Why Not Just Use MARPAT?
by Guy Cramer, President/CEO of HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp.

This is Part 3

Part 1: U.S. Army Camouflage Improvement Explained

Part 2: U.S. Army Scorpion Camouflage

Part 4: Why US4CES?

Part 5: Phase IV C3: Camouflage, Color and Cost

Part 6: U.S. Army Phase IV Baseline Patterns, will the Army have to settle with these?

Special Addition: Night Vision Device (Gen-III) comparison photos of US4CES and some of the U.S. Army Phase IV camouflage patterns

(Vancouver, B.C. June 4, 2013) In January 2012, four companies and one U.S. Government pattern were announced for the down select in the U.S. Army’s Phase IV Camouflage Improvement Effort. (the US4CES patterns I developed for ADS Inc. is one of the four down selected). The winner is expected to be announced June 14th (U.S. Army's Birthday).

In Part 1, I explained why the U.S. Army was conducting this Camouflage Improvement Effort.

In Part 2, I explained why the Government dropped their Scorpion submission from the competition with some focus on the Transitional baseline pattern - Multicam.

The Government has since revealed that their submission was not just the Scorpion pattern but they submitted three different geometries for each environment: a pixelated camouflage for Woodland, Desert All-Over-Brush for Arid/Desert and Scorpion for Transitional (1)

In Part 3, I want to explain how the U.S. Navy ground camouflage patterns: AOR1 and AOR2, became the Desert and Woodland baseline patterns for the U.S. Army testing and why the Army is looking for something better as well as answering the question being asked by many: Why not just use MARPAT?

Prior to the 2009 U.S. Army (Natick) study which determined the three baselines (2), both USMC camouflage patterns (issued in 2004) Woodland MARPAT and Desert MARPAT were consistently at or near the top of previous Army tests and as an added bonus MARPAT Desert placed 1st in Urban Environments which was a focus environment at that time. (3) AOR1 and AOR2 were not issued until 2009-2010  

In 2009 the Army conducted another study where Urban was removed and was replaced with Mountain and Rocky Desert environments (2). This has now been further developed into "transitional" environments and has become the third environment to match within the Phase IV Army program.

In the table below I show the percentage of land vegetation and their proportions as they relate to Phase IV. I have identified which pattern would likely work in which environment, Capitals indicate dominant pattern for that specific vegetation, small letters indicates potential functional pattern coloration but not dominant. 


While recent conflicts have occurred in Desert and Mountains/Transitional environments this should not preclude 51% of the Land Vegetation with a potential Woodland or Jungle conflict, thus it was decided by the U.S. Army from the previous studies that they required pattern colorations specific to these three key environments, as transitional patterns were not nearly as effective in Woodland/Jungle or Sandy Desert as specific colorations for those environments.

The USMC developed three MARPAT patterns colorations long before these U.S. Army studies were conducted developing (Woodland, Urban, Desert) Urban MARPAT trial Uniform below

The MARPAT Urban Pattern was never issued. Desert MARPAT in the U.S. Army Urban testing came out #1 so this could be why the USMC did not move forward with a specific Urban pattern.

So with two patterns they wanted to identity a common color between the two for interchangeable gear such as Vests... which is expensive to produce in two different color schemes

Coyote Brown

Coyote Brown (sometime referred to as Coyote Tan) is a critical color used for OCIE/PPE (vests and gear) with the USMC MARPAT Woodland and MARPAT Desert - the color was found to work in both environments.

The Coyote (golden tan) color covers nearly 50% of the MARPAT Woodland pattern, while in the Desert Pattern they use a slightly different "Light Coyote" color in 25% of the pattern - utilizing a different screen layer as they both are identical patterns (Light Coyote is the third darkest color in the Desert MARPAT below).

MARPAT Woodland MARPAT Desert

Where did MARPAT Desert coloration come from? Canada!

In Part 1, I discussed that the USMC asked Canada for permission to use CADPAT TW (Temperate Woodland) after the Canadian military trials and NATO trials confirmed the effectiveness (CADPAT TW was officially designated for Canadian Military in 1997) and the Canadian's agreed to the USMC request in the early 2000's, but the USMC had to change the colors which they did for their MARAT woodland. The Canadians had also trialed this desert variation using the same CADPAT pattern from TW and after the trials the Canadians decided instead to go a different route on their CADPAT AR (Arid Regions) based on their studies that showed the pattern in the desert needed to be much more open than the original pattern.

Below are the two Canadian Desert patterns, the one on the left is the trial pattern they rejected and the one on the right CADPAT Arid Regions (using a different pattern and colors) is what they issued to their soldiers.

CADPAT DESERT Trial Uniform (5)

CADPAT AR (Arid Regions) Issued Uniform (6)
Note the flow of the CADPAT AR is Vertical (Up down)


According to the Canadian Defence Research Establishment, within the optimized target detection range of 50 to 300 metres, the (CADPAT Temperate Woodland) pattern offers a scientifically-validated 45% increase in concealment (compared to the previous Canadian OG 107 combat uniform). Furthermore, it has been found that the enemy must be 35% closer to the wearer of CADPAT in order to detect him. The bottom line is that Temperate CADPAT currently provides the highest achievable level of clothing-based individual concealment in the environment for which it is intended. (7)

CADPAT TW (Temperate Woodland) CADPAT AR (Arid Regions)

The requirement for 2 completely different CADPATs makes sense when you consider that the Desert pattern is optimized for concealment at longer detection ranges (300 to 600 metres) in more open terrain (7)

So the Canadians obviously found that a more open pattern increased the effectiveness in a desert allowing for concealment at longer distances than their trial pattern.


The USMC had permission to use the CADPAT pattern from the Canadian Government and they changed the colors from what the Canadians were using on their woodland and initially the USMC had tested a different coloration for their Desert. Note the Coyote color used in the USMC Woodland is the same as this USMC MARPAT Desert trial pattern.

The Coyote Color was the same in both the Desert and the Woodland MARPAT (cloth under Patrol Cap

Below are the USMC Trial Desert MARPAT Uniforms (under different Lighting conditions. (8)


Like the Canadians, the USMC decided to change the Desert coloration to something very very similar to the initial Canadian CADPAT Trial Pattern, using the same colors in the same layers as the Canadians did. Once the Canadians rejected their original CADPAT Desert pattern and coloration - the USMC was approved to use it.  

Below is the Issued Desert MARPAT, which is colored almost identical to the CADPAT Desert trial Jacket

The Green/Grey from the USMC trial desert MARPAT was modified into a Red/Brown and the Coyote color was lightened to a new "Light Coyote"

USMC Desert MARPAT issued (10)

Which brings us to Coyote Brown issues with the USMC.

Both photos below show USMC Desert MARPAT, wearing vests which are colored Coyote Brown (known also as Coyote Brown 498), they use the same vests for their Woodland MARPAT and found this was a good color to use in both Woodland and Desert. This type of gear (PPE = Personal Protective Equipment) is expensive to produce, so while a matching camouflage PPE (vests) may provide better concealment, the Marines decided to use a solid color instead.

(11) (12)

Woodland MARPAT with Coyote Brown PPE (vests)


Is Coyote the optimal color for PPE (Vests and other gear)?

Lets look at the U.S. Army (Natick) results of four different combinations of PPE with Multicam in the four environments (note none of the Multicam combinations in the Woodland or Desert placed in the top 10 of either environments).

In all environments the Matching PPE was the top but we can see that Coyote PPE would not be a bad second choice.

I then compiled the data based on the two results for Universal AOR with matching PPE and Coyote PPE

To understand the Universal AOR results we need to look at what the Universal AOR pattern looks like. The problem is that at the time of the test, Universal AOR did not exist on paper or fabric:

"The patterns were either inkjet or production printed, with the exception of Universal AOR, which was only produced digitally."(2)

Beyond Tactical, a company that produces equipment for the Navy SEALs and their elite DEVGRU unit, has produced a version of AOR which is neither the AOR1 (Desert) or AOR2 (Woodland)


OC Tactical sent me the following image below of fabric they received from this run.

Now if this is Universal AOR (which I believe to be so by the coloration), we can now see why in the Natick results that Coyote PPE was so close to a matching pattern, because the dominant color (47% of the pattern) is in Coyote (or a color very close to Coyote). (This pattern uses the same screens as AOR1 and AOR2 which are the same screens for CADPAT TW, both MARPAT Woodland and Desert patterns and the Universal Camouflage Pattern)


Back to the 2009 Natick results: with both Digital DCU (pixelated three color desert) and standard (non-pixelated) DCU, we find that Coyote is slightly better except in desert where Khaki was slightly better in both cases.

Typically the best PPE would be a matching pattern and coloration.

The U.S. Army Camouflage Improvement program is allowing camouflage for their gear OCIE/PPE (vests and pouches) but it must work across the three uniform patterns: Woodland/Jungle, Transitional and Arid/Desert

In Part 1, I discussed why DCU and DCU Digital (as good as they in the Desert in the Visual Spectrum) cannot be used as they are too bright within the NIR spectrum.

Coyote Problems in the Near Infrared

We see below that Coyote Brown has the same problem

The US Marine Corps developed a new common color, Coyote, for the Interceptor Vest. The objective of the new Coyote color was to develop a color that works well in both arid and woodland environments. From a visual camouflage, Coyote, a brown color, makes sense since it is a common color in both desert and woodland prints. For the Coyote color to blend in well in the NIR it needs to have a reflectance that is in between the arid and
woodland environments. Near infrared reflectance requirements were governed by this need.

Figure 6 shows that acid-leveling dyes used to dye the vest fabric could not meet the NIR requirements. When using acid leveling dyes, the base Nylon 6,6 fiber is too reflective. This causes the fiber to appear very bright
in contrast to its surroundings when viewed through NVGs (Night Vision Goggles).

Figure 6 shows two curves representing pieced dyed Coyote fabric and webbing versus the military specification described in Purchase Description 03-22A. In both cases standard Nylon fibers were dyed using commercially available acid leveling dyes. Although these dyes gave excellent color match, the dyes were unable to modify the NIR signature enough to match its surroundings. Figure 6 shows that the piece dyed goods reflect too much of the wavelength between 600 – 860 nm thus allowing the observer to see an illuminated object when using NVGs. (Night Vision Goggles)(16)

MARPAT Woodland Problems in the NIR

It is not just the Coyote OCIE/PPE that is an issue in the NIR (Near Infrared Spectrum) with the USMC but the MARPAT Woodland pattern itself.

The Charts below show separately MARPAT Woodland, Multicam and UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern) in the Visual and NIR Spectrums.

MARPAT Woodland pattern in the Near Infrared (740nm-900nm) is brighter than the background as can be seen in this chart below, this means that a Marine wearing Woodland MARPAT will be brighter than the background when viewed through Night Vision Goggles (NVG's) which operate in this part of the spectrum. 

When we place all three patterns together and adjust for scale differences we see that MARPAT Woodland is much darker in the Visual Spectrum but both Multicam and UCP are darker than MARPAT in the NIR Spectrum with both Multicam and UCP coming close to a match in the background reflectance based on the MARPAT Woodland and Background comparison Chart above.

So in the Near Infrared, UCP works better than MARPAT Woodland. In Part 1, I showed that the color selection for a Universal color scheme in the 2002-2004 Natick testing was based in large part to the reflectance in the NIR Spectrum and the Chart above shows why UCP colors may have been selected. (17)

Below is an image of a vest in Tan 499 - used by the Army with OEF (Multicam) camouflage uniforms and the other vest has Coyote Brown (Coyote Tan) used by the USMC with MARPAT. In the Visual Spectrum the Coyote probably has a slight advantage, in the NIR spectrum the Tan 499 would have the advantage. 


Problems with MARPAT Woodland in the SWIR (Short Wave Infrared)

SWIR is the higher frequency beyond the NIR and can locate camouflage much easier than NIR as it is much more difficult to match camouflage to the background reflectance in the SWIR. Until recently this technology was difficult to obtain by adversaries. In the 2006 conflict between Israel and Lebanon, Israeli Special Forces Missions were disrupted because the other side possessed NVG's (in the NIR spectrum). NVG's for the NIR is no longer difficult to obtain and SWIR NVGs are also becoming easier for adversaries to acquire.


This becomes critical in natural settings where the disruption effect of camouflage is lost in SWIR when all the colors on the uniform converge into one color which may be to bright or to dark to merge with the background color. Below is a SWIR (0.9 - 1.7 µm) image of Soldier in camouflage against woodlands vegetation. You cannot even make out the camouflage pattern. (20)

The first Chart below shows the relative reflectance of both Woodlands (BDU) and MARPAT Woodland down into the NIR and SWIR spectrums

The second chart shows the reflectance of common foliage into the NIR and SWIR 

I've combined the two charts above into the Chart below to account for the difference in scale. Blue is Woodlands (BDU) Camouflage, Red is MARPAT Woodland and Green is Common Foliage. The is the Goldilocks issue: Anything to far above the green line is too bright and anything to far below is too dark. As shown in the chart below we see that Woodlands (BDU) camouflage becomes not only to bright in SWIR (below) but looses any contrast between colors.

It becomes obvious that Woodland BDU pattern is not designed for SWIR, MARPAT Woodland does better, however, it is much brighter than the background further down the spectrum than the Woodlands (BDU), so it will work with some NIR night vision equipment but loses that effectiveness in the SWIR where colors begin to merge and no longer matches the darker background of common foliage.

You can see below left 0.9 µm (900 nm) the brightness of the overall pattern contrast matches the leaf (this corresponds with the chart above at the 900 nm mark for MARPAT) However at 1.4 µm (1400 nm) (below right) the brightness of the leaf drops but the MARPAT does not as it reflects and stands out from the background, this corresponds with the 1400 nm mark for MARPAT in the chart above.

Below the three dominant colors of MARPAT Woodland are plotted and we see another problem, the Green Color and Brown (Coyote) color are so close within the Infrared that they offer no real separation in reflectance, so your only real concealment in the NIR and SWIR comes from the color black within the pattern

Below is where NATO expects green reflectance to fall within the infrared camouflage reflectance to be but you also want color separation as far down the spectrum as shown with their old DPM camouflage


The farther down in the Spectrum the larger the separation in color is required to match the environment, as you can see from the Chart below, color separation is critical in the SWIR portion of the spectrum looking at soil and grass (Dry and Green) and their corresponding spectral reflection.


CADPAT TW compared to MARPAT Woodland

The Canadians with CADPAT TW, looking at the both the visual and NIR decided on a using a higher percentage of black (25%) and relied on their darker green "Average Green" for the dominant (48%) of the pattern. This higher percentage of darker colors will bring down their IR reflectance when compared with the MARPAT Woodland. (Note the exact same print screens are used for both patterns).

In the Chart below, I've superimposed the CADPAT TW dominant (48% of pattern) color "Average Green" and  the lightest color "Light Green" (21% of the pattern) and charted their Wavelength Reflection over top of the previous chart showing that the CADPAT is a better match to common foliage the NIR spectrum 0.7 µm (700 nm) - 1.1 µm (1100 nm) than MARPAT Woodland. However we see convergence of these two CADPAT TW colors at around 1500 nm.


In the SWIR spectrum 1.2 µm (1200 nm) - 1.7 µm (1700 nm) CADPAT TW becomes to dark and the two greens begin to converge into a similar reflected level. For camouflage you want to blend in with the colored background and in the Visual and in the NIR and SWIR you want the reflection to match the background and you also want to retain the separation of colors to disrupt the human shape or target. CADPAT was developed for Visual and NIR which is where it excels. CADPAT was not designed to work in the SWIR region. The MARPAT pattern (as shown earlier) does the opposite of CADPAT and becomes to bright in the SWIR. 

Canadian Special Forces soldier wearing CADPAT TW


In the CADPAT Patent we read the following:

The predominance of the colors average green and black in the camouflage material is believed to contribute to a large degree to the effectiveness of this material. (24)

And then we see that the NIR spectrum was just as important to the the CADPAT pattern

"Traditionally, the Canadian military uniform is olive green in colour. This type of uniform provides adequate camouflage in a majority of circumstances. However, with the advance of technology of detection such as night vision, there is a need for a camouflage material that can provide camouflage in both the visual (400-780 nm) and near infrared (780-2000 nm) regions of the spectral range to increase the survivability of soldiers in the field. Although several camouflage materials having visual and near infrared camouflage properties may exist in the prior art, there is no known camouflage material that has advantageous camouflage properties to deceive modern vision equipment in a temperate Canadian environment. As such, it may be appreciated that there continues to be a need for a camouflage pattern and material having advantageous camouflage properties in the visual and near infrared spectral ranges of a temperate environment."(24)

So here is where we see a critical aspect to camouflage emerge in the late 1990's, how does it work in Night Vision, as more countries have access to night vision, you do not want to give away your position because you glow.

Another Canadian Military handbook looks at this further:

197. NIR. All modern militaries, and many other groups involved in armed conflict, are equipped with II devices (a.k.a., Night Vision Devices) that magnify the available light in the NIR portion of the spectrum (approximate wavelengths of 750 to 1,200 NM). This portion of the spectrum is invisible to the unaided eye, but with the aid of a night vision device is highly useful in detecting objects in low light conditions.

198. Objects viewed through night vision devices appear as monochrome images. The brighter the object appears, the greater its NIR reflectivity. Thus it is important that the NIR reflectivity of any object that you seek to camouflage must be as close as possible to the NIR reflectivity of its background. It is important to note when observing objects in the NIR part of the spectrum that the brightness of an object in the visual part of the spectrum does not necessarily mean that it will have a similar brightness in the NIR part of the spectrum.

199. The Canadian Land Force Canadian Disruptive Pattern (CADPAT) was designed with these processes in mind. Although heavily criticized in the Afghanistan deployment (they are referring to CADPAT TW), it remained very efficient against night vision equipment. (25)

AOR1 and AOR2

AOR1 and AOR2 are the U.S. Navy patterns used by their Ground troops and Navy SEAL teams. Utilizing the same screens as MARPAT/CADPAT TW/UCP, the Navy ground troops were the last group in the U.S. Forces to change from the Woodland BDU and Desert DCU camouflage and they decided to look at the MARPAT patterns and find different colors.

The U.S. Navy is the owner of the USMC MARPAT patent so the Navy utilizing these patterns was not a breach to the USMC by any means. They Navy decided on two color variants; AOR1 (Desert) is very similar to Desert MARPAT, but the Navy switched the Urban Tan (very close to a Grey) to more of a sand colored tan and only slightly modified the other colors, these changes are difficult to differentiate and thus the Navy decided, when requested by the USMC, to only allow the Navy SEALs access to AOR1 as the similarities in patterns and colors may lead to confusion between Marines and Navy.

AOR2 we also based off of the MARPAT woodland coloration but with enough differences in colors (three of the AOR2 colors are brighter than Woodland MARPAT) and orientation (the pattern flows vertical - up and down on the Navy uniform, whereas MARPAT flows horizontal - left to right) that the USMC did not object to the Navy using this variation. So the Navy issued the AOR2 pattern to not only their SEAL teams but also their ground forces. 


The U.S. NAVY with just these slight modifications in color were able to achieve better effectiveness than either MARPAT versions in each of their respective environments in the 2009 Natick testing. Not only that but their Universal AOR was able to equal Multicam in Mountain environments (close to transitional), - I would have to say they did their homework on these three patterns(2)

Remember the history of this pattern: CADPAT (1997) MARPAT (2001) UCP (2004) AOR1 and AOR2 (2008-2009) so the Navy had an advantage to see what had been done and how to improve upon the colors.

However, with only slight color modifications there will still be issues with the NIR and SWIR with AOR1 and AOR2 two variants.


So the Answer to Why not just use MARPAT? is multiple.

A) While very effective in the visual spectrum, there is much room for improvement in the NIR and SWIR spectrums where even the failed UCP performs better than MARPAT Woodland in the NIR.

B) The Green and Coyote colors in MARPAT Woodland combine into one color with no contrast between the two into both the NIR and SWIR spectrums.

C) The Canadians found an increase in the Macropattern (large Blobs) for Arid/Desert increased overall effectiveness and that a different color palette was more effective than what they used for their Desert Trial pattern (what would essentially become Desert MARPAT).

As CADPAT TW was designed for both Visual and NIR, we can safely assume that CADPAT AR was also designed with both visual and NIR and our internal tests on CADPAT AR show it to be very effective within the NIR spectrum. The color change with AOR1 from Desert MARPAT did adjust some of this into the CADPAT AR color range.

D) AOR1 and AOR2 outperformed Desert MARPAT and Woodland MARPAT in the U.S. Army's 2009 study.

Then the question becomes "Why not just use AOR1 and AOR2?"

E) See answers A and B regarding the NIR and SWIR issues and color separation requirement.

Can't they just apply a coating the the uniform to make it match the background reflectance in the NIR and SWIR?

F) This adds cost to the fabric and in some cases it works until washed, then you have a uniform that is worse in the NIR then it would have been had the NIR coating not been applied in the first place, (I won't name which country this occurred to). It is always best to keep it simple and use a set of colors (with the proper inks) which will get you close before having to turn to additives and coatings.

Part 4 coming soon

This is Part 3

Part 4: Why US4CES?

Part 5: Phase IV C3: Camouflage, Color and Cost

Part 6: U.S. Army Phase IV Baseline Patterns, will the Army have to settle with these?

Part 1: U.S. Army Camouflage Improvement Explained

Part 2: U.S. Army Scorpion Camouflage

Special Addition: Night Vision Device (Gen-III) comparison photos of US4CES and some of the U.S. Army Phase IV camouflage patterns

For more Camouflage news go to the HyperStealth® Home Page


1) http://soldiersystems.net/2013/06/03/us-army-camouflage-improvement-effort-update-the-withdrawn-army-family/



4) http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/19222/InTech-Introduction_to_remote_sensing_of_biomass.pdf

5) http://www.hyperstealth.com/CADPAT-MARPAT.htm

6) http://oefoif.forumotion.net/t1693-arid-boonie-hat

7) 8) http://groups.yahoo.com/group/camouflageandcombatgear/message/199

8) http://iacmc.forumotion.com/t676-experimental-desert-marpat

9) http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?92206-Digital-Pattern-fills-the-world/page55


11) http://s149.photobucket.com/user/pelito12/media/gun%20pics/060309-M-8112O-MGL14lr.jpg.html

12) http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v394/giffmann1/060309-M-8112O-MGL1lr.jpg

13) http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/camouflage-today/

14) http://www.lgtkit.com/?p=280

15) http://www.octactical.com/unknowndg.jpg


17) Universal Camouflage For The Future Warrior Dugas, Anabela; Kramer, F. Matthew (15 December 2004). U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center. 

18) http://i930.photobucket.com/albums/ad144/snakeboss88/P1020527.jpg

19) Haran, T.L., J.C. James, and G. Bennett, Comparison of Spectral Imaging Band Performance at Night. 2007, Georgia Institute of Technology: Atlanta, GA.

20) http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA476038

21) http://books.google.ca/books?id=pq1EhoWIAzkC&lpg=PA445&ots=RnFqq3_usm&dq=Infrared%20spectral%20reflectance%20camouflage&pg=PA445#v=onepage&q=Infrared%20spectral%20reflectance%20camouflage&f=false

22) http://worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/mosaics?CC=US&NR=2004166293A1&KC=A1&FT=D&ND=&date=20040826&DB=&locale=en_EP

23) http://board.gearsoc.com/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=6701&start=15

23) http://worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/description?CC=US&NR=2004166293A1&KC=A1&FT=D&ND=&date=20040826&DB=&locale=en_EP

24) http://armyapp.forces.gc.ca/olc/Courseware/AJOSQ/JTEC/JTEC_03_01/references/JTEC.03.00.HANDBOOK.SE.pdf

25) http://oi41.tinypic.com/33osljo.jpg

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Imaged used belong to their respective owners.  

CADPAT is a Trademark of the Canadian Government

MARPAT is a Trademark of the U.S. Marine Corps

UCP, All Over Brush, Shadow Line, Track, BDU, DCU are a Trademarks of the U.S. Army

AOR1, AOR2, Universal AOR are Trademarks of the U.S. Navy

Multicam is a Trademark of Crye Precision LLC.

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