Our good friend at Soldier Systems has excellent sourcing in the tactical equipment industry and has been following the development of Army camo patterns very closely.
He offered up this piece from his Soldier Systems blog and I invite you to read more of his comprehensive coverage of the simmering camo pattern debate HERE.
In light of an impending directive from Congress to the Army to get their camo house in order, rumors continue to circulate about an upcoming test involving four camo patterns with the Army’s current Universal Camouflage pattern serving as a control.
The four patterns are MARPAT-Woodland, MARPAT-Desert, Multicam, and Desert All Over Brush (seen below). Originally, we had heard that the fourth pattern would be the 3-color Desert pattern issued to all services prior to adoption of their new distinctive uniforms. However, based on some recent, unverified information we believe it is actually the Desert All Over Brush which interestingly gave a very good showing during the Army camo trials of 2003-2004. According to a Natick report, a modified variant of the Desert version All Over Bush pattern performed best in all environments. You can also access a briefing presented on the subject at the 2004 International Soldier Systems Conference here.
Based on a series of evaluations documented in the report and briefing slides Natick developed the variant of All Over Brush pattern.
Having said all of that, the info on that particular pattern is old news. At some point in the Spring of 2004, the Army took a serious sidestep from all of its research and adopted UCP. If the rumors are true, looking at what is on the table, neither Marine patterns would really be considered serious candidates due to a variety of morale, and as we have discussed before, branding issues. You think the black beret issue was rough, imagine the outcry from two services if the Army adopted a Marine camo pattern. Consequently, while effective, we don’t consider the MARPAT variants as serious contenders. This leaves, depending on who is telling the story, either 3-color Desert which is still used by some US Navy forces (and a few others) or the prototype Desert All Over brush pattern in addition to Crye’s Multicam. While there are limited stocks of 3-color equipment still in the system, virtually none of it is in the configuration currently used by US forces. If it were adopted, the US Soldier would literally take a five year step back in capability until production of current issue equipment could be accomplished. Additionally, there is a political dimension to such a move. UCP was sold as a superior pattern to both Woodland and 3-Color Desert. Someone would naturally ask the question of why the Army discarded a pattern in favor of something less effective.
This leaves Desert All Over Brush and Multicam. Multicam has been used operationally by select US forces to great success and even more importantly, is currently supported by the US industrial base. A wide variety of Berry Compliant products (and raw materials) are available as COTS items. Additionally, industry already offers versions of current issue equipment in Multicam. Furthermore, there are numerous lightweight and multi-purpose Soldier Systems items designed specifically for environments like Afghanistan. Multicam is a mature, widely available, low hanging fruit. On the other hand, adoption of Desert All Over Brush would require long lead times as fabric mills first perfect and then produce sufficient quantities of materials. Only then could uniforms and equipment for our Soldiers begin to be procured.
We are waiting with bated breath to see if these rumors are true and what’s more, if they are, what will come of them.
-- Soldier Systems