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DigiCam No More: Army Decides to Break the Pattern

The Department of Defense is officially scrapping the Army Combat Uniform (ACU).

It’s only been eight years since the release of the new uniform and camouflage known as the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP). Unfortunately, the grey-green pixelated design stood out in practically every environment in which it was used. Now, the Pentagon is working to develop a series of uniforms, each specially suited to a different environment.

In the meantime, the Army is replacing the UCP with a pattern called MultiCam, a seven-color, multi-environment camouflage that has proven to be much more effective at helping troops blend into their surroundings. British troops have been using a variant of the MultiCam for years called the Multi-Terrain Pattern. The new uniforms are currently being issued to American soldiers in Afghanistan until the UCP can be replaced altogether.

A $5 Billion Blunder

As what will surely go down as one of the greatest military debacles of all time, the UCP has cost the Army approximately $5 billion. And it’s not just a matter of wasted money or resources. Who knows how many soldiers were wounded or killed because their military-issued gear turned them into targets on the battlefield?

“The only time I have ever seen it work well was in a gravel pit,” one Army Specialist told The Daily. “Wearing a uniform that stands out this badly makes it hard to do our job effectively. If we can see our own guys across a distance because of it, then so can our enemy.”

Avoiding Future Missteps

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, but the biggest one now seems to be, “How can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?”

The general consensus on the UCP disaster seems to be that the upper echelons of command were more concerned with a distinctive look than the actual functionality of the uniform. According to The Week, senior Army officials wanted a design similar to the new Marine Corps uniform, which was also pixelated. Another problem came when leadership insisted on using the Army’s traditional grey-green color scheme.

Uncle Jimbo over at BlackFive summed it up nicely, saying that the uniform “was designed by clerks, not combat soldiers.” The science seems to have been completely ignored for political reasons.

This time though, it looks like science will have its day. Army researchers are running the new patterns through a battery of trials and tests in multiple locations around the globe. It looks like the new ACU will be designed with the soldier in mind instead of the command.

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