Some details have emerged via Army Times of the environmental trials to find the US Army’s new camouflage pattern, including a group photo of the contenders. As you can see below, the patterns being tested are (from left): AOR II, UCP, Multicam, Desert Brush, UCP-Delta and Mirage. Confusingly, two trials are ongoing – one is a battalion level camo face-off between Multicam and UCP-Delta, with the winner supposedly then immediately becoming the in-theatre camouflage for US Army soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. The other trial (shown here) is much more like the traditional army camouflage evaluations carried out by the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, where a few soldiers, or even mannequins, are dressed in the patterns being tested and photographed against various backgrounds, real and artificial. This evaluation is purportedly intended to select a new ‘universal’ camouflage that in the near future will be worn at all times in all operational areas.
At the moment, with only this shot to go on, it is difficult to call any of them, but I’d say that UCP is obviously by far the worst, and the Delta version doesn’t seem to have improved it much – the coyote and grey blend together, and too little of the tan element remains to create the contrast necessary for texture and pattern.
AOR2 is seen to be a vertically oriented pattern after all, which ought to work well when troops are prone, but is a mockery of the science that went into its creation when worn upright like this: Landscapes – especially arid landscapes – break down into bands of horizontal elements, which is why many digital camouflage patterns have a somewhat stripy appearance. The colours look as though they could work well though (it is noticeably greener than Multicam, despite using a similar colour palette).
Multicam, Mirage and Desert Brush all blend better than the rest in this photo, but Desert Brush is the only one in which I can detect a useful macro-pattern. This feature is important for reducing long-range identification of the wearer, and was a key aspect of the design of the superlative Canadian Cadpat ‘temperate’ and ‘arid’ digital patterns. Further photo’s may reveal macro-patterns in some of the other designs, so we ought to reserve judgement until we have more information.