Morale: China Develops Office Camouflage

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May 14, 2012: The Chinese Air Force is getting a new camouflage uniform, one more suited to the urban (air base) environment most air force personnel operate in. This follows the introduction, five years ago, of a more conventional (for combat troops in rural settings) camouflage pattern uniforms. The new camo comes in two types, Summer and Winter. The Chinese Air Force seems to be following the U.S. Air Force in this matter.

The first version of the new U.S. Air Force camouflage uniform (or ABU, for Airman Battle Uniform) came out in 2003, and immediately raised a howl of protest from their security troops (who are nearly as numerous as infantry in the army). The camouflage pattern of the ABU was in blue and gray. It looked nice, in a hanger or office, but there was no camouflage effect. Taken aback the air force brass backed up and came up with a new color scheme (green-gray-blue-tan) that worked better for the grunts. But the ABU designers made another error, by leaving off the extra pockets on the shirt. The army and marines had these extra pockets and they were very useful when you were suiting up for battle. The air force brass disagreed, and the air force grunts are still grumbling about it.

Another source of complaint is the order to not put any patches on the ABU. The idea is that you spend a lot of time putting the patches on, and taking them off, when you transfer. But the grunts, who operate with soldiers and marines, like to have people know who they are. Unit pride and all that. The air force brass didn't get it and apparently felt that this ground combat stuff will soon be gone and the air force can get all their people back to offices and hangars.

But some air force personnel are still in combat and on the ground at that. There, they have had problems with their new camouflage pattern uniforms. Two years ago air force personnel in Afghanistan were buying (or scrounging from kindly army supply sergeants) the new army MultiCam pattern uniforms. That's because the air force camouflage pattern was quite different. Thus when air force air controllers (who call in air strikes) move through the hills with army troops, it's obvious from a distance who the air force personnel are. Actually, it makes all the troops more visible because the MultiCam is pretty good at hiding those wearing it, but the difference between the air force camo and the MultiCam is so striking that the entire group of troops becomes more visible. The air force brass eventually got the message and started buying MultiCam uniforms for air force troops operating in combat along with army troops.

The U.S. Air Force made several changes to their ABU over the last decade and the Chinese are apparently trying to catch up.

 


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