The U.S. Army universal camouflage trials took place from 2002 to 2004 with the goal of creating a single pattern that would provide adequate concealment in all environments. Four different patterns in a total of 13 variations were tested during the evaluation: three woodland patterns, three desert, three urban, three desert/urban, and one multi-environment pattern. The Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) found on the Army Combat Uniform was eventually adopted despite not having been part of the test.
Six patterns were originally developed in early 2002 and reviewed for effectiveness, with three of the six designs being rejected due to limited effectiveness. The final three patterns were evaluated at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center, and four color schemes were created for each pattern. The woodland patterns consisted of tan, green, brown and black; the desert patterns tan, dark tan, khaki and brown; the urban patterns tan, light gray, medium gray and black, and the desert/urban patterns contained tan, dark tan, light gray and brown. A common ground shade, tan, was selected for all patterns to allow individual equipment to be interchangeable if more than one color scheme were adopted. The patterns were All Over Brush, Shadow Line, Track and a contractor-developed pattern, MultiCam. The goal was to develop a single pattern that would perform well in all terrains.
All Over Brush
All Over Brush consisted of swirls of colors similar to patches of grass and brush. In a poll from the Army Times in 2002, All Over Brush was voted the most popular pattern in the woodland, desert, and urban schemes. The urban and desert/urban schemes were eliminated in the first phase of testing, with woodland being eliminated during the second phase of testing. Desert All Over Brush made it through phase three and four in a modified, more all-environment friendly form.
The Shadow Line pattern sported horizontal lines with slashes. All four color combinations were eliminated during the first phase of testing.
The Track pattern featured vertical lines with small, irregular marks present throughout. All four color combinations made it to phase two of testing, with a modified woodland pattern and modified urban pattern making it through phases three and four.
MultiCam is defense contractor Crye Precision’s developed pattern with only one color combination designed to be effective in all environments. The pattern consists of six colors with an irregular spread throughout.
Testing occurred in four different phases between August 2002 and March 2004 at Fort Benning, Fort Irwin, Fort Lewis, Fort Polk and the Yakima Training Center. A total of 15 evaluations took place. Trained military soldiers rated the patterns based on blending, brightness, contrast and detection. Phase one consisted of only side-by-side daytime testing at distances up to 180 metres (590 ft) with patterns printed by an inkjet printer. 11 candidates were selected and production printed for phase two of testing, which contained both day and nighttime evaluations at distances no greater than 120 metres (390 ft). Patterns were tested separately in phase two. The modified Desert All Over Brush, Woodland Track, Urban Track and MultiCam were evaluated in phases three and four. During phase four of testing, the selected patterns were printed on Future Force Warrior ensembles and evaluated from four different angles against woodland, desert and urban backgrounds.
Desert All Over Brush was found to be significantly more effective than the other three patterns during daytime, with the highest rating in desert and urban environments.
There were no major differences between MultiCam, Woodland Track, or Urban Track.
MultiCam received the highest ratings in woodland environments, but rated low in other environments.
Woodland Track scored several points lower than Desert All Over Brush.
Urban Track was usually the third or fourth worst performer at every site, with the exception of one urban test. It was, however, found to be the best nighttime performer.
Adoption of UCP and replacement
Discounting the results of testing, the US Army ultimately adopted the UCP pattern for its uniforms. The US Army initially asserted that this was a digitised version of its Urban Track scheme, although why the worst performing pattern had been selected as the basis for the new UCP scheme was unexplained. Despite denials, UCP was in fact a three-colour variation of the earlier US Marines MARPAT scheme, which had been based on the Canadian CADPAT scheme. UCP used a colouration of light sand, sage green and grey, giving it a distinctive grey appearance. The UCP scheme had not been part of the original camouflage trials and the uniform has received considerable criticism since its adoption as failing to provide adequate concealment in most theatres of operation.
After being directed by the US congress to reconsider, the US Army is cancelling the UCP and now considers the $5 billion program a colossal mistake. Army researchers are currently working on a new and better camouflage Four new patterns are being tested to give soldiers different patterns suitable for different environments, plus a single neutral pattern to be used on more expensive body armor and other gear. The selection will involve hundreds of computer trials as well on-the-ground testing at half a dozen locations around the world. Until the new pattern is fully fielded, soldiers deployed to Afghanistan are being issued MultiCam uniforms. with UCP remaining in service elsewhere.
- Army Combat Uniform
- Military camouflage
- List of camouflage patterns
- Universal Camouflage Pattern
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