How Bad Was Universal Camo in Tests? B-A-D


I've been doing a deep dive on one of the papers included in the briefs from the Army's camouflage industry day, and what it says is pretty profound.

It's an executive summary of the Army's Phase II testing of various camo patterns in Afghanistan and the results of surveys conducted with troops who deployed there.

There are three main points to be made here and I'll let the paper do most of the talking itself, but I wanted to summarize a couple things for our readers and put them into some perspective.

First, and most egregious, is that the Army's current camouflage fared horribly in both surveys and the photosimulation tests (pattern in picture). The Army used 17 patterns, including Marpat (desert and woodland); DCU; BDU; AOR-1 and 2; Universal AOR (does anyone know what this is?); MultiCam; Woodland Scorpion (which is essentially MultiCam) and Desert Scorpion -- and of course UCP.

Each of these was combined with a series of PPE patterns, including a match, coyote, Ranger Green and khaki.

Here's the killer blow:

The results for the UCP uniform with matching PPE, which is the currently fielded combination, are consistent with the anecdotal feedback that lead to the Congressional interest in an improved camouflage pattern for OEF: UCP is in the bottom 10 overall across all four backgrounds and did not perform well in any of them. now we know precisely why Col. Bill Cole told me UCP wasn't even going to be used as a baseline.

ASC Paper PIP Technique

This has the smell of a major scandal if you ask me. How much money, how much R&D manpower, how much political capital was poured into such a poorly performing pattern? And this wasn't JUST Afghanistan, remember. The PIP tests were done on a variety of backgrounds that could be found in any AO. So you can't argue the failure only applies to Afghanistan.

Second, and not surprisingly, as the enclosed PDF shows, MultiCam did the best with all combinations of all 17 patterns tested in the PIP. We all knew this, but it does raise an interesting point which our friends over at Soldier Systems have touched on previously.

Based on the overall scores, all four of the MultiCam variants were in the top 10, as was the Woodland Scorpion with MultiCam and matching PPE.
We seem to be going on a long and arduous path with this Phase IV camo search -- essentially paying millions of dollars to develop three camo patterns for uniforms and another "universal" pattern for gear like body armor and pouches. The Army is doing this despite the results of this testing. It seems the service has already found a pretty darn effective pattern in all but the most specific environments.

But, and that's a big BUT -- here's the kicker:

The results for Background 4 demonstrate the difficulty in obtaining a pattern that performs well over a wide range of background types: none of the top 10 performers in Background 4 were within the top 10 for Backgrounds 1-3. In fact, many of them were in the 8 bottom 10 in those three backgrounds.
Now this is precisely what Tim O'Neill told me back during the Gore blogger summit last month. There is just no such thing as a universal camo, and until Guy Cramer gets his superphasotron cameleon stuff working, there never will be. As the Army study shows, MultiCam did best across the environments, but not as well as AOR-2 in woodland/cropland and was in the bottom in sandy desert terrain behind the lowly DCU.

Overall the MultiCam with MultiCam OCIE came in at 80 percent across the environments. And despite the desert failures, a solid B ain't bad.

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