In 2004, American Army personnel were issued with a bold new camouflage design, one based not on wavy woodland patterns, but pixels. It looked cool in a photo, but hasn't worked so well where it counts: on the battlefield.
The Universal Camouflage Pattern, or UCP, is a grey-green uniform that was supposed to allow soldiers to blend into almost any terrain they may find themselves in. Look closely - or, really, just look at it - and it's made up of large pixels, like the background art of an old NES war game.
Tragically, it seems the decision to adopt the design nearly a decade ago was made by politicians and top brass, and not the men and women who would actually be wearing it into battle.
"Essentially, the Army designed a universal uniform that universally failed in every environment," an Iraq veteran told The Daily. "The only time I have ever seen it work well was in a gravel pit."
The problem with UCP was a simple one: it apparently doesn't work. A design supposed to make soldiers harder to see has in fact made that job easier for the enemy, and things got so bad that in 2010 the US Army's combat forces in Afghanistan were issued with a new design after repeated complaints.
This newer pattern, Multicam, is not pixel-based. Rather, it's more "organic", like previous types of camouflage employed.
Bizarrely, the UCP's origins date back to a similar Marine uniform designed in 2002, that was put together...differently.
"They went to Home Depot, looked at paint swatches, and said, ‘We want that color,' " Anabelle Dugas, one of the Marine pattern's designers, says. "That color" was part of a Ralph Lauren paint series.
While Army personnel outside Afghanistan are still stuck with the UCP, the branch is currently hard at work on a replacement design, one that this time might actually take soldier's views and needs into consideration.
UPDATE - Serving and former members of the military have been sending me differing views on just why the UCP has been a bust. Some say it's the whole thing that was a failure. Others say the pattern is fine, but that it was the grey-green colour selection used that is to blame.
$5B CAMO SNAFU [The Daily]