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US Army Camouflage Improvement Effort Update

Everyone is asking to see the finalist families of patterns for the US Army Camouflage Improvement Effort. We, as well as and Army Times asked the Army for access and the Army punted, giving us a couple of different dates, planning to bring us all in and show us the various finalists.

Unfortunately, the Army’s lawyers have determined that they do not have any rights to the patterns and through the PAO at PEO Soldier informed us that they would be unable to share them with us. Interestingly, they remain mum on sharing the sole US Army-sponsored entry, which to me is the most interesting, because it gives me insight into what direction they think this will go.

Our only alternative is to request that the finalists release the patterns to the press themselves. Some of the contenders are open to it and others are not. Early on, Army contracting officials gave the finalists the impression that public release of the patterns would be looked upon disfavorably. Obviously, this makes people nervous. It would be in everyone’s best interest to unveil all of the patterns at once. To keep a somewhat level playing field, if for no other reason. But that’s not going to happen. The companies that hold off only hurt themselves, and here’s why.

The Army will be forced to select a family of camouflage patterns that is a compromise. Yes, even a family of three patterns will be a compromise. It’s the nature of the program. In the camo business increased specificity equals decreased utility. The better a pattern performs in a particular environment, the more it works against the wearer in others. For example, there are different types of woodland environments. What works great in a jungle might not do so well in mountainous regions below the treeline. The same holds true for all military operating environments. Consequently, lots of patterns on the market are a good thing. From a commercial standpoint, more patterns mean more choices. The finalists are all the cream of the crop based on performance. The downselect has already demonstrated that and makes them very lucrative.

The various companies that entered the competition in the first place got a virtual copper mine, the finalists now have a silver mine and they are each vying for that veritable gold mine. I’ve been asked plenty what I think the winner’s submission is worth on the commercial market and I will tell you that its true value is incalculable. The problem is that this situation is unprecedented. Between commercial use of the patterns in both soft and hard goods, it could easily be worth Billions (yes, with a “b”) over the lifecycle of the Army’s use of the patterns. Which leads us to an interesting point.

The Army is going to pay the winner chump change compared to what this is really worth. It’s a great bargain for the American taxpayer but at the same time, they need to be cognizant of the stakes. This isn’t a typical PEO Soldier program. We’re treading into the world of ship and tank and aircraft procurements. And with it will come some of the same things we see with those programs.

Despite the intentions of PEO Soldier to make this more about science than fashion, in the end, the Army’s leadership is going to make its decision based on three factors; Cost, Performance, and Branding.

How much is it going to cost to field all of these new patterns and what does the Army’s budget look like?

Do the patterns perform as advertised? Do they conceal the Soldier?

Does the camouflage chosen portray a positive image for the Army? Does it make the wearer look like a Soldier?

These questions will be asked by the decision makers. There’s no getting around that. In the end, all three of these factors will be weighed against each of the families of patterns. A cost-benefit-analysis will be conducted and an edge of performance here vice an argument that there is already an ample investment in a similar pattern there combined with a question of whether a pattern “just looks funny” and you will have a decision. The final choice is going to be a compromise.

It’s in the finalists’ best interest to publicize their patterns and make their case as to why their offerings are the most appropriate. Even if they aren’t selected in the end, they’ve still got a good 18-24 months to cash in on that silver mine. The clock is ticking.

16 Responses to “US Army Camouflage Improvement Effort Update”

  1. Sean says:

    Camo is a complicated issue. I don’t think it matters one bit if the pattern is funny looking or what it makes the soldiers look like. What matters is it gives concealment to our soldiers. I personally don’t understand how they are used. In Afghanistan AOR2 (woodland digital) is what works best by a long shot and not everyone is given that pattern. It’s way better than MC and AOR1 is even better than the MC. It’s wierd how it works. You would think AOR1 would be best but even next to a mud wall the AOR2 blends better. AOR2 should be a full time pattern and a second jungle pattern would be nice . Jungle is the one pattern I have not seen perfected and for snow they could go with Ghostex snow pattern . If they want a great urban camp I have seen a dark grey that looks better than anything I’ve seen to date but why don’t we decide on the patterns we will use if we hsbe conflicts in given locations and manufacturer it and field it when it’s needed . Just go with AOR2 for Army, Navy and USMC . The Marines not wanting to share there camp is crazy. We are all on the same team.

  2. Felix says:

    Being a soldier is more than just being invisble and a war machine. A Soldier is a representative of its nation. So Branding is an important point to me. Yes, the main purpose of camo is making soldiers invisible, but imagine their is a pink camo pattern that works best in a certain enviroment….would you be proud to field it ? 😉

    • Frank says:

      I’m not entirely sure I agree with this statement. IF (Big IF) a soldier is doing something that a soldier should not be doing (ie, representing their nation) than maybe yes branding is important. If a soldier is doing what they should be doing (killing people and breaking things…in other words force application) than they should have what makes them an invisible war machine. If the goal is force projection than they should be wearing something all black and mean looking. I’m guessing this may result in not every soldier wearing the same thing. As things are I do agree with your statement. As things should be I don’t agree so much. Interesting points though.

      • Felix says:

        Well said Frank!
        But remember even infantry Soldiers ( i dont talk about SF Guys, which could wear pink if it would give them an adavantage) are in a uniform that represents their country…. for example me as a european, when i see current UCP Pattern..well i think “America” ..hope you get me. Being a soldier is all the time a prestige job. A soldiers good or bad behaviour can change the image of a whole nation. An Armys overall appearance can do this to.

        I say camo should be effectice first. But we shouldnt forget that were talking about the uniform (almost) every soldier will have to wear

  3. Sal Palma says:

    Prior to gaining exposure on the camouflage issue – my thanks to SSD for that education – I did not fully understand the cost of pattern development. In terms of research and development, millions of USDs are spent on the development.
    It’s understandable to see companies express reluctance in displaying their competing patterns. Especially with the near ubiquitous disregard for copyright.
    I guess we’ll have to wait to see what the new patterns will look like…

  4. Jason says:

    If every soldier is a sniper, then only concealment is important.

    If some of them have to do things like kick in doors and intimidate people, or walk around villages acting as Uncle Sam’s Personal Representative they are going to need a uniform that inspires (in themselves and the indigenous population) the confidence and respect one should feel for the world’s greatest super power.

  5. Aaron says:

    The Israelis have been walking around in ODs forever…Kryptek’s few sneak eaks and the ADS Delta samples look interesting. So Crye huh?

  6. V says:

    I think what people continue to miss is what the author eluded to regarding the overall relationship of the three determining factors Leadership will most likely look at.
    Can we justify a high price tag for entirely new patterns when we have something viable already (i.e. AORs and MC)? Because this all amounts squat if branding and performance are high, but so is cost. Can you meet comparable, even if marginally less, branding and performance metrics with something like the AORs or MC and realize a significantly lower cost factor?
    BL: This is not a one dimensional goal. Essentially, you have three key measures and the winner will most likely be the pattern providing the best balance.
    But then again, stranger things have happened…

  7. Greg says:

    ADS – One arid version from a different family, version D “met or surpassed” not including the current testing version A.
    Kryptec – Works too good and may risk a fashion show witch the army is trying to avoid.
    Crye – Do they have a woodland and arid versions of Multi-Cam?
    Brookwood – Im not that familiar with them yet need more info.

    They look to be in bit of a pickle here.

    • Buckaroomedic says:

      I think that’s the whole deal about Crye’s MC, it is both woodland and arid at the same time.

      • Greg says:

        It could be but i think thats the whole point of the program, to get rid of one single pattern like UCP to just switch it out for another single camo just won’t cut it. Or like Alan below me, go back to flat OG-107 for on base or wooded places and plain old beige for dry deserts but thats way too simple and the army probably won’t want to go back that far in the past witch is why i think they really want to succede in this whole new camo effort. The way i see it, it will either come down to (A) Simpler and cost effective ADS and Guy Crammer’s US4CES just like MARPAT or (B) Highly advanced more flashy and probably expensive Kryptec LEAF and tease the Marines with it :), we still got months to go just got to hold out a bit longer but i believe they won’t make any dumb moves like they did with UCP and choose one camo and let the process start again down the road. The Army will and must get this right for once i know they will i have faith in them.

  8. Alan says:

    Good old fashioned OG-107s [the 2 pocket shirt & 4 pocket pant) in garrison with black leather boots like in the 50s thru 70s as, “universal”, allowing for good starching and looking good, because we all know that is how the brass determine a Soldiers worth,proficiency and skill, then ATACS AU and FG or Multicam desert & regular for desert and woodland. I dont se the need for sharp edged digital pattern camo, when in nature there are no sharp edged square shaped to be found.

    I am still wondering why we gave up the BDU and DCU for THREE patterns now, especially with the downsizing of the Army now that all combat has stopped {funny…troops still dying,but it isnt combat?!] and with the troop as WELL AS monetary cuts A-Comin’,why we are changing PT uniforms,my beloved greens for a bus driver dress uniform, and now THREE camo uniforms, along with all the badges,patches and BS associated with each individual uniform.

    They need to let the troops decide,since common sense seems to be lacking at the higher levels…

    • Buckaroomedic says:

      I agree with you on the OG-107’s, that was my favorite uniform out of all that I wore in the Army. As I’ve said before, we won WWII wearing mostly OD . . .

      You liked the green Class A and B’s? Eeeewww, never liked them. Much preferred the Dress Uniform. Don’t know why they picked a short sleeve, white shirt for class B wear with the “new” Army Service Uniform. Would have liked to seen a tan shirt for class B wear.

      I have a sneaking suspicion that the Army will eventually go back to a garrison uniform and a true field uniform.

      • Greg says:

        Lols what are you talkin about the green class As rocked, it would have been nice if they adopted the german gray color uniform with black pants those are badass.

    • Greg says:

      Not really about finding green or tan blocks on trees and shrubs, its more about breaking up the outline of ones self on the battlefield. Blobs make you harder to see up close, but pixel blocks makes even more harder to see from far away and up close like Flecktarn for example. And thats what the whole improvment efforts about it kicked off 3 years ago when congress herd complaints from the troops as well as some concerned congressmen on money beeing wasted for multiple camos and different fabrics for seperate branche’s. They fight under one flag they only need one uniform one guy called it and not 3, 4 or 5 camos that their is a sad shame and real waste of our tax money wouldn’t you say. And as for the BDUs… well it was perfectly fine until the Marines cast the first stone on wanting to look different so yeah that was the start of all of these problems, but the good news it will end soon and i pray it does.