The exact process through which the UCP pattern was developed and chosen remains something of a mystery, but what is clear is that the Army re-used the same pattern geometry as MARPAT and CADPAT (and now the Navy’s new NWU as well). What’s also clear is that with the elimination of black, or even just a dark tone, the “texture” of the CADPAT/MARPAT pattern was lost, with the result that that UCP pattern is inferior in terms of “disruption” than either of its predecessors.
The 3 colors chosen for UCP also leave something to be desired – whilst “desert tan” is an acceptable color for an arid environment, and “urban gray” is common in urban environments, the so-called “foliage green” is really more of a sage green color that is more suitable in semi-arid environments. But whilst common-sense alone would dictate that there is no such thing as a true “universal” camouflage scheme, the US Army obviously believed that simply mixing these three colors together would produce a single all-terrain pattern that was good enough to be universally applied to all uniforms and equipment issued to every soldier in the Army – beginning with the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) in 2005.
However, experience in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere) has proven beyond any shadow of doubt that the currently issued Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) used on the ACU and ECWCS uniforms and personal equipment is significantly less effective in most terrains than other options, and also less effective than many other countries’ camouflage patterns.
Following intervention from the US Congress, legislation was passed in 2009 that required the Army to conduct a program to select a new camouflage for use in Afghanistan, and to replace UCP as the standard Army camouflage pattern. This led to the selection of MultiCam as the camouflage of choice for use in Afghanistan, and the decision to conduct an extensive research and development effort to come up with a replacement for UCP.
So, in July 2010 the US Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier (PEO-Soldier) issued a Request For Information (RFI) asking industry to submit camouflage patterns that the Army could consider for its next-generation “Family of Camouflage” – thereby effectively nailing the coffin lid shut on the “Universal Camouflage Pattern”.
The RFI specifically stipulated that patterns should have a common design geometry with adaptations colored for “woodland”, “desert” and “transitional” environments for clothing – with a fourth multi-terrain pattern adapted for use on web gear, rucksacks, armoured vests and other personal equipment.