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North American Digital Camo Patterns

US NWU Type III / AOR 2 on left and Canadian CADPAT photographed side-by-side on Ex NOJU23 on Sardinia [© Bob Morrison]

On the NOBLE JUMP 2023 NATO DEPLOYEX I grabbed to opportunity to photograph two North American digital camo patterns side-by-side, writes Bob Morrison.


¤ This article replaces the page published on 29th May in which I completely misidentified a camo pattern worn by an American officer observing a dynamic display by the NATO VJTF in Sardinia. That was not the first time I’ve been wrong… once before I thought I had made a mistake, when in reality I hadn’t. 🙂

~ $ ~

Canadian Pattern Temperate Woodland camo, usually referred to as CADPAT (TW), introduced in 1996/7 is widely acknowledged as being the first of many digital or pixellated camouflage designs and it spawned a plethora of copies and derivatives into the early years of the new millennium. For a brief period the US Army followed suit in 2004, with its unsuccessful Universal Camouflage Pattern, though the US Marine Corps actually beat their Land Forces cousins by introducing their MARPAT Woodland camo in 2001 with their MARPAT Desert variation following on a couple of years later.

US Navy Admiral Stuart B. Munsch, Commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, wearing NWU Type III / AOR 2 camouflage pattern during NOJU23 ~ camo on left is Dutch NFP [©BM]

Although we have worked with US Marines wearing MARPAT Woodland camo on a number of occasions, the opportunity to pose a Marine for a set of four-view Kit & Camo photos has unfortunately not yet arisen. Until the recent NOJU23 exercise in Sardinia I did not believe I had actually seen the two uniform patterns being worn alongside each other, far less had the chance to photograph them together in bright light. On this occasion the US Forces wearer of what I originally, and wrongly, presumed was faded MARPAT Woodland was not wearing combat equipment because he was working in a NATO admin support role, so again no four-view photoset was feasible.

Back panel of a (faded) US NWU Type III combat shirt worn by an officer on NOJU23 [©BM]

While I was taking the lead (i.e. side-by-side) picture something about the US uniform, which was sun-bleached so its colour shades were subdued, was niggling away in the back of my mind. At the time I could not work out what it was that seemed out of place, but once I reviewed the shots and compared them with previous USMC uniform photos in my archives I realised that the camo pattern on the combat shirt ran vertical rather than horizontal. It was only after I posted the original page on JOINT-FORCES that one of our readers (thanks BL) pointed out that what I had erroneously believed to be a faded MARPAT example was actually US Navy Working Uniform Type III or AOR 2 pattern. Doh!

Back panel of a CADPAT combat shirt worn on NOJU23 [©BM]

The original US Navy Working Uniform (NWU Type I) camouflage pattern, designed in 2004 around the same time as US Army UCP, was a predominantly blue digital / pixellated camo which first entered service in 2009. Around the same time that uniforms in this blue & grey (or gray if using Bubblegum English) pattern were entering service, two derivatives were designed: NWU Type II, sometimes referred to as AOR 1 pattern, had arid theatre colours and was similar to MARPAT Desert; and NWU Type III, sometimes referred to as AOR 2 pattern, had more of a temperate theatre colourway. Unlike the two MARPAT versions, the NWU Types II and III (AOR 1 and AOR 2) patterns were vertical rather than horizontal in orientation. The blue NWU Type I was issued for ten years, originally primarily to those in specialist roles which saw them likely to be working ashore, but nowadays generally only NWU Types II and III are in service. Incidentally, the AOR designation stands for Area of Responsibility.

US Navy coat of arms on the hem of the combat shirt worn by Admiral Munsch [©BM]

Hopefully this brief rewrite will clear up some of the confusion I caused with my May 29th article. If only I had looked back at some of the ancillary images I shot during BaltOps 2015 in Poland before penning the earlier page I might have spotted my error but, in my defence, a lot of water has passed under the bridge over the last eight years.

Canadian soldier in Poland wearing CADPAT TW [©BM]
US Marines in Norway wearing MARPAT Woodland with MARPAT Winter over-trousers [©BM]
Predominantly blue NWU Type I and predominantly green NWU Type III worn in Poland during BaltOps 2015 [©BM]
USMC MARPAT Desert and US NWU Type I camouflage uniforms worn in Poland during BaltOps 2015 ~ note how pattern orientation of both is horizontal [©BM]
Back panel of a US NWU Type I combat shirt worn on BaltOps 2015 [©BM]
Vice Admiral James G. Foggo III, wearing the blue NWU Type I pattern, and General Philip M. Breedlove, wearing US Air Force Digital Tiger Stripe pattern, at the BALTOPS 2015 Distinguished Visitors Day in Poland [©BM]

[images © Bob Morrison]


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