multi terrain pattern camouflage for british armed forces

20 12 2009

In the last few days some military news sites, blogs and forums, and now the BBC and the Daily Telegraph, have been reporting on a surprising announcement from the British Ministry of Defence: A new camouflage pattern has been developed, to address the problem of operating in areas that include both arid or desert terrain and cultivated ground, such as that found in Afghanistan’s ‘green zone’ astride the Helmand River.

Why is this a surprise? Well, apart from the fact that Britain has used the iconic disruptive pattern (DPM), with minor changes, since the end of the 1960’s, and has always professed itself quite happy with it –  and the auxiliary desert DPM –  there is the suddenness of it! Even though the camouflage is being introduced to troops as an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR), as an example of bureaucratic camouflage (what the Russians call maskirovka), the development and trialling of this pattern has been textbook.

At the beginning of this year I was made aware that our special forces (UKSF) were looking for a multi-terrain pattern to use for their issued uniforms. They specifically wanted Crye Precision’s MultiCam® (which I understand they are permitted to wear and purchase  themselves from the manufacturer), but there was a barrier to domestic production presented by US restriction on the use of the licence. Other patterns, including Hyde Definition’s homegrown PenCott camouflage, were considered, but the colours and tonal gradations that characterise MultiCam® were what the UKSF valued above all in a design.

Crye's MultiCam® pattern

Crye's MultiCam® pattern

All seemed to go quiet, and UK Special Forces personnel continued to be seen in assorted uniforms and camo patterns, including MultiCam®. But while all this was going on, much fanfare and spectacle was created by the Personal Equipment and Common Operational Clothing (PECOC)  program, which, as this blog reported, looked all set to introduce a family of far less radical DPM derivatives in to service. The colours of temperate DPM would be changed slightly, the desert pattern would acquire a sparse overprint in a third, darker brown, and  new ‘intermediate’ multi-terrain DPM (with a four colour palette of 3 browns and a green that was vaguely similar to MultiCam®’s colours) would be introduced for use on personal load bearing equipment and helmet covers. Or so we all thought.

Hybrid PECOC intermediate camouflage pattern

Hybrid PECOC intermediate camouflage pattern

Evidently, a satisfactory solution to the UKSF’s needs was quietly found by having Crye secretly create a bespoke pattern for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). Quite when it widened from UKSF to became an all-forces affair is unclear, as throughout the development and trials process there was no inkling of the new Crye Multi Terrain Pattern (MTP), outside of those with a need to know. Any mentions of a new digitally designed pattern or a DPM with MultiCam® colours were thought to refer to the PECOC program, which was running along a confusingly (conveniently?)  similar parallel track. Trials were conducted in the UK, Cyprus, Kenya, and Afghanistan, but were kept secret with confidentiality agreements (even the Official Secrets Act can be employed without too much creative thinking), intellectual property protection, and MoD royalty rights. Of course, we all sign the OSA when we join the military, but rumours of new developments always bubble to the surface before long. That little to nothing leaked out is testament to the stringency with which the rules were enforced, and the effectiveness of the MoD’s maskirovka campaign. I don’t know which units were involved in the trials, but it’s certainly easier to do this kind of thing with elite special operations troops who understand and value security. If they should be accidentally spotted wearing a new multi-terrain pattern while trialling it in the course of their normal duties, it can easily be explained away as MultiCam®, which no-one would think to question (at more than a few feet away it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between the two Crye designs anyhow).

Crye Multi-Terrain Pattern

Crye Multi-Terrain Pattern

The pattern itself looks exactly like you might imagine a hybrid between DPM and MultiCam® would. The unique Crye blends between colours are there, as well as their signature ‘bird-dropping’ blobs and streaks of very dark brown and extremely light grey. The shapes within the pattern, however, are very much more reminiscent of temperate DPM than the laterally-elongated woodland camouflage forms of classic MultiCam®. It’s a very pleasing design aesthetically, and promises to blend in various environments just as well as its American progenitor. And just like MultiCam®, it suffers when it comes to long-range disruption, as there just isn’t enough contrast in the pattern. Hopefully, that failing will be of minor significance in the tactical environment in which it will be used, besides which, it is generally becoming acknowledged (at long last) that 21st Century armies are not often going to be fighting from and within bits of dense woodland or across trackless desert plains, but will spend the majority of their time approaching, entering, attacking and defending rural or suburban areas, with their characteristically close engagement ranges. Any camo design that addresses the new paradigm gets my support.

The MT Pattern, on standard No.8 combat uniforms, body armour and personal load carrying equipment (PLCE), is due to be issued to troops rotating through Afghanistan next year with a wider roll-out to the rest of the military beginning the following year.

This wiki article on the British Army Rumour Service website explains the thinking behind multi-terrain patterns like MultiCam®. Contains language unsuitable for minors.


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17 responses

21 12 2009
Big Dave

And MTP sticks out like a sore thumb in lush temperate or tropical woodlands. Looks like they’re not planning a war in Northern Europe for some time then.

3 02 2010
Johnny Bravo

Really big Dave, i don’t think you are talking from experience there are you.
I have used both of these cam systems, and i can assure you they both work well strangely enough in “multi environments” the old style brit dpm just looked like a green blob when it was wet multi cam systems work well from the Welsh hills to Afghanistan and anywhere in between.
Try incorporating some fact and a little less assumption.

21 12 2009
strikehold

Nice work Dom.

21 12 2009
More about the UK’s new MTP camo uniforms « Strike – Hold!

[…] Also, check out Dom Hyde’s article on his Blog. […]

21 12 2009
Dom Hyde

Big Dave, I don’t think we can afford a war anywhere else, and we are in this one for a generation at least. I’m pleased to see that the Army is no longer preparing for the fantasy clash of armour it wants, but has drunk a deep draft of reality. More money on force multipliers and enabling light infantry, that’s what is needed.

I hope I’m getting a soapbox for Christmas!

30 12 2009
Allan

Looks very nice. But I think PenCott with semi arid colours would have been easier to make and be even more effective, and PenCott is British!

4 01 2010
Chris

Nice and they also incorporated the dotting of some edges of the colours like on dpm. Actually an improvement I think on multicam.Are the colour ratio’s exactly the same of has the darker green been reduced slightly and the mossy grey green increased.As the dark brown shapes have been changed to resemble the brush strokes of dpm some of these areas are slightly larger than in multicam though there’s nothing in it really but maybe this will increase contrast a little.Also the colour fade feature doesn’t seem to be there as much but then the colours that fade into each other are so similar this has to be a good thing and the added ‘dotting’ makes up for this.Nice.

4 01 2010
Chris

I think there would have been a lot to be said for designing our own surely.I mean if we don,t mind off the shelf tweaking why didn’t we buy g36 rifles…etc

4 01 2010
Chris

Multi DPM I shall call it.

4 01 2010
Chris

Dom could have designed better if Pencott is anything to go buy.Pencott is fantastic stylistically as well as being mega effective. What do people think to the new UCP-D pattern being fielded by U.S. troops recently,basically ACU-AT with a generous helping of coyote brown, I actually quite like it – certainly an improvement. If they go with multicam instead at least we’ll look like their troops a bit.Maybe they wont shoot at us as much.(joke)

3 02 2010
Johnny Bravo

Clearly stacks of experience in this forum

15 02 2010
Allan

I agree with Chris about PenCott. And about those trigger happy Americans, it’s not white tail hunting season you know! That is the reason why in the states they must wear something blaze orange because of all the hunting accidents!

16 02 2010
Allan

I think I will call it DPM MultiCam!!! 🙂

16 05 2010
Matt

I am under the impression that MTP is not new and has been on the shelf for some time.

I am a little concerned at the procurement process for MTP as on the Defence CLothing and Textiles Agency website, the material trialed was clearly MultiCam and NOT Nulti Terrain Pattern. On completion of the testing process positivie polling of serving soldiers identified MultiCam as the preferred Cam. I assume under business arrangments MultiCam was unavailable and Crye Precision commissioned to develop MTP? Which is completely different to MultiCam in appearance, this was supposedly to take into account the fact that in a separate feedback session soldiers identified with and liked the old DPM so MTP was made to look more like it.

My other issue is that with the difference between MTP and MultiCam will RSMs be forgiving to soldiers who have privately purchased items that are MultiCam, such as Molle Equipment and PLCE replacements when some in the Command Chain are concerned with the fact that shirts in theatre are being worn, God Forbid, untucked.

2 01 2011
2010 in review « The Camo Side of Dominic Hyde

[…] The busiest day of the year was February 25th with 917 views. The most popular post that day was multi terrain pattern camouflage for british armed forces. […]

2 04 2012
carl k.

allan , not all americans are trigger happy anymore than brits all have bad teeth…..grow up .

2 04 2012
carl k.

and….at least we have our guns and a hunting season……since u brits got bohica on that subject .

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