Army one step closer to replacement of ACU pattern

WASHINGTON — The Army is now one step clos­er to select­ing a new set of cam­ou­flage pat­terns that could replace what Sol­diers are wear­ing now in most places.

A Solid­er wear­ing the Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom Cam­ou­flage Pat­tern, or OCP, uses an M14 Enhanced Bat­tle Rifle. The OCP pat­tern was devel­oped to help Sol­diers blend in bet­ter in Afghanistan. Now, the Army is devel­op­ing a new set of uni­form pat­terns for all Sol­diers, as part of the Phase IV cam­ou­flage effort.
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As part of the “Phase IV” cam­ou­flage effort, the Army this week award­ed con­tracts to five ven­dors — select­ed from an ini­tial 20 — to each pro­vide enough fab­ric in the new cam­ou­flage pat­terns they have devel­oped to pro­duce 150 uni­forms for the Army to test. 

Each ven­dor had been asked to pro­duce a “fam­i­ly of cam­ou­flage pat­terns,” includ­ing one that would be suit­able in a wood­land envi­ron­ment, one that would be suit­able in a desert envi­ron­ment, and one that would work in a “tran­si­tion­al” environment. 

The Army will spend the next nine months test­ing the effec­tive­ness of those patterns. 

“To real­ly have con­fi­dence in being able to make a rec­om­men­da­tion to senior lead­ers, we need to do field tri­als,” said Col. William Cole, of Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Office Sol­dier. “We are look­ing for­ward to get­ting out into the woods, into the deserts, into the tran­si­tion­al areas and hav­ing real Sol­diers wear these uni­forms and have real Sol­diers observe them.” 

Cole said the Army will use both real-world test­ing in vary­ing ter­rains and con­di­tions, as well as more advanced com­put­er test­ing to eval­u­ate the patterns. 

“We’re going to put them through the ringer,” he said. 

Due to the vary­ing types of ter­rain Sol­diers oper­ate in, Cole said the Army had found that “we can’t real­ly have one pat­tern that is as effec­tive as we’d like in every sin­gle ter­rain type.” 

Today, most Sol­diers wear the Army Com­bat Uni­form. The ACU bears the Uni­ver­sal Cam­ou­flage Pat­tern, the famil­iar grey/blue “dig­i­tal” pat­tern. In Afghanistan, Sol­diers also have the Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom Cam­ou­flage Pat­tern, or OCP, avail­able for wear. 

The ven­dors each devel­oped three pat­terns with the same geom­e­try — the shapes on the fab­ric — but with dif­fer­ent col­or palettes. Addi­tion­al­ly, the ven­dors were to devel­op a fourth “coor­di­nat­ed” pat­tern, or name one of the three already in their fam­i­ly of pat­terns, that would work well with all three pat­terns. That fourth pat­tern is for use on orga­ni­za­tion­al cloth­ing and indi­vid­ual equip­ment, or OCIE

Cole said that OCIE, things like belts, pro­tec­tive vests, ruck sacks and plate car­ri­ers, are more expen­sive than a Soldier’s reg­u­lar uni­form. The Army does­n’t want to main­tain OCIE in each of the three pat­terns, so instead the Army will have it in one pat­tern that looks good with all three of the uni­form pat­tern variants. 

Cole said oth­er orga­ni­za­tions have OCIE that is a sol­id col­or, but he said “we were hop­ing we could do bet­ter than that,” and the Army asked indus­try to come up with an OCIE pat­tern to break up sol­id col­or “and still look good on all three uni­form patterns.” 

“We had seen some exam­ples of gross­ly mis­matched OCIE in uni­forms in the ear­ly part of Iraqi Free­dom — we did­n’t want to have any tell­tale signs of where the OCIE, the vest and armor stopped and where the rest of the body began,” Cole said. 

Many ven­dors have cho­sen their “tran­si­tion­al” pat­tern for use on the OCIE, Cole said. 

Each of the five ven­dors will now pro­duce enough fab­ric to build 50 uni­forms out of each of their three sub­mit­ted pat­terns — for a total of 150 uni­forms from each com­pa­ny. In all, the Army will have 750 uni­forms for use in its testing. 

Cole said by Octo­ber, PEO Sol­dier will have com­plet­ed test­ing of the pat­terns and will be able to make rec­om­men­da­tions to Army senior lead­er­ship about the way ahead. 

“There’s a lot to do between now and Octo­ber, but that’s our plan,” Cole said. “Com­plete the field tri­als and com­plete the more sen­si­tive com­put­er sim­u­la­tions and come back to senior lead­ers in Octo­ber and lay out the results of what we found and have a recommendation.” 

The five ven­dors award­ed con­tracts include: 

  • Atlantic Div­ing Sup­ply, Inc., Vir­ginia Beach, Va.
  • Brook­wood Com­pa­nies Inc., New York, N.Y.
  • Crye Pre­ci­sion, LLC, Brook­lyn, N.Y.
  • Kryptek Inc., Fair­banks, Alaska
  • U.S. Army Nat­ick Sol­dier Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter, Nat­ick, Mass.

U.S. Army 

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