Tech & Kit

Army Seeks to Improve Combat Uniform

ARLINGTON, VA Nothing says pride like a Soldier in uniform. Today’s Soldier has much to be proud of in the current Army Combat Uniform (ACU).

As Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston said, the ACU was designed by Soldiers, for Soldiers. Developed with functionality in mind, many design aspects of the uniform lend themselves to low maintenance, such as the 50/50 cotton/nylon wrinkle-free fabric and the shine-free boots. The uniform also has pockets for elbow and knee pad inserts for added protection, and drawstring at the ankles and waist for improved comfort and fit.

Since introduction of the ACU in 2004, the Army has made more than 25 improvements to the uniform and associated equipment based on Soldier input. These include a reinforced seat, buttons on the cargo pockets, and better attachment of the infrared tab. This improvement process is ongoing, as Soldiers keep suggesting new ways to adapt the uniform to their needs.

Now the Army is focusing on the concealment the ACU provides to Soldiers operating in Afghanistan’s unique environment of mountains, deserts, and woodlands.

“The Army is all about taking care of Soldiers,” said Command Sgt. Maj.Jeffrey J. Mellinger of Army Materiel Command. “That means providing Soldiers with the best equipment. In this case, it means evaluating what is the best camouflage for uniforms in current operating environments.”

The Army is exploring alternate camouflage patterns in two ways. First, the Army is equipping two battalions in Afghanistan with uniforms and personal equipment in alternate camouflage patterns. One battalion is receiving uniforms in MultiCam, a pattern worn by some Special Forces troops in Afghanistan. The other battalion is receiving uniforms in Universal Camouflage Pattern – Delta (UCP-Delta), a variant of the current ACU camouflage pattern that incorporates the Coyote Brown color and reduces the percentages of sand and gray colors. The battalions also will retain their standard ACUs.

Second, the Army is evaluating six candidate camouflage patterns, including the currently used Universal Camouflage Pattern. The intent is to determine which of the six currently available patterns, with corresponding personal protective equipment, provides Soldiers with the most effective concealment in Afghanistan.

“We already have extensive data on the performance of various camouflage patterns in particular environments, but we need to keep building the science for Operation Enduring Freedom,” said Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, the Program Executive Officer Soldier. “For example, we need more information on how the uniform camouflage blends with the Soldier’s combat equipment in specific environments.”

While the issue of camouflage patterns has recently been in the news, the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) has studied and reported on the effectiveness of different camouflage patterns for many years. The current ACU provides Soldiers with concealment in a variety of environments, from urban to desert, both during the day and at night.

A team has deployed to Afghanistan to collect data in the various environments, outside the Forward Operating Bases, where Soldiers are fighting the enemy. The team includes representatives from the Program Executive Office Soldier, Army G-4, U.S. Army Infantry Center, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and NSRDEC.

Feedback from the two battalions, as well as results of additional tests being conducted by NSRDEC on multiple camouflage patterns, are expected to be presented to Army leadership in early 2010.

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  1. Finally! With the original ACU our troops stuck out like a sore thumb, now we can accually have some real camouflage that will be effective. But hopefully they don't put it on the XM-25 or that will just look rediculous!


  2. This article makes it seems like the ACU's were a good idea. They weren't, EVER! The ACU pattern blends in with nothing, is made of cheap material and overall is worthless. Why the Army ever left the BDU/DCU pattern is beyond me. Here we are, 5 years later, changing uniforms again. Take a hint from actual soldiers who really use the uniforms the way they are intended-give us something that works! Multi-cam would be the best bet followed very closely by BDU/DCU's, then maybe go back to the OG-107's or khaki's of WW2. Notice I didn't mention ACU's anywhere?

  3. I agree, however, the army six years ago was looking at multicam, acu's, and some other patterns, i think marpat. Some genius looked and multicam and ACU's and said wow ACU's will work so much better than that camoflauge pattern that will blend with almost everything, durable, built in knee pads (genius), a bdu stle, and operational style. WOW that guy deserves a pat on the back acus turned out so much better. What a bunch of idiots that get to make the decisions. PEN POCKETS??? Come on!!! definately some legs were in that decision making process.

  4. acu's. love the lay out, hate the pattern. the only thing they "blend" with is crushed rock on a bn sized fob, where all the fobbits dont have to worry to much about cover and concealment. those of us that do how ever, worry greatly. i was in afghanistan from jan 07 to feb 08 when the final wear out date for the bdu/dcu took place. i was yelled at by some pog sm for wearing my modified dcu(pockets on shoulders) a full seven moths before the actual wear out date. goes to show ya how the army keeps up with the actual requirments on the ground.

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