We reported back in July that the Army was looking for industry's ability to come up with three different camo schemes: a "woodland" pattern, a "desert" pattern and a "transitional" pattern -- thanks to a tip from our friends at Soldier Systems Daily.
Well, officials with PEO Soldier fleshed out the current status of Phase IV during a roundtable interview with reporters on August 10. Apparently, they're ultimately looking to test three different patterns from three different companies against two government-designed patterns. And a final decision is due to be handed to the Army COS in 2013.
Officials left open all possibilities, including that only one "universal" pattern is chosen, that one is used for garrison and two others are kept in the warehouse for certain AOs or that the Army goes with two patterns worn interchangeably like the Marine Corps.
But PEO's Jeff Myhre shocked this blogger when he seemed to leave open the possibility that the solution could be joint -- i.e. a family of camos worn by all the services.
We have folks, not only from the Air Force, which is very interested in what we're doing and is taking part in all these assessments and very much wants to see where this goes and leverage whatever the Army becomes, but the Navy and Marine Corps are also watching and seeing what we're doing. So this has the potential to be a joint service solution at the end of FY '13.PEO's Lt.Col. Mike Sloane added that they're trying to come up with a scheme that makes the new camo palate more economical. He said it might be that the "transitional" pattern would be able to be worn effectively with the other two patterns, making it so the Army doesn't have to buy packs and web gear in two or three different patterns. Think of it like the Corps' Coyote brown...
As we have this family of patterns ... what our intent is to have a suite, if you will, that can reach from the desert to that multi-terrain area all the way to that jungle/woodland area. ... The idea would be to have a pattern that has 5-8 colors across the three different uniforms and on the [packs and web gear, etc] have three different colors but have the same pattern. An example would be if it was going to have a digital pattern, it would maybe be 8 different colors, but when you have the [gear] those would have 3 possibly 4 of those same shapes and patterns but in one broad match of 3 or 4 colors that would match all those different environments. So you can just pick up your kit and no matter where you're going you're wearing that same piece of equipment. And if you need the uniforms once you get on the ground ... you can ramp up in one of these other flavors, if you will.That quote, in a nutshell, reveals more about the sophistication of the Army's search for effective camo than anything else and also should serve as a lesson to other services on how to do it right. It's interesting that in the final days of John Murtha's life, he'd pushed the Army to rethink its controversial (and counter to lab results) decision to go with UCP and what could result is a thorough, logical, modern and potentially joint solution to the varied battlefields our troops might encounter in the future.
Now if they could just do that with the M4...