What Do You Do With Billions Of Dollars Worth of UCP TA-50? Why You Dye It, Of Course

When the Army began its quest to identify a new camouflage pattern several years ago it also realized that it was going to have to do something with the several Billion Dollars worth of Organizational Clothing and Individual Equipment in the Universal Camouflage Pattern, already in its inventory. By PM SPIE, COL Robert Mortlock’s own assertion, the Army plans on an eight year period to fully transition from the current patterns to the new one. That UCP gear is going to be with some units, particularly TDA-based, for years to come.

Last week, the Army issued a Sources Sought Notice to industry on behalf of Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment (PM-SPIE), Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier seeking a Overdying Process for Fabrics and Other Items.


This isn’t the first time we’ve written about this and it isn’t the first time PEO Soldier has looked into the solution. Just last Fall they issued a similar Sources Sought but cancelled it in late November. To me, what the reissue of this notice signals is that the Army is finally moving forward with a transition plan. Although, they are stumbling through a couple of issues right now that should have been anticipated before the leadership selected a course of action.

In particular, they are seeking:

Project (sic) Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment (PM-SPIE), Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, Fort Belvoir, VA 22060 is seeking information from potential industry partners who can provide a technology/process solution to modify the camouflage pattern utilized in the manufacture of current individual Soldier equipment. This development effort is aimed at over-dyeing fabric and/or end items comprised of nylon (500/1000 denier), cotton, FR rayon, and para-aramid of various fabric constructions. Specific items include but are not limited to Modular Lightweight Load carrying Equipment (MOLLE) and Improved Outer Tactical Vests (IOTV). Items requiring an over-dye process may have been treated with water repellants such as DWR, polyurethane, as well as flame resistant treatments, and may be comprised of fabrics of various fiber types and fabric constructions. The objective of this process is to over-dye the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) to create a darker color that more closely matches the shade/color of coyote brown. Of particular interest are portable technologies that can be utilized outside of the manufacturing environment.

I was told long ago that a solution had been identified, but it’s always good to see if industry has come up with anything new. Also, did you notice that they are interested in a solution that closely resembles Coyote Brown? The big challenge here is getting everything dyed to a common shade. With different wear and substrates, dying is as much art as science. As it is, getting the same production run or the same material, dyed to the same shade is a challenge because Cordura, webbing, NYCO, FR rayon, and para-aramid all absorb dyes differently and the concentration of dye is as much an issue as the wear to the fabric’s fibers. And that’s not to mention previous treatments which may also affect the absorption of dye. Consequently, the kit may end up looking like various shades of this:



35 Responses to “What Do You Do With Billions Of Dollars Worth of UCP TA-50? Why You Dye It, Of Course”

  1. Felix says:

    SSD, would it be possible that the US is going to sell\sponsor the dyed gear to allies with an urgent need? I can imagine ANA\ANP being interested in this.

    Wouldnt be the first time things like this happened.And perhaps not the worst idea.

  2. SSD says:

    It could happen but that would mean there was money to replace everything. Besides, why bother dying the lot of you are going to give it away? That’s throwing good money after bad.

    • Felix says:

      Imagine even ANP refusing UCP…just kidding. The cost factor was my thought to.

      But i would prefer to dye the kit, there is already to much camo confusion in Astan.

      Regards, Felix

    • Jason says:

      I agree with you that giving the equipment to the ANA/ANP is far fetched but so is your assumption that the military understands sunk costs in any way.

  3. Really?! says:

    I am sure all the “experts” are going to chime in on this one. But, this is not the worst idea given the current situation.

    About two years ago, I decided to dye a few set of ACUs in search of a way to improve concealment for OPFOR and hunting purposes. Using several different shades of tan, brown, and green, I ended up with somewhat functional UCP. Although my own methods were not very scientific, it proved two things (to me at least): 1. UCP sucks enough that even an amateur with store-bought dye kits can improve the concealment value. 2. Adding natural colors, in light and dark shades, to UCP actually works.

    • andrew says:

      Shhh on #1!! I see Snuffy’s new project in the Garrison Army, right after he gets done painting the rocks. If you have ideas on how to spit shine roughout, for god’s sake, don’t breathe a word to anyone!

    • Sal says:

      Any pics?

  4. Timmay says:

    I tried Rit on a set myself. Apparently the top and bottom were from two seperate lots or one had been washed a lot more than the other and I wound up with results that did not match. So yeah lets try a dye job on a full set of kit, top to bottom, with parts/components frim umpteen makers and see how it turns out.

    It may well turn out to be more functional and may be the best if a shitty list of options BUT I don’t see it being PRETTY and that we all know will be the important thing for a peacetime army.

    Might be better to invest that cash in some high speed-low drag euro Bow-Flage at $26 a can.

    Where is all this money gonna come from? Will Economic Darwinism force Big Army to make good decisions?

  5. CAVstrong says:

    Why are the interested in a coyote brown solution? Wouldn’t Ranger Green be a simpler, easier and potentially more effective solution?

    • Riceball says:

      I think it’s because it would probably easier to dye it Coyote Brown and CB probably works better all around. Think of it, it works as dirt or tree trunk in woodland environments, and it’s a lot closer to looking like sand than a green.

      • CAVstrong says:

        Coyote Brown has only really become popular because of it’s use with MARPAT. If I remember correctly Ranger Green out performed Coyote Brown with Multicam in almost every environment.

        • Jon Meyer says:

          It was the opposite. CB outperformed all solid colors with RG being the next best. RG did beat CB in urban and mountainous terrain, but only slightly. Tan 499 only ever so slightly beat CB in NIR testing, but did not compare to CB or RG in daylight.

      • Really?! says:

        I’m not trying to be a know-it-all, but tree trunks are gray, not brown. Tree bark sometimes has a tan tint to it, but the barks is gray. And, the only brown thing in the woods is dead leaves and dead trees.

  6. Steven S says:

    I see 2 problems in this.

    #1 producing the dye that will retains the extra properties of the material (FR, Bug repellent, water resistant, and IR).

    #2 Executing the dying process, its going to be very hard to apply all of that equipment using the correct solution in the same manner so everything looks the same (shade).

    • straps says:

      And I can’t WAIT until some toe-the-line POGue with assed up gear that’s bleeding dye onto his uniform sees me in the MC gear I’ve been wearing since about ’08 and tries to tell me I’m wrong…

  7. John says:

    I have a better suggestion.. We should buy 10 less F-35s. That will pay for a good amount of Scorpion (OCP) Kit we need as well continue to wear out the Multicam (OCP) kit we have.

    Then we pile up all of the UCP kit on the bases, get a bunch of beer, paint ourselves with woad paint, and dance around the flames. Wearing eye pro of course.

  8. SteveB says:

    Good luck with that. Another half-baked idea. When will it end?

  9. Mike says:

    Fascinating…I can’t help but think back to the artist’s renderings that SSD posted a few months back that looked like they portrayed over-dyed UCP in use. Looks like life imitating art!

    That being said, if UCP is to be relegated to training use only environments, might as well dye it; we’ll get a little more utility out of it before it reaches its’ end of service life. I should think that this could be done in a motorpool by a roving team in a similar manner to the way RFI issue has been done in the past. They already have the HAZMAT controls in place to handle spillage and the like, and liability would fall to the contractor…

    Then again, this whole endeavor would only be reasonable if it didn’t lengthen the amount of transition time to OCP, but was implemented as a mitigation factor in the meantime. In other words: don’t tell me you’re not going to issue me OCP since my UCP got dyed.

  10. Angry Misha says:

    Does this mean that they (The Army) are going to modify the CIF service contracts to facilitate the sorting of equipment to determine serviceability, disassembly of items (i.e.: Packs), shipping to the vendor, receiving the “dyed” items, reassembly and returning to stock?

    This reeks of “market research” which will be leveraged to support an Independent Government Cost Estimate which will feed directly into a shortfall in the Program Objective Memorandum. The end result of which will show that it will be cheaper to just buy new gear in the new pattern.

    In other words, its BS. There is NO WAY that you are going to tell me that the PEO is even seriously considering this as a REAL option and not just gaming the game to ask for more money to replace UCP items with OCP.

    I’m sure that if someone did a cost breakdown of say a MOLLE Large you would see that you’re essentially taking a pack that costs $260 and by the time you get it back from this “dying process” you will now have essentially have a $500 pack. Essentially you’re negating the sunk cost investment you have in the end item and are paying for it twice, so why not just buy a new one?

    In my opinion, this is just a paper drill being conducted by the PEO to illustrate that they are being “good stewards” of the taxpayer’s money by exploring every option they can. In the end, the course of action which will most likely shake out is the following:

    1. UCP TA-50 items will be replaced via attrition (Essentially the Guard and Reserves will be in it until 2020).
    2. Units who are most likely respond to global crises (think “RDF”) will be fielded the new “OCP” gear supplemented by “residual OCP” gear.
    3. The PEO will release a solicitation for a OCP pack cover.
    4. The PEO will award contracts to provide for “War Reserves” should the balloon go up as well as to account for attrition (For giggles, let’s just say 15% of the total associated program annually).

    Move along folks, nothing to see here.

    • straps says:

      I just left a headquarters POGue REMF USAR unit (promoted in for career breadth, did my time, hauled ass) that didn’t issue OCIE.

      Everyone liked that arrangement because it meant you never slept in the dirt or rode in a vehicle that didn’t have at least a G-plate (usually a rental bar code).

      After a decade of getting gear through RFI or drug deals with wealthier units, I just got my 3 duffle bags of UCP crap. So yeah, the Reserves is being swamped with UCP gear to burn through stocks.

  11. HOLLYWOOD310 says:

    I just want my new uniforms with zipper shoulder pockets in Scorpion W2 within the next year. IDC about my gear. It all goes back to the Army anyway.

  12. Steve says:

    Not to mention that the newest iteration of ocp ocie is almost completely different from (and better than) the most recent ucp ocie, so I really doubt this is a serious COA. Then again in 2008 the unit I I was in was still a mishmash of woodland desert and ucp molle with some Alice gear thrown in for good measure.

  13. Ex11A says:

    So, what happened to the announcement on the Army’s birthday about Scorpion/OCP? Did I miss it?

    • SSD says:

      I didn’t realize anyone promised one.

    • Ray says:

      Yeah I assumed that is when they were going to announce it too. Guess they are still developing a plan on how to announce it. I don’t know, maybe SSD could elaborate or give an opinion on this.

      • SSD says:

        Amazingly folks were pissed at me when I wouldn’t spill the beans ahead of the Army and now that the word is out they’re still looking to me instead of the Army.

        • Ray says:

          Of course we are looking to you for answers. Your the insider lol. I understand if you don’t want to say. I get it.

  14. Desert Lizard says:

    I’m pulling this out of my AR$e, but I wonder if the process could be improved by starting with some sort of “primer” chemical to get all the various garments to a more consistent starting point, then start the dyeing process.

    On an aside, I hope the market offers some sort of highly effective dye for this stuff. I have quite a bit that I’d like to improve to use for my personal hobbies.

  15. Craig says:


    A base coat of flat black followed by a coat of tan or Ranger green.

    A “DIY” solution for those who are leery of dying, tho the Army has certainly spent more money on dumber ideas…

  16. Eddie says:

    -sigh- if only you could hydrodip clothing..

  17. Mitchell Fuller says:

    UCP is a sunk cost, move on Army to new patterns across kit.