The summer of 2018 will mark the official retirement of the U.S. Army's embattled Universal Camouflage Pattern. In addition to the new camouflage pattern, the new Army Combat Uniform could feature several design changes based on battlefield performance.
The Aug. 6 announcement comes less than a week after Army officials released the first images of the service's new Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP.
"The uniform bearing the new pattern will be largely the same as what soldiers wear now, except that the lower leg pockets will be closed by a button instead of the ‘hook and loop' fabric fastener on the current Army Combat Uniform, or ACU," according to an Army press release. "Soldiers complained that fastener made too much noise in combat environments."
Another approved change coming for the ACU is that the "insert pockets for knee pads and elbow pads will also be removed from the new uniform," according to Program Executive Office Soldier officials.
OCP is also known as Scorpion W2, a revised version of the original Scorpion pattern that Crye Precision LLC developed for the Army's Future Force Warrior in 2002. Crye later made small adjustments to the pattern for better performance and trademark purposes and called it MultiCam.
The new OCP is very similar to MultiCam, the pattern the Army chose in 2010 for soldiers to wear in Afghanistan. Army officials maintain however that there are differences between the two designs.
The service plans to make ACUs, printed in the new pattern, available at Military Clothing Sales Stores next summer. Soldiers are expected to retire their current uniform and begin wearing the new pattern by the summer of 2018, according to the release.
Next year, the Army Uniform Board will consider several changes the ACU such as eliminating the mandarin collar and replacing it with a fold-down design. The AUB will also consider removing the three-slot pen pocket on the ACU sleeve and eliminating the drawstring on the trouser waistband, the release states.
The adoption of the new pattern brings the service's multi-year camouflage improvement effort to a close for now.
It was actually congressional pressure that prompted the Army to launch its camouflage improvement effort in 2009. The late Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, then chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, pushed the service to look for a better camouflage pattern after receiving complaints from sergeants about the UCP's poor performance in the war zone.
As part of that program, the Army was directed to develop and evaluate camouflage patterns that will provide effective concealment in a variety of terrains and environments.
In addition to adopting OCP, two "bookend patterns of OCP are being optimized and evaluated for possible use on Flame Resistant ACUs that would be worn by soldiers deployed in either arid or heavily wooded terrains," the release states.
All organizational clothing and individual equipment, referred to as OCIE, such as MOLLE gear, protective vests, ruck sacks and plate carriers and non-flame resistant ACUs and will be offered in the OCP pattern only.
"The Army's adoption of OCP will be fiscally responsible, by transitioning over time and simply replacing current uniforms and OCIE equipment as they wear out," according to a senior Army official in the release.
The cost of uniforms with the new pattern will be comparable to the current uniform. At the Fort Myer, Virginia, military clothing sales store, for instance, an ACU top now sells for approximately $45. The pants sell for around $45 as well. A cap sells for about $8, according to the release.
According to the 2014 pay charts, online at dfas.mil, enlisted soldiers receive between $439 and $468 annually to buy new uniforms – that includes replacing the outgoing UCP ACU with the Operational Camouflage Pattern ACU.
Soldiers will have about three years – the time between the first availability of the uniform in military clothing sales in 2015 and the time they are required to wear it in 2018 – to transition the contents of their clothing bag to the new look. They will also have more than $1,300 in clothing allowance at their disposal to make that happen, the release states.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com