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Camo Delays and Assessment Team Gouge

by christian on December 29, 2009

From today’s headlines on Military​.com:

The Army is close to fielding all the uniforms and accessories it planned to outfit Soldiers in as part of its crash program to develop a new camouflage scheme for operations in Afghanistan.

About half of the body armor carriers on the popular MultiCam pattern have yet to be fielded.  The manufacture of MultiCam uniforms on a fire-resistant fabric was delayed, as well.

“We got ahead and we started looking at some fabrics to make sure that we would meet all the requirements that operational forces in theater needed and that we weren’t going to give them any less capability,” said Lt. Col. Mike Sloane, program manager for Soldier equipment. “We would not give up on FR capability. That was non-negotiable.”

Sloane told Military​.com in a recent interview at his Fort Belvoir headquarters that about 500 MultiCam plate carriers were on their way to Afghanistan and that about 500 more had already been delivered.

“There could be 200–300 Soldiers that have everything that they need except for the MultiCam plate carrier,” Sloane added.

The so-called “immediate action” experiment to field 1,000 MultiCam uniforms and accessories to Afghanistan alongside 1,000 ensembles of an Army-developed camo dubbed “Universal Camouflage Pattern-Delta” stemmed from congressional criticism that the current UCP pattern wasn’t adequately concealing Soldiers in the varied terrain of Afghanistan.

The Army pledged to field the alternate patterns to two battalion-sized units in Afghanistan by the end of October but has struggled to get the full complement of gear to Joes by that deadline.

According to Sloane, all of the items patterned in UCP-D have been sent to Afghanistan, and Soldiers are patrolling in their new duds. The MultiCam Joes — Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the 12th Infantry Regiment — are already wearing some of their new uniforms but without the accessories patterned in the sought-after scheme.

Sloane said part of the reason why Soldiers aren’t sporting their pouches, helmet covers and armor covers in the experimental patterns might have something to do with the difficulty of swapping well-worn accessories for new ones. With the helmet cover, for example, it’s difficult to detach the night vision goggle bracket and other lights and holders from the Kevlar lid, install a new cover, then re-attach it all. That hassle might have kept some Joes from making the switch, but Sloane says it’s got to be done.

“I have seen photos of Soldiers and leaders in theater in UCP-Delta walking around with a UCP helmet, and I’m like ‘what the heck?’ ” Sloane said. “I’m not sure if it was ‘hey, we’ve got a mission, put on the uniforms and we’ll get to that later.’ … It’s in theater, they have it and they should be wearing it.”

Sloane had recently returned from a brief deployment to Afghanistan with a nine-man specialized team — Soldiers and one Sailor — tasked with accumulating data for the second stage of Army research into a new camo scheme.

The team of researchers from the special operations forces, the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, and the regular Army traveled around Afghanistan wearing uniforms in six camo patterns that closely match some of the terrain there. Sloane refused to use mannequins in the tests, preferring real people in real poses.

“We’d go into those environments and say ‘this is where the enemy is seeing us when we operate,’ ” Sloane said. “As tactically realistically as possible we’d insert ourselves into those scenarios.”

The camo patterns included AOR-II, a SEAL-developed pattern similar to the Marine Corps’ woodland digital; UCP-D; MultiCam; UCP; the Natick-designed Desert Brush camo and Mirage, which was developed by Bulldog Tactical, a civilian company.

The requirement to use people instead of dummies was not without some risk. The team was attacked during one of the photo shoots outside Forward Operating Base Salerno, near Khost, when a group of insurgents attacked with RPGs and machine gun fire.

The team traveled to eight different sites, working out of bases such as Bagram, Camp Bastion, and FOB Salerno, and took hundreds of photos of all six camo patterns against various backgrounds in “tactical” poses.

The photos are part of an ongoing “blending” and “detection” test that has hundreds of Soldiers looking at the images to evaluate how easy the camo patterns are to see on each background.

“I think we really set the example of how to do this right,” Sloane said of the photo simulation experiment. “I think it’s a model for when you have a complex situation where you don’t understand what you don’t know.”

– Christian

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce December 29, 2009 at 4:12 pm

It is just too bad they didn't make this kind of effort BEFORE fielding UCP.

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Big Daddy December 29, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Cammo does not work, it will not help you hide in the field. They can keep spending money on this stuff but the fact is cammo will only show you up not cover you up. The only thing that helps is breaking up of your silhouette.

If you're in the desert wear sand/tan/light brown/khaki, Jungle-green/olive green/olive drab, Forrest or other terrain with both colors you can wear either and get away with it. It doesn't matter as long as you break up your silhouette. Add some fake shrubbery or whatever you call it to your helmet and shoulders in the colors of your surroundings. But the uniform can be one color.

When are these idiots at the DOD going to figure that out? The Israelis have. This is a joke.

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Solomon December 29, 2009 at 5:06 pm

The Israeli's still use olive drab because all the other Middle East countries use camo. It helps make identification of Israeli soldiers easier.

Modern camo does work. If anything the eye notices movement. Even if your silhouette is broken, if a tree or bush is moving then you know its not right.

The biggest thing left for the conventional forces is to get some color onto the rifle. Black-straight- "sticks" tend to grab attention. lets camo our rifles now.

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Big Daddy December 30, 2009 at 7:09 pm

That's half true. It is also because they know it DOES NOT WORK. They have a limited budget and will not waste money on stuff that does not work. This is a statement from the Isreali military, I wish I had the web page were I read it. Don't you think they have tried it? They are very smart especially when it comes to weapons and warfare. If they had a pattern that works they would issue it ASAP.

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Ed! December 29, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Check out the SCAR rifle on the guy third from the right. What I can't identify is the weapon the guy second to the right has. There appears to be a large area that is chromed on that barrel. Is that another M-4 or M-16 or is that something else entirely?

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BOCAT 9 December 29, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Bruce- I agree whole-heartedly!
Ed!- Had to find a higher resolution photo over at Army Times, but it is indeed an M4. The part that appears to be chromed is in fact the fiber optic portion atop the ACOG. The brown colored PEQ 15 on the front rail breaks up the outline of an otherwise black rifle and the barrel happens to parallel the seam of the soldier's leg, giving the illusion of a shorter weapon.
Ironically, this example illustrates a good point. You can't make soldiers invisible, the trick is to make them not look like what the enemy's eye is programed to see when he surveys the battlefield. It's all about deception. Big Daddy and Solomon both have valid points, but the keys are color, pattern and fieldcraft. Think of it like a three legged stool, if one leg is too short, it topples. A good uniform won't make you disappear, but a poor one will make you stick out like a sore thumb.
Solid color uniforms can and have worked well, but modern camouflage patterns work better, especially in situations where foliage and ghillie are impractical (mounted operations, CQB, etc.).
To be fair, the ACU actually has a decent pattern, but the color scheme is horrible. In theory, the human eye has trouble locking on to gray. This is why military ships and aircraft are gray. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, this trick only works at long range. Large amounts of gray are not common enough to most landscapes (anyplace not made of granite) and this causes the uniform to fail to blend in all but low light conditions (when the human eye has difficulty discerning color). And I'm sorry, renaming it "foliage green" does not make it so.
And finally, I admit that as soldiers we seem to have gotten away from good 'ol fashioned field craft: don't silhouette yourself, practice good noise, light and litter discipline, cover shiny objects (like fiber optics on ACOGS), etc… Sometimes you just need to get back to basics.

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Big Daddy December 30, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Look at what our enemies have worn over the many years we have been at war. Black pajamas? LOL….our enemies do not have multicam or any other cam, they wear what blends in with their surrounding the best they could. As you said some basic common sense military discipline works better than any cammo pattern.

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Solomon December 29, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I think the Army got duped. Multicam is everyones darling but Mirage performs better. They still have time to make a change and buy a more effective and cheaper camouflage pattern.

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sf141 December 30, 2009 at 9:10 am

What's better Multicam or Mirage?

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Kodiak22 January 18, 2010 at 1:52 am

Desert All Over Brush

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Zandor December 30, 2009 at 6:20 pm

The USA's ace cammo fashion designer gear team, has reached perfection.

Other than a half dozen turkeys, I can't see even one US hero in this photo.

This is proof that cammo works.

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Armchair Warlord December 31, 2009 at 5:36 pm

UCP works quite well when the person wearing it isn't standing in front of a dark woodline – ironically the way most camouflage "tests" are run.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Army got a null result out of this and stuck with UCP. I've never seen a photo from Afghanistan where UCP looked "bad".

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Apocalypse December 31, 2009 at 8:41 pm

I agree, I have yet to see a "bad" photo of UCP in Afghanistan. In fact, most of the pictures, the camo blends in quiet well.

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Big Daddy January 2, 2010 at 12:31 am

As I look at different photos of Afghanistan the more I am convinced a plain khaki or sand colored uniform would work better than any cammo. Even the plain color light sand like the airforce wore in the 1950's. What color or colors you wear for your gear is somewhat inconsequential as long as they are not a woodland pattern. In fact even a light pink would work better than the ridiculous stuff they are making our soldiers wear. It doesn't work, simple fact and waste of money as usual, it just doesn't work.

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Kilroy January 3, 2010 at 1:34 am

Dude, seriously? Camo doesn't work? You are surprisingly ignorant son. Camouflage serves a purpose, check your history books. Things evolved from the British redcoats standing out wherever they went to what we have today, and you're suggesting a step back? To what the Air Force was wearing in 1950? You can't be serious.
I think the problem is people are expecting a magical camouflage pattern, something that makes you invisible and bulletproof. Even if you printed local vegetation onto a uniform, it only gets you so much mileage. There's more to stealth than looks. Noise is a big one. Ever been hiking and heard someone a half mile before you saw them? Cammo can't help that. Do people use a red micro-light at night or a 100 lumen Surefire? Cammo can't help that. Riding around in a MRAP and wondering why everyone knows you're coming? Cammo can't help that either. Blending in is more of what you're doing, what you're wearing is only part of that. And before someone says we should just go back to BDU's, let it go old man, let the past go…

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BMXdoughboy January 6, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Here's the direct link to the Israeli news report on Multicam if you have trouble finding it.

http://news.nana10.co.il/Article/?ArticleID=57940

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tomtom9041 March 15, 2010 at 4:44 pm

The fact is there is no magic "Universal" pattern. There is too much color variety in nature. Maybe with the development and deployment of active camouflage. The Israelis use French lizard pattern for awhile until the Syrian commandos started wearing them. Some sayerats do wear some camouflage pattern but whether this is standard or just the sayerats going their own way, who can say.

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Degen Earthfast March 15, 2010 at 4:53 pm

The above as per Samuel Katz in Israeli Elite Units since 1948, where he staes that as France was Israel's main supplier from 1956 to 1967, France provided and Israel worn 'lizard-pattern' (both airborne and general service types) uniforms. He the states "the IDF hasalways been apprehensive about camouflage, but the offer of large stocks was too tempting for the budget conscious IDF to ignore." He further states that they were only worn by elite units until 1968 when Palestinian commandos began wearing the same or similar uniforms.

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