Soldiers can breathe easy knowing that as of September 30th, the Army’s infamous camo pattern has finally been retired and relegated to the history books.
That’s right — the oft-hated Universal Camouflage Pattern is out, and the newer Operational Camouflage Pattern.
The pattern adorned Army Combat Uniforms for the better part of 14 years, beginning with its official adoption in 2005 after a rigorous development program held by the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center which sought to develop a universal pattern to replace the older M81 Woodland and Desert Camouflage patterns used across the service.
Digital patterning soon became a front runner in the program, rapidly gaining in popularity after the Canadian military adopted CADPAT in 2002, and the Marine Corps began fielding MARPAT uniforms the same year across the branch.
The Army unveiled its new uniforms in 2004, adopting and issuing the UCP-based ACU as a replacement for the older Battle Dress Uniforms which had been in service since 1981. The rollout would go on to ring up a $5 billion price tag.
However, all was not well with the branch’s new look.
Soldiers quickly found that the pattern simply didn’t blend in or break up their profiles in most environments — a horrifying realization for those deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq at the time.
It turned out that UCP was better at blending in with grandma’s couch than it was in desert, urban, arctic, and forested/jungle environments.
Just 2 years after its adoption, Natick re-tested the UCP in a variety of different operational environments only to find that the pattern was easily surpassed by a number of other competing camouflages.
In the following years, the Army would turn to MultiCam, a variant of Crye Precision’s entry for the universal pattern program, as its go-to for personnel deployed to combat theaters. An all-out race to replace UCP ensued, spurred on by an inquiry from Congress.
After a multi-year development program, a variation of MultiCam, dubbed Operational Camouflage Pattern, was finally selected.
In 2015, then-Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno let on that the branch was moving ahead with adopting OCP, and that units deploying to combat zones were already being issued ACUs with the new pattern.
A few months after Odierno’s revelation, the branch made ACUs in OCP available for purchase with a final phase-in date of September 30th, 2019. All soldiers are expected to have either been issued or purchased new OCP ACUs.