When you think of camouflage, the first thing that probably comes to mind is standard issue greens that look like someone took three or four paintbrushes with different shades of green and splashed them randomly on the clothes. You probably also think of extremely insulated and thick material that almost feels like canvas. Thanks to modern technology, testing, and government awareness of the changing scenes of war, this is not always what is referred to when talking about camouflage anymore. While still in use and quite popular, this stereotyped camouflage is by far outdated in many instances and has been replaced in many cases with newer, more effective camouflage patterns. Depending on the use, soldiers may have various patterns worn for various circumstances.
Woodland camouflage is probably the most popular form and is the first thing that tends to come to mind when thinking of a camouflage pattern. It is the classic mixture of greens and browns with no real pattern that mimics the various hues of a forested area full of trees, leaves, and shrubs, thus earning its name. The most notorious and widely used camouflage pattern, woodland camouflage has been around for ages. However, over the years, it has been determined that this is not the most appropriate pattern to actually camouflage soldiers under all circumstances.
The desert 6 colors camouflage pattern came into use during Operation Desert Storm, as well as the wars in Somalia. Finding that the standard issue woodland camouflage actually stood out against the sandy, treeless backdrop of the Middle Eastern deserts, the United States military began to issue its soldiers these duds, which replaced the greens and dark browns with the colors of the desert ? tan and light browns with smaller green markings sprinkled throughout. Also, these were made of a cotton/polyester blend, making them less insulating in the terrible heat of the desert.
A still further improvement in this area that is now being used by soldiers in Iraq is the desert 3 colors camouflage. These fatigues, as per their name, use only three colors ? tan, beige, and standard brown. The three shades mimic the look of sand even better, allowing soldiers to literally blend into the dunes around them and never be noticed. Best of all, the desert 3 colors camouflage is typically 100% cotton, making them easily breathable in the 115 or above degree heat experienced in the Iraqi desert.
ACU digital camouflage has recently come into use in the United States Army as well. To picture this pattern, think of the game Tetris, with its various shapes created by putting blocks together. The greens and browns in these camouflage items are fitted together in this manner, appearing almost like pixels in a digital camera. This pattern has been found to blend into several environments, including woodland, desert, and urban locations. That makes this type of camouflage a great all purpose design.
A form of camouflage that works well in jungle and heavily leafy environments is tiger stripe camouflage. Looking like exactly what its name implies, the yellowish and greenish stripes (which appear almost black, depending on the lighting) help soldiers to blend into a jungle environment, where much of the greenery is in the form of long fronds and branches and where animals with stripes (tigers, as you may guess) tend to strike fear into the hearts of the enemy. Tiger stripe camouflage was used a lot in the Vietnam War.
City camouflage, also referred to as urban or subdued urban camouflage, is quite different. Instead of having the standard greens and browns, city camouflage is a woodland pattern made of mixed blacks and grays. These colors blend more with urban surroundings and allow police officers and SWAT teams to hide in heavily populated areas full of gray and black buildings. The pattern can also be useful for night raids. These are sometimes used at night in Iraq as well to help blend in with the extreme darkness that falls over the desert at night.
Obviously, woodland camouflage is no longer standard issue. While many other countries still use this design regardless of the application, the United States does everything possible to make their soldiers safe, as well as comfortable. The innovative techniques put into practice to help camouflage the soldiers today have saved lives and taken more danger than ever out of the daily responsibilities at the edge of the battlefield. With continued research, new camouflage patterns are being tested and issued all the time for efficacy, and as the need arises, soldiers will receive new patterns that could make their job even less dangerous.