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.
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.
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).
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.