Why the U.S. military’s next-generation camouflage was a complete failure


The art of camouflage is more than throwing paint at a soldier, and it’s not one-size-fits-all. That’s a lesson the US military has learned to its chagrin, as it phases out what was supposedly going to be a “Universal Camouflage Pattern” which cost a reported $5 billion to develop. Now, Gizmodo explains,with the help of camouflage designer Guy Cramer, why that pattern failed, given how the human eye works and given the history of the medium.

In 2004, the U.S. Army made a colossal mistake. It introduced a new digital camouflage called the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP), a single pattern designed to work across all environments. Only a few months later, however, as the war in Iraq was intensifying by the day, every soldier on the ground knew the truth: by trying to work in every situation, UCP worked in none of them. Unfortunately, the race to find a pattern that actually works—a race officially known as the Army’s Camouflage Improvement Effort—has been its own kind of debacle. In 2012, The Dailycalled it a “$5 Billion Snafu.” The competition solicited new patterns from hundreds of camo designers, then whittled the entries down to four finalists. After four years (and millions of dollars), the Army seemed ready to pick a winner.

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