Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Top Ten Inaccuracies in UCP Camouflage Reporting

We have taken great strides to cover the US Army Camouflage Improvement Effort with complete accuracy to the facts presented by PEO Soldier, Natick Soldier Systems, associated departments, and reputable media outlets with solid sources. However, the mainstream media outside the defense industry has taken the story and ran with it presenting a vast array of misleading headlines and blatant inaccuracies similar to what you would see in some goofy forum post that has gone off the rails.

Still in UCP in Afghanistan
Photo by US Army Spc. Garibay
While the history of the Universal Camouflage Pattern is murky from the omission of certain key factors leading to its adoption by the Army as the central means of concealment, there are plenty of facts on record to get the story straight and not turn assumptions into absolute policy. These articles are already being quoted in Wikipedia, which is always suspect as an information resource, but is also at the top of any search results given the legitimacy heaped on it by the masses.

We have taken a total of ten headlines or claims that we found lacking in accuracy or substance given the actual information that is available and explain why we feel it is misleading or downright wrong in respect to the overall conversation as to what the US Army did or is trying to do in regard to their camouflage improvement efforts.

1. Army to Get Rid of their ACUs

While many refer to the camouflage UCP and ACU interchageable as the pattern name, there is no indication that the Army Combat Uniform is going anywhere. Also, it is not the Advanced Combat Uniform as we have seen it called recently. There is the addition of the Army Combat Pant and Shirt, which are still being manufactured in the Universal Camouflage Pattern, but these complement the options available to soldiers rather than replacing the standard uniform. 

2. Army ditches failed Combat Uniform that Put a Target on Grunts' backs for 8 years. 

Again, the combat uniform is not going anywhere and quite possibly UCP could still be around much longer than the assumed year as put forth in many articles. Nothing has been set in stone and even then, things change, budgets crunch, and proposed dates can always be pushed down the pipeline. The simple fact is that the Army has not explicitly said that they are getting rid of the Universal Camouflage Pattern.

The Phase IV Timeline set forth for production of any uniforms if new camouflage pattern(s) are selected rolls into next year. The reality of the entire Army swapping out their current ACU in UCP for a new camouflage option will take a lot more time than they predict. This assumes the Army decides they are actually getting rid of UCP given the alternatives presented, which on face value is valid, but the reality of the process may prove much more complicated, especially in this economy.

3. Universal Camouflage designed for the desert. 

While this is partially correct, UCP was created as a "Universal" camouflage, meaning it could work in Arid, Woodland, and Desert Environments, hence the name. The misconception that it was developed for Iraq or Afghanistan in respect to their various arid environments only is simply wrong.

4. $5 Billion Camo SNAFU

In hindsight the camouflage developed and given the moniker UCP has turned into a literal joke. It has proven ineffective in testing. Nonetheless uniforms and gear in the camouflage cost money. This is a sunk cost which has gone to good use. Even if it has not provided proper concealment, there is still utility in the wear of the uniform. MultiCam has proven to be an effective pattern in Afghanistan and if it was originally chosen over UCP, the Army could have decided to opt for different camouflage patterns anyway to meet the needs of multiple environments. This is what they are doing with the latest solicitation.

If they were not going by the criteria to find different patterns for multiple environments, the decision would be a simple switch to MultiCam, which already has plenty of funding invested. Obviously you can't go back in time and kill this ugly butterfly, but to throw out a $5 Billion dollar figure as being a complete waste is quite inflammatory, especially when the Department of Defense has plenty of other projects that are burning cash to keep the Pentagon warm. In the scheme of things $5 Billion is a drop in the bucket for a force of over 1 Million when you include the National Guard and Reserve.

F-22 Raptor
Photo by US Air Force Sr. Airman Strong

5. Soldiers say Uniform (UCP) Universally Failed in Every Environment

The article goes on to quote a soldier in saying it would work in a gravel pit, so there is some hope out there. Every dog has its day and many proclaim its effectiveness in parts of Iraq and some concrete urban environments. Some hunters swear by it for their own intentions. Sure it was horrible for Afghanistan, but lets keep hyperbole to a minimum when presenting the news. Of course calling some of these publications as news is a stretch in itself.

6. Army Scraps Eye-Catching Pixel Camo Uniforms

Perhaps we are desensitized to the wonders of pixels, but what is so eye catching. This is a fluff title that is very deceiving.

Doesn't Always Work!
Photo by US Air Force Staff SGT. Crane
7. US Army Switching to MultiCam

The switch to MultiCam is only the case for Afghanistan and only on the internet can people make blanket generalization and have people bite the hook like a bloated guppy. The obvious point of the US Army Camouflage Improvement Solicitation was to find a camouflage that is better than MultiCam and even Crye Precision is getting on board to compete. Perhaps it turns out that MultiCam is the end result as the "right" camouflage for the Army, but that is not the intention of what they set out for, nor has the US Army given any indication that they will take on MultiCam as their only camouflage pattern. Of course crazier things have happened. 

8. U.S. Army Spent $5 Billon on New Uniforms to Look Cooler than Marines

It is interesting how one quote can drive a title like this. The actual quote from Eric Graves of Soldier Systems Daily as originally printed in The Daily Mail was, "Brand identity trumped camouflage utility. That's what this really comes down to: we can't allow the Marine Corps to look more cool than the Army." To be fair, the Army could have been aiming to look just as cool, especially when the Marines have two different camouflage patterns. 

Of course now the Army is possibly going to trump that with 3-4 variants for their uniform. In reality they would have spent $5 Billion no matter what the camouflage was, again a matter of sunk cost. Is this was their sole intention, they could have certainly paid the same and hired a consultant to add some denim, leather, and spikes into the mix. Plus, the Marines just copied Canada's CADPAT Camouflage with a different colorway for Woodland and Arid Environments. No one is saying the Marines wanted to look cooler than Canadians....until now!

U.S. Marines Desert MARPAT
Photo by USMC SGT. Blumenstein
9. Fashion #uck Up

Sure there was plenty wrong with UCP, but the Army was not looking to be fashionable. You have to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one. Sure they wanted a pixelated pattern, since this is what the Marines utilized with MARPAT and proved to be effective for concealment. The testing on the new colorway was not done from the start and is the real problem with why it turned out to be a failure compared to the same pattern with a different colorway. 

MultiCam has a very popular colorway that has been copied by many designers, not to mention the pattern itself, which is problematic when it comes to their patent. Would you call that, trying to be fashionable or trying to find something that is equally effective? Also, MultiCam is a digital pattern by the way. That's right its Digital just like UCP and just about all the other new patterns coming forth. Just another misused word to describe squared off camo patterns. 

10. Army Troops Stuck with $5 Billion Camo that Doesn't Even Work

We guess a broken clock is right at least twice a day and the media may have gotten this one partially right. Luckily many soldiers in actual combat zones are using effective camouflage with MultiCam being the most utilized in Afghanistan. This is where it actually counts, so for the most part they are stuck with UCP, but for the time being they are using what is needed. However as the photo above shows, there are still soldiers "stuck" with the dramatized digital camo.

Got to Have Options (As first Seen Left to Right) - Digital Tiger Stripe, AOR 2, UCP, Desert MARPAT
Photo by US Army Staff SGT. Hillburn

We guess the moral to this story is to stick with reputable defense industry news sources when it comes to getting your information on camouflage developments. We try to bring forth worthwhile topics in this regard along with factual information. We find Soldier Systems Daily, Strike-Hold!, and Kitup! to be the best in making sure they get their facts straight before reporting any details.

We will keep on bringing stories for the camouflage that is still in the running to "possibly" replace UCP and has already been displayed. The camouflage family of patterns include  US4CES from ADS Inc. / Guy Cramer, Kryptek L.E.A.F, Brookwoods submission. The patterns from Crye Precision have yet to be shown, but we are sure they will draw plenty of interest once revealed and will surely give a run for the money given past the success with MultiCam.

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  1. Horrible for Afghanistan? So what about those:

    I dare to say those pictures show effectiveness of UCP in THOSE parts of Afghanistan.

  2. The ACU is NOT functional as camo in most environments and is definitly NOT working in the desert vs the Desert BDU 3 color pattern. I cam in the army wearing new permapress fatigues, good in garrison, useless in the field. The transition to BDUs was great, funtional working camo, an upgrade of stying may have been needed but Velcro? The excuse was no more expensive sewing, now we buy expensive replacements that melt with th eVelcro! Then th eBlue uniform that saves only officer money! No more patches but you have to buy $12 metal pins to demonstrate combat service. Keeps the non combats form displaying an empty right sleeve! Generals want to make their mark so instead of updateing the M113 series of support tracks, we get usless uniform changes! They must teach stupid in the acadamies andWar college!

  3. Jeez...should I even say this? Ok...I will....NO ONE looks cooler than Marines, or Navy, or Army, or Air Force...when compared to the bunch of whining losers who fluffed out those headlines and articles.

  4. Heh, I figured "eye catching" was just a horrible groaner way to say "the camouflage stands out."

  5. The uniforms the soldiers are forced to wear are criminally useless. They remind me of when I went through the Infantry Officers Basic Course at Ft Benning in 84. We were supposed to be the test bed for the Light Weight BDU's but at the last minute they decided that a better real world test group would be the 71L clerk/typests in Building 4. The test was declared a resounding success and the result was uniforms that fell apart in the washer and tore as easily as old paper. The people who select new uniforms obviously were screw ups in everything they did in life and mean to stay on a roll.