REVIEW: THREE COLOUR DESERT CAMOUFLAGE UNIFORM (DCU) COAT
The United States has an established history of contentious uniform and camouflage experiments, which partially explains why there are so many different U.S. camouflage patterns in existence.
With respect to the three colour desert camouflage pattern, and depending on the military branch that was using it, the DCU only lasted from a mere nine years to a closer-to-normal twenty years.
There’s something ironic about all of this: From the perspective of a camouflage fan, the most derided camouflage patterns to come out of the United States are the ones that I consider to be the most successful.
Given the size of the United States military there are still plenty examples of this uniform available, enough that it can be described as commonplace in the surplus market.
Had this coat (field shirt) been one of those regular U.S. issue surplus items I most likely would not have bought it. What made it intriguing for me, and a less common find, was that it had been issued to Saudi troops.
Without delving into U.S. foreign policy and politics, this uniform piece is an example of a diplomatic quid pro quo. The Saudis sell their oil to the United States and then use some of that money to invest in the U.S. economy by buying its weapons – and licences to make U.S. military uniforms for its own troops.
What I like about the three colour desert pattern is its simplicity and understated appearance. That’s not to suggest that this lack of complexity compromises its primary objective, which is to break up the familiar lines of a military uniform. The disruptive pattern is effective when viewed from a distance and placed against the terrain it was designed for.
It’s a moot point for those of us who primarily wear surplus camouflage as a counter fashion statement. In this repurposed role the irregularly blobbed camouflage is pleasing to the eye; it looks good when worn with contrasting clothing and is versatile enough to be combined with complimentary colours.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
MANUFACTURER – YEAR:
Military Uniforms & Accessories Factory [MUAF] / 2011(?)
Class 3 camouflage pattern (3-colour) for desert uniform.
Made from cloth twill camouflage pattern cotton and nylon material. The textile material is a 7 oz/yd2 blend of 50% cotton and 50% polyester that is sewn with a polyester-based thread. The textile is treated with water and insect repellents, and the dyes used must conform to spectral reflectance requirements [MIL-C-44034D]**.
The military specifications pertaining to this material did not contain any thermal protection parameters, and as such the DCU material did not provide any heat or fire protection. The material was only designed to withstand normal ambient weather condition temperatures.
Base material is Light Tan 492 overprinted with a Light Brown 493 and Light Khaki 494 pattern.
* The garment is officially referred to as a coat, which in this context it is the equivalent of a tunic. In civilian terms it would more likely be described as a large, close-fitting shirt.
**These are the 1992 specifications and colours for the original uniforms developed in the United States of America. It is not known to what extent these guidelines were adhered to by the Saudi Arabian manufacturer of this particular coat.
The Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) was originally developed by the United States of America for use in arid environments. It was used in one official capacity or another from 1992 until 2012.
The DCU, which replaced the Desert Battle Dress Uniform (DBDU), was similar in its form and function. It was developed during the late ‘80s and first used as part of trial evaluations in 1990. It didn’t begin to see widespread use until 1992 when the U.S. Army was the first to adopt it. Soon after it became standard kit for the Air Force, and later on the Navy and Marines.
The U.S. Marine Corps was the first branch to replace the short-lived DCU when in January 2002 it introduced the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU).
Two years later the Army followed suit with its new Army Combat Uniform (ACU), a redesign utilizing a pixelated pattern called Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) that was a copy of the ground-breaking Canadian Armed Forces CADPAT camouflage.
The Navy began to phase out the DCU in 2010, officially retiring it in 2012. Its replacement for desert-like terrains was the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type II.
In November 2011, after a nineteen year run, the Air Force concluded its trials of a DCU replacement and officially ditched it for the Airman Battle Uniform (ABU).
The DCU has been either sold to or licenced to a number of other countries including: Bosnia and Herzegovina (used in Afghanistan), Croatia, Georgia (used in Iraq and Afghanistan), Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Latvia, North Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal.
POCKETS: Four total. Two on chest, two on waist, with hook & loop tape above each chest pocket. Left chest pocket has opening in flap and internal section for pens.
REINFORCING: Elbows have large reinforcement patches. Exterior section of cuffs constructed of double material.
LABEL/TAG 1: Manufacturer identification and sizing information in English and Arabic. Located on inside of collar.
BUTTON CLOSURES: Buttons are hidden with the exception of adjustment points and epaulets. There are 27 buttons in total: two per pocket (8); five to close coat; one on each epaulet (2); three on each cuff and waist (12).
FIT: Three-position adjustment for chest size on back of coat.
CUFFS: Three-position adjustment allows for large range of sizing.
LABEL/TAG 4: Manufacturing sticker on inside of left breast pocket flap. Reads: “39 MK 4 350 99005”.
LABEL/TAG 3: Manufacturing sticker on inside of left breast pocket flap. Reads: “16”.
LABEL/TAG 2: Laundering and care instructions in Arabic. Located on inside of coat behind the right bottom pocket.