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No decision yet on fate of universal camo uniform, military officials say

U.S. personnel wearing MultiCam, left, and Universal Camouflage Pattern, right, talk to a villager about an improvised explosive device discovered near his home in Zabul province, Afghanistan, in 2010.

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Reports that the Army’s pixelated camouflage uniforms will soon be killed off may be premature, military officials say.

Several recent media articles have said the Army has decided to ditch the green-grey Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) that soldiers have worn for the past eight years.

The pattern, designed to blend in with environments ranging from desert to forest, has not been popular with troops.

However, officials from the Army’s Project Manager, Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, said in an e-mail Tuesday that pixelated camouflage could be retained — either in its current form or in a new set of colors.

The pattern was chosen over other designs in 2004 to replace the woodland or desert camouflage designs in use at the time. Field testing had shown that, while other patterns offered more concealment in certain environments, UCP performed better overall and was particularly hard to spot at night, officials said.

That didn’t satisfy many soldiers wearing UCP camouflage in Afghanistan, who complained that it made them easy for the Taliban to spot.

Soldiers’ concerns prompted the Army to start issuing a new, non-pixelated pattern — MultiCam — to troops downrange in July 2010.

Army Spc. Edward Burchette, 24, of Pittsburgh, Pa., who completed a deployment to Afghanistan earlier this year, said he wore the pixelated UCP pattern at the airfield where he worked in Mazar-i-Sharif even though most of his fellow troops were issued MultiCam.

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“I don’t mind the pixels at all but I would rather have had the MultiCam because it seemed a lot tougher,” he said.

Dust and debris churned up by aircraft meant his uniform often looked dirty, Burchette added.

MultiCam is also preferred by troops working outside the wire, he said, because the UCP camouflage is easier to spot in Afghanistan.

“I would like to see our uniform match the terrain (of wherever we deploy),” he said.

The Army is looking at doing exactly that.

Experts at Fort Carson, Colo., and Fort Bliss, Texas, are field testing several families of camouflage that include patterns tailored to particular environments and a common design for equipment such as backpacks and ammunition pouches that can be matched with any of the patterns.

Designs from four vendors, including a pixelated pattern and one submitted by the makers of MultiCam, are going through field trials this month and next. In September and October, the Army will conduct more testing that involves soldiers trying to spot the camouflage in photographs.

The Army will look at the test results as well as “how much or how little it will cost to adopt a new pattern, or whether a new pattern will be adopted in the first place,” said one official, briefing Stars and Stripes on background.

The Army has told Congress that a changeover in camouflage patterns could cost as much as $4.1 billion over five years. But officials said many factors — including how widely and quickly any new pattern would be adopted — would determine the actual cost.

robsons@pstripes.osd.mil

 

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