Army Camouflage Industry Day: No UCP Allowed

Kit Up! spent the day out at the Army Research Lab in Adelphi, MD, yesterday attending the industry day for the Army’s Phase IV camo program.

The day was marked by very detailed briefings on exactly what the Army is looking for in its new camo uniforms, how they plan to test them and what they expect industry to provide.

We were lucky to have our friends from Soldier Systems Daily also covering the event, and over the next couple days each of us will be trickling out gouge on the program. So be sure to check both sites for updates (it’s too much to try to do in one place)…

I’ll start by saying from the looks of it, the Army is sincere about its search for the best concealment technology for its Soldiers. There is no indication the service is going through the motions, no indication it’s rigged in favor of government patterns and the top program managers argued strenuously with us that they would not allow the final decision to be a simple fashion show.

One measure of the sincerity of the Army’s new camo search is this very interesting fact: The service plans to down select to three civilian-made patterns and two government-designed patterns by the end of next summer. Then those patterns will be tested against a baseline of MultiCam/OCP, MarPat desert+woodland and AOR 1 and AOR 2.

Did you notice what’s not there? UCP…

I asked the PM for Soldier equipment Col. William Cole why this was. “We just thought it wouldn’t be productive to have that in the mix.” In other words, the UCP is so bad, it’s not even worth comparing other patterns to it.


So if there was any evidence more convincing that the Army is prepared to ditch the UCP for an improved family of patterns, I don’t know what it could be. The one big question mark, of course, is will the Army be able to fund the program when it comes up for a final production decision in late 2012?

  • Anthony

    So basically they wasted a couple billion to field a camo that did not work, another couple million to field UCP-Delta and Multicam which ALSO did not work, and now they are wasting more money to figure out that they should have just gone with two camos to start, because there is no such thing as universal. If they had given me a tenth of the amount they threw out the window, I would have told them that. How much do you want to bet they wont end up taking Multicam either? My bets are on MARPAT but maybe that because I’m a Marine.

    • Anthony

      I have also just found out AOR 1 and 2 is the exact same thing as MARPAT just a bit lighter. So its a race between MARPAT and Multicam.

    • crackedlenses

      The Army’s not going to go with MARPAT, it would hurt their pride too much to use a Marine camo; I’m betting on Multicam if none of the civilian camos do well against it…..

    • Riceball

      Multicam works but it’s only mean to be an interim pattern, a stop gap until they finish with this upcoming testing. The reason why the Army isn’t going with Multicam as a final solution is because they finally realized that there’s no such thing as a true universal camouflage and so are going with 3 patterns: woodland, desert, and transitional (or something to that effect).

      • Jon

        4 patterns, actually, don’t forget the “gear” pattern thats supposed to work all three patterns so the Army doesn’t have to buy 4 IOTVs for everybody . . .

    • hamchuck

      Kinda makes you want to bang your head against the wall a little bit, doesn’t it?

    • Jon

      UCP was a fluke, I can’t find anyone that wouldn’t agree with that. However, the UCP pattern was most effective in urban terrain, most notably Iraq. Since the thinking was that most, if not all, major conflicts would be urban areas fighting counter-insurgencies, the move to UCP made sense (on paper). Logistically having only one uniform pattern also helped the case. Obviously the reality of the situation has smacked Army officials in the face (or at least they’re finally feeling that smack), and their moving towards a more effective camouflage system. Once we escalated the fight in Afghanistan, it became even the more obvious that UCP is wholly ineffective as a “universal” camouflage pattern and prompted the Multicam pattern for ISAF forces. Multicam works best in Afghanistan, but not in every terrain (although I do believe that it is a much better “unifersal” pattern than UCP), and UCP worked well enough in Iraqi cities, but obviously not effective at all anywhere else (except gravel parking lots). This move is the smartest move and makes the best sense. Their looking for the best among the civilian world and what the government has produced. I for one have confidence in this program now, especially since they’re not even considering or testing UCP patterns at all.

  • strikehold

    “So its a race between MARPAT and Multicam.”

    No – its a race between them and the 3 (to-be-selected commercial patterns).

    All in all, it sounds like a very sensible approach that the Army is taking this time around. Yes, UCP was a waste of time and money – but its better to fix the mistake than to perpetuate it….

    • FormerDirtDart

      Actually, it’s a race between the US-CADPAT family, Multicam, the 3 down selected civilian patterns, and the yet to be identified 2 government owned patterns.
      I would guess that one of the government patterns will be All Over Brush, in multiple colorways.

    • Anthony

      That would be the smart thing to do but for some reason the Army is obsessed with this idea of a universal pattern. I personally don’t think it exists. We have done well with MARPAT and I have heard absolutely no complaints. Now that may be because it is as good as I think, or maybe it is because Marines are not bitchers and just make do. Maybe it is both.

  • Moondog

    What pattern for artic and/or snowy terrain? We never going to have to fight in a cold snowy environment>

    • Doc

      Remember the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during 1950? possibly the same place we’re going to have to return to if North Korea gets any more dumb

  • Stefan S.

    MARPAT was originally dsigned by NATICK. The Marines didn’t “invent ” that pattern. The MARPAT patent lists U.S. Army research into fractal pattern camouflage as the basis for MARPAT.

  • Stefan S.

    This is a prime example of not listening to your soldiers. There was years ago a poll with swatches by Army Times saying pick your favorite cammo. ACU wasn’t the winner. Some wannabe scientist at Natick, or some Col with Stars in his eyes decided that ACU was a winner. It is a crying shame that armchair commandos put us in this useless uniform. Now they FINALLY have to fess up to a “my bad”. 2 patterns are needed Arid and Woodland. Then get new designed over whites for arctic regions. There are better options out there than MARPAT.

  • RRossouw

    @Stefan S – Actually Marpat is a copy of Cadpat, just recoloured by Natick based on environmental data. ACU was not part of the pick the swatch selection – it was snuck in the back door.

    The 2 Gov patterns will most likely be:
    AOB, but it doesn’t have a significant macro pattern.
    The expanded tigerstripe pattern tested by the USMC. It tested better than Marpat, but didn’t look revolutionary enough.

    I’m sure Guy Cramer has submitted a Ghostex pattern.

    Dom Hyde’s Hydefinition pattern was submitted and should perform very well as it has a macro pattern similar to old Rhodesian, which tested best for long range by the USMC. The micro pattern is good, but may just need to be tweaked a bit – depending on the colour scheme.

    Too bad the Army didn’t publish any information to base the proposed patterns on.

  • Shicks

    I love how the soldier in the pics has his shotgun on his back. where can i find something like that….

    • Sleepy_Dave

      Looks like he cut up an MBITR pouch. Might be wrong.

    • crackedlenses

      Specops, perhaps?…..

  • Eric

    Looks like Tigerstripe products are looking at this also, they have new patterns on there website.

    • FormerDirtDart

      Yeah, their “Elite Soldier Concealment System.”

      Military Outdoor Clothing has also filed as an interested vendor. I would guess they intend to offer multiple colorways of their X-Camo.

      FEAR CAMO initially entered, but have withdrawn their bid. They decided they were not far enough along in their development to meet the Army timelines.

      Better Camo has filed as an interested vendor, and were supposed to have attended the Industry Day C. Lowe attended. They do not seem to be far along in their pattern development, at least from what they have posted online. If they do not withdraw, I would expect them to miss the cut with the commercial pattern down select.

  • Jameson

    The Army is wasting their time. We all know that the ABU is the best camo pattern out there.

    • crackedlenses

      Surely you’re not referring to that awful tiger-stripe rendition of UCP?…..

      • FormerDirtDart

        I’m relatively sure hit hit the sarcasm key while typing that

    • chaos0xomega

      Actually, I’m curious, anyone think the Air Force will drop ABU now that the Army is dropping ACU? At the very least, adopt whatever it is the army chooses for battlefield airmen. The ABU pattern only kinda works because its so similar to the ACU, but I need a change in careers if the army goes to something so different and the Air Force screws the rest of us over.

      • strikehold

        Christian did report on here a while back that the Air Force might be joining the Army in this program – or at least would be interested in the results…

      • Riceball

        It’s very likely since it was reported a while back that the Air Force was starting to issue Multi-Cam uniforms for their deployed Airmen so they wouldn’t stand out when attached to Army units.

    • rrossouw

      Got further info
      X-Camo, Mirage, ATACs, was there as well.

  • strikehold

    Well, a lot more investigation and research has been done since the piece on MM appeared, and there has been definitive confirmation from (in particular) a major in the Canadian Army who worked on the Clothe the Soldier program and has first-hand knowledge of the transfer of the pattern design from the Canadians to the US military.

    Also, several independent parties have done extensive pattern analysis and conclusively shown that the CADPAT / MARPAT / UCP / NWU / AOR / Iraqi Police / etc. are all the same pattern with different colours (and the case of MARPAT and Iraqi Police – have additional logos over-printed onto the pattern as well).

  • rrossouw

    Dev, get images of real Cadpat and real Marpat, then compare.

    Yes, Dualtex was the first dual texture camouflage & Cadpat owes a lot of it’s effectiveness to the dual texture concept, but Dualtex is not a digital pattern.
    Square blocks doesn’t make it digital.
    Using computer processing to crunch the pattern synthesis maths makes it digital – oh how I hate that term.
    Dualtex was more or less an artistic effort with constraints.

    Both the MM and kamouflage descriptions of how marpat was made come from the same source and is laughable.
    Using the method described gets you junk, trust me, I tried it as part of writing a 200 odd page manual on how to design effective camouflage.
    To get a multi-scale pattern requires a very precise integration of the pattern required at each scale, not a chance it happened by accident.

  • Dev

    Thanks for the additional insight.

    Learn something new every day I guess.

  • crackedlenses

    Isn’t covered by the transitional pattern?…..

    • FormerDirtDart

      PEO Soldier is anticipating OCIE using a pattern with around 3 colors, and each environmental uniform pattern using around 5-8 colors, with 3 common to the OCIE.
      Theoretically, the transitional uniform pattern could be used for the OCIE, but a reduced color pattern is less expensive. And, a complex multi color pattern generally looses effectiveness when used isn the small fabric swaths used to assemble equipment.

      • crackedlenses


  • strikehold

    X-Camo! Seriously? LOL.

  • jonathan

    for one thing Marpat/Despat was originally supposed to be purchased by the ARMY, but they opted out for the “universal” aka ACU design. The multicam design will be the most likely choice for every branch to adopt.

    Overall the ACU,Marpat, and desert designs haven’t been effective in camouflaging anything.

    O and i would know this because i’m currently serving in the ARMY… a 74D CBRN specialist

  • AJ

    There is nothing wrong with multicam!!!! Why can’t the army and airforce remove head from anus and just pick something that works. They are so bogged down in their own processes that they can’t get out of their own way. I know because I am in their service and I have to deal with the process everyday. Also that ABU uniform makes me want to vomit, it is a certified POS! The services should wear the same combat uniform adopted by all, like the old days remember the old days… Before the wars without end… You know the woodland, almost criminal to say it…. Oh yeah the ABU and ACU are crap, total crap the only service that seems to know is the USMCorps and now the navy yes even the navy woke up and smelled the ocean NWU 2 and 3 great job navy way to go thank you for not f@#king that up. Ok I am done with my rant. Soldier on!

  • AJ

    It should not just be ones attached to army units it should be all airmen

  • Beison

    Or, more likely is that’s a stock image of an airsofter.

  • William C.

    At this rate why not just digitize the old BDU and Army DCU patterns?

  • J


  • SEAL76

    I’m a former SEAL who served in Vietnam. The bad guys VC/NVA did not have camouflage uniforms and did pretty well. The SEALs wore Levis, OD and Navy Blue t shirts, Tiger Stripes, ERDL Black Jungle Fatigues, and other combinations of uniforms. I’d say our record speaks for itself. The bad guys in Afghanistan and Iraq do not wear camouflage. They seem to have been able to hold there own. Our guys have so many patterns of camouflage it makes my head spin. Camouflage uniforms don’t make you invisible or bullet proof. I am not saying that camouflage is bad I just think it it highly over rated. I feel that our tax dollars would be better spent upgrading, body armor, helmets, weapons, communications gear, medical gear and transport.

  • sigmund

    Multicam is the best universal camo that performs the best across ALL environments.

    Comparing it to two specialized environment camouflage patterns (MARPAT and AOR desert and woodland) is ridiculous.

    Apparently we didn’t learn anything from gulf war I and II. or afghanistan.

    Three different patterns works great in theory, until your unit is called up to respond to some third world shithole thousands of miles away. even with adequate preparation like in OIF, we had soldiers running around in desert and woodland. :/

    Universal patterns can happen and we have had them since multicam. But once again, the army is forgetting recent lessons learned to repeat the same stupidity that led to a universal camo to begin with.

  • sigmund

    white bedsheets and micky mouse boots.