the adoption of MultiCam for use in Afghanistan as Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern (OCP).

We said that this is the most exhaustive camouflage testing in history and since last Summer the Army has been running the four families of patterns along with baseline patterns through the paces in locations that replicate the nine Military Operating Environments. Over the past couple of months sources have told us that testing was curtailed in two locations due to fires and that the Army had to go back and reaccomplish data collection. The Army wants to make sure that the record is complete and that their decision is based on the data. Consequently, we are told that an independent auditor has been used to verify the integrity of the data. No matter the decision, it will be based on facts so there won’t be any second guessing the choice a year or two down the road.

So when will we see a final Army announcement? Sequestration and continuing resolution notwithstanding, the switch for ACUs, the day-to-day uniform of the Army is essentially cost neutral. It’s a matter of altering contracts to procure the new pattern(s) rather than UCP. The real, long-term sunk cost is in the Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment such as the IOTV and MOLLE. It costs more and lasts longer than a uniform. However, we understand the Army has a few concepts up their sleeve to ease the transition. When UCP was fielded it was all in. The Army essentially transitioned everything to UCP in about five years and issued ACUs to each Soldier gratis. I don’t think recapitalization will go so smoothly this time. The US Army officially adopted the woodland camouflage pattern in 1981. The old OD green fatigues could still be worn until September 30 1987. OD field equipment was still being used up until the advent of UCP. Based on budget shortfalls I would expect serving Soldiers will have to purchase new uniforms with their annual clothing allowance and expect a longer transition period than with UCP. Also, don’t expect any changes to the actual cut of the ACU along with the camouflage change. It will be the same uniform but with an entirely new paint job.

In conclusion, I would say that no matter which family of pattern they select; ADS/Cramer, Brookwood, Crye or Kryptek, the Army will announce its decision when it’s good and ready and not a day sooner.

47 Responses to “Army Camo Improvement – What’s Up?”

  1. Lawrence says:

    Eric,

    Could you expand a bit on how you reckon the uniform change will effectively be cost neutral? I can see how that would work if they make soldiers pay for their new uniforms (which would suck for the troops – especially if they have to pay for ALL their new camo clothing).

    But, given that the transition could likely be to several patterns rather than one, how will they be issued? Will the Army pick on of the patterns (let’s say its the Transitional variant for argument’s sake) as the day-to-day standard and issue every soldier 4 sets of those – whilst the Desert and Woodland variants are held back as “special issue” for when troops need to operate in those areas? Or will they decide to issue a couple of sets of all three patterns, with troops required to private purchase any additional sets they might need, or if one of their issued sets gets worn out?

    It seems there are a lot of logistical issues to address in any event…

    Also, it will inherently cost the Army more to print the 3 or 4 different colorways they will need under this scheme – as the fabrics in each one of those colorways will have to be produced as separate print runs, and there are fixed costs associated with that. Then there will be the additional costs of establishing, approving, maintaining and inspecting the print specifications and production quality standards on 3 or 4 different pattern variations. The whole eco-system will now be x times more complicated than it is currently because of this. It might be good news (economically) for the fabric mills and printing facilities, but I can’t really see how it will be cost neutral.

    Just sayin. ;-)

    • SSD says:

      I believe that the Army will issue the Transitional pattern as a garrison uniform and keep the other patterns in reserve for contingencies. The Army has to purchase ACUs regardless of pattern(s) so the cost is the same for that item which is the most visible use of camo for the Army. The price of an ACU won’t fluctuate much. The cost of the base fabric is more prone to price hikes due to material costs than which pattern is printed on them.

      I also don’t believe that the Army will go long on production of the specialized variant patterns which will put the Army in a similar logistical conundrum as before UCP was adopted. Contingencies can’t wait for uniforms to be produced, shipped and issued. As former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield said, “you go to war with the army you have—not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

      • Lawrence says:

        Picking the “Transitional” pattern as the day-to-day, standard issue choice would seem to be the logical one – but they might change it depending on duty location.

        It’ll still be interesting to see if/how they manage to transition a force of a million from 1 standard and 1 theater specific pattern for both uniforms and gear to 3 standard patterns for uniforms and a 4th pattern for gear, and still be cost neutral in the grand scheme of things though. But I suppose that reductions in the overall size of the force, as well as the Afghanistan draw-down should help balance things out.

        As you and others have said, they really need to get this one right. Especially since the track record on recent uniform matters hasn’t been that great: the black beret, the ACU / UCP combo, the ASU, etc.

  2. Bman says:

    I have been waiting for an update on this. My hope is that the Army is really putting these patterns through the ringer and testing them for IR and UV performance as well. I assume so because they did in the past and have camo face paint for IR and UV as well. I would really like to see the military in general get back to placing an emphasis on camo and concealment. Now we are too used to jumping in MRAPs and drving out some place and the sound tactics are thrown to the wind once dismounted and patrolling on foot. The same goes for Marines frequently also. Even special operations guys tend to avoid having to go all out with camo and concealment except for on the most sensitive missions. Even on kill/capture hits, yea they hear me coming but I would still like that split second more of time to process threats. With SOF guys you frequently see them wearing solid black gloves and hats or colorful sports hats. Some guys paint their weapons and others leave it black. Some helmets are solid color while others have put patterns on them. Rangers seem to have been the most consistent with camo such as that on helmets and such but they are probably forced to since they dont have the leeway that SF and the rest have. No one paints their faces unless they are on a serious SR mission. I see the brits are bringing the cabbage patch hats back on their helmets. They have always seemed to place an importance on concealment.

  3. Juan Bravo says:

    SSD, as always THANK YOU for this concise and direct SITREP..

  4. John A says:

    yes, thank you…now wake me when they finally make a decision that makes sense…if it doesn’t pass the common sense test just let me sleep….

  5. Dave the Rave says:

    It seems like there would be a little cost in the duty uniform change-out if the Army decides to go with more than one camo pattern. They’d be replacing one uniform with two or three.

    • SSD says:

      See above. This isn’t the Marines. The Army has a planning factor of over 1 million in uniform. They didn’t add a flap to the pen pocket on the ACU because they couldn’t afford it. They aren’t going to issue every Joe multiple camo patterns.

      • Andrew says:

        Frankly, I agree with Swat3Four (below) … the Army should not only select the new pattern(s) for wear, but should redesign/ditch the horrific ACU itself while they’re making the change. It’s the logical time to correct all of the shortcomings and issues with the poor design of the uniform.

        If the Army couldn’t afford the gratis issue of the uniform they wanted, then make us Soldiers pay for it, and we’ll get a better uniform that we won’t complain about.

        The Navy’s AOR NWUs are far better designed than the ACU pattern, and would be a great starting point for a new uniform.

        IMHO, just take the AOR NWU design and replace the useless shoulder pockets w/ either the “AF pockets” from the ACS or just eliminate them entirely (and go back to sewn patches).

        Perhaps we could even go back to the BDU collar and both rank and branch.

  6. 11b says:

    good friend of mine works at the supply at a state HQ and she said they are getting the first lot of the new cammo in this month. they have no idea what one but were told to exspect them to ariving

  7. Swat3Four says:

    I was an active duty Marine during the Corps’ transition to MARPAT and wasn’t happy about buying all new uniform and boots but the transition was relatively quick. The Army just needs to follow the Marines example…again and get it right this time.

    • CMT720 says:

      I am a former Marine now Army Warrant Officer and I agree. The transition wasn’t too bad as I remember. I love the MARPAT uniform, especially the cut and function of the uniform itself. The quality of the uniform was top notch compared to the absolute garbage that the ACU is. It is unfortunate that they will just put a new paint job on the ACU uniform because the Army really needs to change that as well.

  8. SGT Rock says:

    I can’t wait to get rid of the godforsaken UCP ACU’s/OCIE! As an aside, who decided on the final pattern anyways? They should all lose their pensions as it was only a $5 billion colossal boondoggle.

  9. Philip says:

    Does this mean that the other branches will soon have to stop the asinine squabbling over “camo = branch identity” and transition back to a DoD-wide pattern again? You know, like we did before the 5 billion dollar disaster that was UCP? (Which in turn led to the laughable NWU and ABUs?) They’re always pushing the “one team, one fight” mantra anyway… what better way to reinforce it than to get us all wearing the same combat uniform again?

    The DoD did set a common standard for combat uniforms, I remember reading it in the AF Times awhile ago, but I’m not sure if that standard alone would require all branches to revert back to all wearing the same camo pattern.

    • HeadGeek says:

      The “laughable NWU” comes in three patterns.
      1) The Type 1 NWU (blue digital) is for shipboard use, and replaces several different clothing items previously issued to sailors. The Type 1 NWU was not ever considered for combat use off a ship.
      2) The Type 2 NWU (desert/arid) is currently issued to NSW & NSW support troops operating in arid / desert environments (this pattern is also known as AOR1)
      3) The Type 3 NWU (woodland/foliage) is currently issued to any sailor whose billet was formerly issued woodland BDUs (this pattern is also known as AOR2).

      • Aaron says:

        The cut of NWU III is the same cut as the NWU I which is not what the NECC wanted, they wanted the same cut as NWU II, the NWU III issued to NSW personnel is a different cut than that issued to the rest of the NECC. You can blame the MCPON.

      • Philip says:

        I was referring mainly to the blue NWU. My cousin in the Navy said her shipmates always joked about how its only camouflaging ability would be if you went overboard… I’m not Navy and have never pulled ship duty, but come to think of it they may well have a point. ;)

        I have no gripes about the AOR1/2 uniforms. I think those are two very well-made/designed uniforms in great patterns; far superior to the UCP digis. I see NWU3 nearly every day at work in a military hospital. It sure beats the ABUs I have to wear, with its funky semi-digital tiger pattern, massive arm chevrons and God-awful sage green boots!

    • Buckaroomedic says:

      We can always hope so, but I doubt it.

  10. Weaver says:

    SSD said, “The Army essentially transitioned everything to UCP in about five years and issued ACUs to each Soldier gratis.”

    Must have been in a different Army – everyone I know below the rank of SGM had to purchase their own uniforms and boots from clothing allowance. The only thing we were issued “gratis” were FRACUs for deployment, or replacement uniforms in theater (which were never the right size or the amount authorized).

    Like when we changed to the APFU, and from the green to blue dress uniforms, the cost was borne by the individual Soldier, through the clothing replacement allowance which is always far short of the cost to actually replace the uniforms. The only folks who got it free were new recruits, in their initial clothing bag issue.

    • straps says:

      Enlisted personnel get that allowance above and beyond their base pay. Lots of Uniform Allowances went into lift kits and flat screens.

      OFFICERS are on the hook for new clothing, and bear the greatest pressure to adapt. I rarely feel pity for them, but I don’t envy that Lieutenant with a newborn who will PCS from a unit in UCP to one that has been wearing US4CES (just guessin’) for a quarter.

      I was downrange for the transition from 3CDC to UCP and it fairly well sucked. Yup, Medium Regular pants were in short supply (especially withhe crotch failures that were engineered into them), but LEADERSHIP ensured that the guys who were leaving the wire every day (and didn’t want to be that person who looked different, thusly attracting unwanted attention from snipers) had what they needed. Mighta been a butthurt 42A back in the orderly room making do in an ill-fitting uniform (or working in PTs) but we made do.

      • SSD says:

        One of my sons is an officer in the GA Guard. He commissioned at GMC. 90% of his classmates were prior enlisted and wanted to commission in the old Green Service Uniform because they were too cheap to purchase the ASU as it was rolling out. So here’s proud dad pissed off because I am purchasing a green uniform for him that he will wear one time. Some of those douchebag classmates of his showed up with dress greens that had been issued in BCT and had braid hand sewn on to the sleeve. You could still see the SPC rank shadow on the sleeves.

    • SSD says:

      I’m surprised to hear that you were not issued ACUs. The Army made a very big deal about issuing them free to the troops. Yep, you buy everything else, but the ACU was supposed to be free.

  11. Aaron says:

    Eric,

    I was just about to send you an email about this…WTF are we still going to wear the currentl blouse, it’s ridiculous with the current chest pockets.

    • straps says:

      I have a couple blouses I’ve just removed the zippers (it’s now a pullover), removed the hook/loop from and sewn the pockets shut (sew on nametapes) for the rare occasion it’s not practical or possible to change to a combat shirt before donning armor–assuming that’s what you’re talking about.

      For garrison, I like those pockets. I put everything I need on letter sized sheets folded into quarters in one pocket, 2x CD-ROMS (one blank, one with commonly-accessed data) in the other.

      • Aaron says:

        Don’t knock the zipper, I personally want the marine corps cut for the blouse so the name tapes aren’t just floating in space.

      • Buckaroomedic says:

        That’s exactly what we used to do with our “garrison” BDUs. Cut off all the buttons on the placket and pockets and then sew them shut. Looked really nice in formation and when in garrison. I knew guys that cut the buttons off of the trouser cargo pockets and, get this, replaced it with velcro so they wouldn’t have the dreaded “button fading”. This was back in the 1980′s, maybe these are the people responsible for the ACU?

        • Aaron says:

          Uh…that’s too garritrooper for me…I like parades and other stuff that we seem to have gotten horrible at, but as a JO, I’d like to reduce bullshit as much as possible for my Joes because I deal with enough.

    • SSD says:

      There are no changes to the design planned.

  12. Hopper says:

    It would just be nice to have an answer before I waste money on a new uniform. Any updates on a PT uniform? I have not heard any results since the Army-wide online poll.

  13. Mitchell Fuller says:

    ACU. Based on above comments, what are specific fit issues with ACUs soldiers are having?

    I would like to see

    1. More room in crotch / rise

    2. Deeper / larger front pockets

    3. Better waist adjustment system

    4. Less Velcro

    5. Deeper fly, 5 button instead of current four, possible 2 way zipper instead of buttons for fly

    • 11b says:

      i would love to see pull tabs on the waist like the old bdus

      • Buckaroomedic says:

        Are you kidding me? Those were the first thing I cut-off when I got new BDU/DCUs. They were horrible, they would dig into your sides and cause pressure sores under a belt and pack belt.

    • Buckaroomedic says:

      How about just add a zipper to the trousers? Why is there a zipper on the shirt and buttons on the fly? Why can’t they incorporate a “crotch gusset” like the ones most civilian outdoor trousers have? Want to cut cost on the new uniform, get rid of about half the pockets on it, does anyone really need eight pockets on a pair of trousers? Lose the pen pocket on the sleeve and let soldiers carry their pen with their notebook in one of the blouse pockets.

      • Kris says:

        Buckaroo, I agree with you. I have added a zipper to one of my trousers, and i have added several gussets (copying Mountain Khaki Design) to several trousers for certain MACP instructors who are very prone to blowing out their crotch area. I believe we can get rid of the pen pocket also, as it serves almost no purpose. with that said, i hand sew in a loop in my left shoulder pocket to keep it secure. I also carry a Field Notes notepad in that same pocket. I’ve been experimenting with a ton of mods and I think there are some things we could definitely do different with the ACU, but as the budget continues to be cut, this sort of action will definitely overshadowed by other costs.

  14. Darius137 says:

    I joined with BDU’s and wore them through active duty. As they were transitioning to the ACUs, my unit was a bit removed (501st Airborne) and had some leeway to not go straight to ACUs, though they worked pretty good in Alaska.

    I’ve been in the National Guard since then, and I have went through plenty of ACUs.

    There is so much joy in my loins to switch to something new, cool, effective and hopefully with enough static on the uniform that I can get away with a proper uniform privately purchased from time to time. (Guard has SOME benefits)

  15. Angry Misha says:

    This is all hyperbol. Why can’t we go back to a “Service Common” field uniform across the board? I remember a time when we all wore woodlands (because europe was the projected battlefield) and deserts were only issued when you deployed to the region. In addition, there is no way this will be cost neutral to the Army. You cannot simply tell your ACU manufactuer to “Start making this color”. No way. The Army at minimum will need to buy all the fabric purchased for current countracts and I can GUARANTEE the new pattern will be more expensinve which will mean the manufactueres will need to reprice which means less deliverables on the contract. next, what do we do with all of the UCP equipment they purchased? Most likely it will go to training commands, reserve and guard units and be replaced with the new patterns as they wear out. And speaking of equipment, what color will it be? I don’t think we’re looking at the big picture here. This is fraud waste and abuse… period.

    Here’s my proposal:

    1. Identify the pattern most likly to be used in current and future operatoins (I’m gonna guess “tranitional” or “arid”)

    2. Adopt a “service wide” field and combat uniform in said pattern.
    3. For all load carriage and armor adopt a common neutral color (the MJK in my SFLCS has worked fine by me for 12 years)

    4. As units deploy, replace their “UCP, OCP, Coyote Brown” pouches with the pattern deemed “of most common use” and all others will be replaced through spares.

    5. For conventional forces, adopt a common armor and load carriage suite. Initial issue will go to deployers, then combat units with the remainder being replaced via spares.

    6. Eleminate “Female sizes” and go back to a true 5% female through 95% male cut with the only sizing options being short, “regular and long”. Ladies, i don’t care if you need a bigger size to fit your hips and then it’s loose in the waist. Thats what belts are for. This isn’t a fashion show.

    7. Establish contengency stocks of pouches to address deployments in those areas.

    Now, what we will see is guard, reserve and logistical units running around in a variety of differnt color pattern pouches for the next ten years, but who cares? I don’t. The fact is that they will be functional for training. This “MOLLE” and “FILBE” scandle is ridiculus. What’s good to go for a Marine Infantryman is good to go for a soldier or any other conventional individual for that matter.

    Who’s driving this boat?

    • SSD says:

      Who’s driving which boat? The move to a more effective pattern?

      • Angry Misha says:

        Everything. From the Navy’s stupid “greaseflage” uniform to the ABU. speaking of the latter, I understand that they have ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY FIVE size combinations. Not to mention Load Carriage and Personal Protective Equipment. Amazingly, all the kits issued by SOCOM have a measure of similarity. What can’t the conventional forces do it? It’s all BS. In regards to uniforms, I say: One service wide Field Uniform and Combat Uniform. In regards to service uniforms, I say one dress uniform, one summer service and one winter service. And make them gender neutral. If women want to be in combat units, they can wear the same thing the guys do (with some tailoring in regards for specific features). In regards to armor and load carriage, same across the board. With a draw down of conventional forces I don’t see the need to do this until the conventional forces can get some “jointness” in other areas.

  16. Tounushi says:

    Would be interesting to see what direction the US Army will take on this.
    Hopefully this time they’ll pick the pattern that’s most effective. Somehow I feel if they’d taken AOB in the first place they wouldn’t be having all this extra trouble with camo.

    Personally I like the Cramer pattern the most out of these, seems most cost effective and professional.

    The Brookwood pattern feels like a step back. It’s basically a 21st century upgrade of the M81, itself derived from the ERDL pattern from 1948. At least it’s of an iconic lineage…

    Kryptek seems… very complex. It might well be the most effective pattern of the lot, but we’ll see.

  17. James says:

    So if the Sequestration happens they chose a new camouflage pattern?

    • Greg says:

      Likely. If it happens, or don’t happens something will have to come of it. Army has already spent 4 years, alot of time and cash on the trials, testing ect, so it must be verry important to them. Especially when they feel that the Corps one-uped them with MARPAT over a decade ago (The sting still hurts 12 years later), makes them long to have a camo that can match or one-up right back at them. All and all, the worst that Sequestration can do to the program is that we will see Multi-cam as a gear pattern and in reserve until the new gear pattern has time to catch up. like when the transition between ODs and BDUs. Took till 87-88 to get almost everyone in Woodies. And until 03-04, we had OD ALICE and LBVs, then Coyote and UCP gear took over.

  18. Mike says:

    I read on kitup.military.com that if the sequester happens they most likely wouldn’t spend the money to replace the uniform if they have to cut training money for up to 80% of it’s combat units

    • SSD says:

      That is complete conjecture. KitUp also said that Army had chosen MultiCam last summer. Camo replacement is a Congressional mandated project. Let’s wait and see what the Army says.

  19. Philip says:

    Any word on the board’s announcement yet? I just now remembered that the findings were presented today.