We’ve talked before about the long-running saga of the US Army’s search for a new camouflage pattern. It looks like the end might be in sight at last. In late May 2014 the Army selected the Scorpion pattern as its “transitional” camouflage material. While Scorpion works quite well in most environments, the current plan is to bookend it with dedicated woodland and desert patterns as well, allowing even higher effectiveness in theaters where the terrain has less variation.
After all the fuss, people were quite excited at the idea of seeing the new pattern, so there was some surprise when the first images came out and, at first glance, looked identical to the popular Crye MultiCam design that’s currently in use on OEF. It turns out there’s a very good reason for that.
Way back in 2002, during the trials that led to the disastrous Universal Camouflage Pattern in its weird pale, almost luminous colors, Crye was contracted by the Army to develop a range of patterns for them. They did, but when the Army decided to throw out the trial results and slap together UCP, the Crye submissions were shelved. The company didn’t want to waste the work they’d done, so they took the transitional pattern – the one designed for mixed environments – and made some improvements to its already effective washed-out woodland design. A series of vertical elements were added to help it blend in with branches or long grass. The number of beige and dark brown “slugs” – small dots and blobs scattered around near larger patches in the same color – was more than doubled to break the soldier’s outline up even more effectively. The end result was the MultiCam we all know and love, and for the last ten years, Crye has been marketing it very successfully – including to the US Armed Forces.
The concept of a single pattern for all terrains has taken a big knock from the failure of UCP, and while the transitional pattern is still seen as vital, it’s now acknowledged that dedicated woodland and desert variants have a place, too. Suitable Scorpion variants were developed for the earlier trials, and they’re strong candidates for the job.
So why has the Army decided to revert to the Scorpion pattern instead of sticking with the MultiCam it’s already using? It seems that senior officers see the two as basically interchangeable; MultiCam is currently being bought as Operational Camouflage Pattern, and when Scorpion gear starts entering the system (printing, inspecting and manufacturing the first batches could take up to five months), it’ll be issued under the same name. The handover should be quite seamless because the identical color palettes mean the same zips, buttons and Velcro can all be used.
“Why Scorpion, when MultiCam has been proven to be effective, is already fielded, and was chosen in numerous tests as being the top choice?”
In business terms, there’s one advantage in switching to Scorpion. Because it was developed under a military contract, the Army owns the design, whereas MultiCam is Crye’s intellectual property. Crye is willing to sell full rights to MultiCam, but the Pentagon balked at the $25 million asking price, and there’s also resistance to paying Crye royalties on every uniform produced.
$25 million seems like a paltry figure when you consider the billions that will be spent over the years on uniforms and accessories. Why Scorpion, which seems like a decent pattern, when MultiCam has been proven to be effective, is already fielded, and was chosen in numerous tests as being the top choice?
Scorpion looks like a very good, very flexible camouflage design. It shares the advantages of MultiCam and blends in well with the MultiCam gear and accessories that are already in service. It might have taken a while, but the Army now seems to have gotten past the UCP issue. The first troops should be wearing Scorpion by the end of the year.
What do you think?