After months of speculation, it has been confirmed that the official U.S. Air Force uniform will be the Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) currently used by the Army and some Airmen.
The service says the transition from its legacy Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) to the OCP will be done in phases, starting on Oct. 1, 2018. On that date, Airmen who have OCPs from previous deployments can begin wearing the uniform, and Airmen who don’t the OCP can start buying it at the following Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) locations: Aviano Air Base, Italy; Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina; Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina; and MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
Enlisted Airmen will get an increase in their annual clothing allowance on Oct. 1, 2018, so they can buy the OCP.
“Many of our Airmen already have this uniform from their numerous deployments, so they will be able to make the transition easily,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. “For other Airmen, we must provide enough time for their clothing allowance to fund the items to avoid out-of-pocket expenses.”
On April 1, 2019, Airmen will be able to buy the OCP at any AAFES that carries them. Online purchases from the AAFES will be available beginning in October of that year.
By April 1, 2021, the service will fully transition to the OCP.
New Air Force Uniform Details
These new OCPs will have distinctive USAF features, the service says. For example, the name tape and Air Force lettering will be “spice brown.” In addition, t-shirts and belts will be tan. Boots will be coyote tan, and socks are to be “DLA issued green.”
Meanwhile, unit patches and “special functional identifiers” such as Security Forces, Fire, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Tactical Air Control Party, and Combat Controller will be attached to Velcro on the sleeves. All patches will be in “subdued” colors. Headquarters patches and the U.S. flag will be worn on the right sleeve. Unit patches and duty identifiers will be worn on the left sleeve.
Furthermore, patrol caps will be worn with name tapes on the back using velcro or sewn on. The officer rank will be sewn on the front of the hat, centered 1/2-inch above the visor.
Air Force officials said it decided to switch to the OCP after getting feedback from Airmen.
“We looked at all utility uniforms currently in our inventory to find the best-of-breed,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein. “We spoke to and listened to Airmen on this, and the OCP was the clear choice.”
Goldfein also touted the versatility of the new Air Force uniform.
“The uniform works in all climates—from Minot to Manbij—and across the spectrum of missions we perform,” Goldfein added. “It’s suitable for our Airmen working on a flight line in Northern Tier states and for those conducting patrols in the Middle East.”
The service says over 100,000 Airmen have been issued or are already wearing OCPs or equivalent two-piece flight suits. This includes Airmen deployed to Air Forces Central Command, as well as those in Air Force Special Operations Command, and air crews in Air Mobility Command and defenders in Air Force Global Strike Command.
The OCP is also touted as being a better fit for female Airmen as well.
“The Army has done considerable work to make the OCPs a better fitting uniform for female service members,” said Maj. Gen. Bob LaBrutta, the USAF director of military force management policy, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. “The uniform comes in 20 female sizes and 37 unisex sizes. Female Airmen, currently issued the unisex uniform in U.S. Air Forces Central Command, report a better fit and higher morale as a result.”
“This celebrates joint warfighting excellence as OCPs will become the joint combat uniform for Airmen and Soldiers while patches and nametapes will identify our respective services,” Goldfein said. “We’ll maintain our distinctive Air Force uniforms in blues, service dress, mess dress, and PT gear.”