Yet another camouflage controversy?

Sorry if you’re getting bored with stories about camouflage, but it does seem to be THE hot topic of the  moment….

First there was the US Congress driven mandate to the US Army to find a more suitable replacement for UCP in Afghanistan – which led to the adoption of “Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern” (OCP for short – is someone at Natick a fan of “Robocop”?).

The Brits also got in the act (first) with a Crye-designed variation of MultiCam called “Multi-Terrain Pattern” (MTP). That decision that was not without its critics in the armed forces and in the defence industry, due to the way that the competition was held and that the contract went to a US company as well.

Crye-designed MTP camouflage on the UK’s new Personal Clothing System – photos of which recently appeared on ARRSE.co.uk 

And now the Aussie’s are following the lead of the UK and are also contracting with Crye Precision to produce an Australian version of MultiCam.  No information has yet been publicly released as to what this Aussie MultiCam will look like, but it sounds like they’re following the British model of having Crye adapt the MultiCam pattern (but not the colours) to “look” more Australian….  No jokes about bunnies, jelly-beans and/or kangaroos please.  😉

So what’s the big controversy then you ask?  After all, Aussie Special Operations Forces have been wearing MultiCam in Afghanistan for yonks (just like their UK brethren), so who can blame the ordinary Digger for wanting to look cool and high-speed as well?  And after all, if MC has such a track record of successful acceptance, why re-invent the wheel?

Aussie Special Operations Task Group operator in Afghanistan wearing a US-designed uniform, carrying a US-designed rifle and a German-designed pistol, waiting to be picked up by a US-designed helicopter.

Well…  At least a couple of companies in Australia that specialise in the design and production of camouflage for soldier’s uniforms have got their budgie smugglers in a twist over the fact that they were not invited to submit patterns for consideration by the Australian MoD.  They’ve also claimed that they could have / would have done it cheaper than Crye. 

Hmmm.  Surely the argument should be that the Australian MoD should have conducted an open process whereby the best-and-brightest could have submitted their proposals – even one’s from friendly / allied nations – and then have selected the best of the batch and negotiated the best deal.  This is the process that the US and Poland are following in their quests for next-generation camouflage patterns, and it seems to be keeping people happy – as well as offering a real chance for the best pattern to win.

There has also been a fair amount of nationalistic chatter about the ignominy of Aussie troops wearing a “foreign” camouflage pattern.  But that argument is as barren of logic as the Outback is of habitation – Australia’s SF troops haven’t had a problem with wearing a “foreign” camouflage pattern, nor has the Australian Army had a problem with carrying a “foreign” rifle or driving “foreign” tanks, and I’ve also never heard that the Australian Air Force has a problem with flying “foreign” fighter jets.

Austrian-designed rifle, US-designed grenade launcher

German-designed tank

US-designed carbines and grenade launchers

US-designed fighter jets

Do Australian soldiers deserve the best equipment that the country can afford?  Absolutely.  Will the troops dig their new “Australian MultiCam” uniforms?  Probably.  Will the chics love them too?  Maybe.  Will they be the best option for all the different environments where Australia’s Finest may find themselves in the defence of freedom and democracy?  We’ll see… 

In the final analysis, this should have been a decision based upon a thoughtful, diligent and open process to select the best option for all of the Australian Army’s needs – rather than riding the wave of a popular military fashion trend.

And whilst I can and do understand the hurt feelings of the Australian camouflage designers, let’s at least have a rational discussion about it, rather than the snivelling about “national identity” or sour-grape second-guessing and under-bidding of the chosen solution.

Maybe the real gripe is that they don't want to be mistaken for Kiwis? Who in turn have been mistaken for Americans - or is vice-versa?



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