Since early in the 20th century, military tacticians around the world have understood the importance of using camouflage to prevent detection during combat. Camouflage uniforms used by the military are frequently redesigned or replaced as the conditions in which the troops find themselves continue to change. Most recently, the U.S. Army has begun replacing the woodland camouflage and the three-color desert camouflage patterns that were used during the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War. The newly developed MultiCam pattern was considered just after 2000, but wasn’t chosen at that time. Instead, the Universal Camouflage System pattern became part of the ACU, or Army Combat Uniform. In 2010, however, the U.S. Army has begun issuing MultiCam uniforms to Soldiers deploying to Afghanistan.
The new pattern uses seven different colors and shades that range from tan and brown to green and even light pink. The camouflage pattern helps the person wearing it avoid visual or near infrared detection by blending in well with the surroundings. The pattern also helps protect troops from detection by night vision devices.
The MultiCam uniforms are designed to blend with well with the background environment by using the lighting of the environment. For example, the camouflage pattern will appear green when it’s worn in a forest, but when it’s worn in a high desert area, the tans and browns will become predominant. The variety of colors and shades found in the camouflage pattern make it ideal for many different kinds of environments, including wooded areas, sandy open desert or rocky high desert, or even urban areas. Some non-licensed patterns use either darker or lighter colors, and include yellow and pink shades on fabrics featuring different types of patterns.
In addition to taking on the appearance of the surrounding environment by mimicking colors and lighting, the camouflage pattern also deceives how the eye picks up shape and volume. When someone looks at a scene, he sees not only color, but also shape and size, or volume. The multi-colored camouflage pattern was designed to trick the viewer into seeing a person wearing the camouflage pattern as part of the background, rather than a definite object with a profile.
While some camouflage patterns work well when viewed at a distance, the person wearing the pattern can become visible at a close range. The multicolored camouflage pattern avoids this problem by using blended rather than contrasting patterns. The colors and shadings don’t have well-defined borders, and they are not repeated at predictable intervals throughout the material. Instead, they gradually fade from one shade to another in small areas of the fabric, within larger blocks of color, such as green or tan. This pattern makes it harder for someone to see the silhouette of the person wearing it, allowing him to blend into the background environment. The overall camouflage pattern has come to be known as “macroflage”.
Beginning in 2001, Crye Associates started working with the U.S. Army Soldiers System Center to develop the MultiCam uniform. In developing the new camouflage pattern, Crye Associates looked at the way animals hide themselves in nature, using lighting, terrain, seasonal changes and other factors. After assessing how best to use camouflage in many different conditions, Crye set out to develop and test a single camouflage pattern that would work well in many different areas.
Crye Associates and its manufacturing and production side, Crye Precision, field-tested the pattern with the US Army beginning in 2009, with input from soldiers in the field. U.S. Army soldiers tried several different camouflage patterns and ranked them according to preference. Then a team from the U.S. Army took photos of troops wearing the various camouflage patterns in a number of different terrains in Afghanistan. Photo simulations of the different types of camouflage at various distances and terrains were evaluated by soldiers who had recently returned from Afghanistan. The Crye Precision MultiCam pattern was the hands-down winner.
In 2010, the U.S. Army began issuing MultiCam uniforms developed by Crye Precision to Soldiers deploying to Afghanistan. At this time, the camouflage pattern is being used only by Soldiers deployed in Afghanistan. In addition, the multicolored camouflage pattern is being used on the Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment tactical gear issued to the Soldiers. The U.S. Army chose the pattern because it blends so well into the varied surroundings of the Afghanistan geography and terrain. It’s not unusual for Soldiers on patrol to move from wooded areas to high desert or mountain terrain to a desert area. The U.S. Army feels the multicolored camouflage pattern gives Soldiers the best camouflage in one single ACU as well as the tactical equipment they use. High-level U.S. Army officers say the camouflage pattern allows troops to get much closer to enemy combatants than they could before, giving them an extra measure of protection.
While the MultiCam pattern was developed for U.S. Army soldiers, it will soon be put into use by other U.S. military branches, such as the U.S. Air Force. The multicolored camouflage pattern is finding uses in other countries’ militaries as well. Private military contractors and law enforcement on the federal, state and local levels, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and some police departments are also using the camouflage pattern. Multicolor camouflage clothing is also available to civilians. Hunters in particular appreciate its usefulness in varied terrains. Paintball and Airsoft game participants also find the camouflage pattern beneficial when hiding themselves and their equipment.
The Army discontinued the BDU once the ACU was implemented, but multicolor camouflage pattern BDU uniform components are available to civilians. The BDU components include field jackets, pants, hats, and even combat boots. The pattern is also used in tactical gear, such as day packs, ammo pouches, and canteen covers.
Although the multicolor camouflage pattern is a new player in military, law enforcement and civilian clothing and equipment, it has already shown itself ideal for providing the needed cover in all kinds of different environments. Whether he's a professional soldier, a law enforcement member, or an outdoor enthusiast he'll find that using this kind of camouflage pattern in clothing and tactical gear will let him, for all intents and purposes, hide in plain sight.