Geek Out

US Army's Pixelated Camouflage Uniform Is A $5b Failure

While pixelation is usually very successful at obscuring images otherwise unfit to be seen, the US Army is $US5 billion in the hole, with its pixelated camouflage uniform (introduced in 2004) being dubbed a colossal mistake.

The Daily reports that soldiers have “roundly criticised the grey-green uniform for standing out almost everywhere it’s been worn”.

“Essentially, the [US] Army designed a universal uniform that universally failed in every environment,” a US Army specialist who served two tours in Iraq told The Daily.

Now, researchers and textile technologists are working feverishly to design a new, less conspicuous camo pattern.

The goal is to give soldiers different patterns suitable for different environments, plus a single neutral pattern – matching the whole family – to be used on more expensive body armour 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.

It’s incredible that the US government could spend $US5 billion on a failing design… and absurd that they’d stick with it for this long. The Daily reports that the pixel pattern — known as Universal Camouflage Pattern, or UCF — originated with the US Marines, who called it MARPAT.

The Marines even found one of the baseline colours themselves, an earth tone now called Coyote Brown.

“They went to Home Depot, looked at paint swatches, and said, ‘We want that colour,’ ” said Anabelle Dugas, a textile technologist at Natick who helped develop the pattern. That particular hue, she added, was part of a paint series then sold by Ralph Lauren.

The US Army at the time was low on matching pieces, making do with forest green vests over their desert-specific gear. MARPAT was considered a trendy new cut, so the army, with what The Daily calls “a case of pixelated camouflage envy”, decided it would sport the fancy new gear too.

Until a new pattern is settled upon and issued — which may be as much as a year away — soldiers in Afghanistan will wear “a greenish, blended replacement called MultiCam”. [The Daily]

Image: Getty

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