Desert Camouflage Uniform

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Desert Combat Uniform
Admiral Calland’s Desert Combat Uniform blouse, 2008.png
A folded and buttoned U.S. Navy DCU blouse.
TypeMilitary camouflage patterned uniform
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1991–2008 (U.S. Army)[1][2]
1993–2005 (U.S. Marine Corps)
1992–2011 (U.S. Air Force)
1993–2012 (U.S. Navy)
1993-present (SFOD-D)
Used bySee Users for other foreign military/law enforcement users
WarsGulf War (very limited use)
Battle of Mogadishu
War in Afghanistan
Faylaka Island attack
Iraq War
Production history
VariantsClose Combat Uniform[4][5]

The Desert Combat Uniform (DCU) is an arid-environment camouflage uniform that was used by the United States Armed Forces from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s. In terms of pattern and textile cut, it is identical to the U.S. military's Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) uniform, but features a three-color desert camouflage pattern of dark brown, pale olive green, and beige, as opposed to the four-color woodland pattern of the BDU. It replaced the previous Desert Battle Dress Uniform (DBDU) which featured a six-color "chocolate chip" pattern of beige, pale olive green, two tones of brown, and black and white rock spots. Although completely phased out of frontline use in the U.S. Armed Forces, some pieces and equipment printed in the DCU camouflage pattern are used in limited numbers such as MOPP suits and/or vests.


Marines from the U.S. 6th Marine Regiment wearing DCUs in 2004; the very latest the USMC used the DCU was April 2005.
U.S. Army soldiers in late 2004 wearing the DCU-derived Close Combat Uniform (CCU)
U.S. Army soldiers in May 2005 wearing the Army Combat Uniform, Desert Camouflage Uniform, and a World War II–era uniform (left to right)
U.S. Navy Seabees in August 2012 wearing the DCU

Developed in the late 1980s and first issued in very limited quantity in 1990 as experimental test patterns, the DCU and its camouflage scheme, officially known as the Desert Camouflage Pattern and known colloquially as "coffee stain camouflage",[6] was developed to replace the six-color desert camouflage "chocolate-chip camouflage" uniform, which was deemed unsuitable for most desert combat theaters. As opposed to the original six-color DBDU, which was meant for a rockier and elevated desert battlefield that was often not encountered, the DCU was created primarily for a lower, more open, and less rocky desert battlefield space which became a common sight throughout the Persian Gulf War. As a replacement pattern, this meant a new arid region had to be utilized to test the effectiveness of the DCU. Desert soil samples from parts of the Middle East, namely Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, were used as testing locations to find the appropriate color palettes.

Though the DCU did exist during the Persian Gulf War, the vast majority of U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq wore the DBDU during the entirety of the war, with the exception of some select U.S. Army generals who were issued the DCU a month following the air campaign in Operation Desert Storm. Norman Schwarzkopf, then CENTCOM commander, and leader of U.S. forces during Desert Storm, was issued an M-65 field jacket as well as coat and trousers in the new DCU color pattern shortly before the war ended.

By 1992, the first wide scale batches of DCUs were issued first by the United States Army, and within a year to the United States Air Force, and replaced the majority of the DBDU by 1993, with the United States Navy and Marines replacing their older six-colored desert fatigues from 1993 through 1995.

U.S. Army[edit]

First fielded in 1991, the DCU served as the U.S. Army's primary desert combat pattern from 1992 to 2004. In June 2004, the Army unveiled a new pixel-style camouflage pattern called UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern), to be used on the DCU's successor uniform, the Army Combat Uniform (ACU).

In late 2004, some U.S. Army soldiers deployed in Iraq were issued the "Close Combat Uniform", a variant of the DCU that featured ACU-like features such as shoulder pockets affixed with hook-and-loop "Velcro" fasteners as well as a redesigned collar and chest-worn rank insignia.[4] They were made by American Power Source, Inc. and only saw brief usage as they were issued shortly before the introduction of the newer ACU in mid-to-late 2005.[4][5]

In mid-2005, the DCU and the BDU began slowly being discontinued within the U.S. Army. By 2007, most U.S. soldiers were wearing the ACU with both the DCU and BDU being fully replaced by early 2008.[7][2]

U.S. Marine Corps[edit]

Following the Army, the United States Marine Corps began issuing the DCU from 1993 through 1995 and remained the Marine Corps standard arid combat uniform from 1993 to 2003. In January 2002, the U.S. Marine Corps became the first branch to replace both its BDUs and DCUs with the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU), completely replacing them by April 2005.[8]

U.S. Air Force[edit]

Along with the Army, the Air Force began issuing the DCU in 1992 and remained its primary desert uniform until 2011. The U.S. Air Force officially replaced the BDU and DCU on November 1, 2011 with the Airman Battle Uniform (ABU),[9] though most airmen had been using the ABU for a couple years before that date.

U.S. Navy[edit]

The United States Navy issued the DCU from 1993 until 2010 when it was replaced by the arid variant of the Navy Working Uniform (NWU), known as the NWU Type II. The DCU was retired by the navy in late 2012.[10]

U.S. Coast Guard[edit]

The DCU was introduced to the Coast Guard sometime in the 1990s. The DCU and BDU were formally retired by the USCG in 2012.[10]


Macedonian soldiers deployed to Iraq in 2008 wearing the Desert Camouflage Uniform




  1. ^ "Army to Retire BDUs".
  2. ^ a b "ACU changes make Velcro optional, patrol cap default headgear".
  3. ^ "Propper Authorized Supplier - Propper ACU, BDU, Multicam, Military Uniforms from". Archived from the original on 2017-08-16. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  4. ^ a b c "The CCU (Close Combat Uniform) - CAMOUFLAGE UNIFORMS". U.S. Militaria Forum. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Larson, Eric H. (2009). "HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE US ARMY CLOSE COMBAT UNIFORM (CCU/CU)" (PDF). Camopedia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-06-20.
  6. ^ "Out of Sight". The Economist. 12 April 2014.
  7. ^ "Army to Retire BDUs". U.S. Army. 2008.
  8. ^ Commandant of the United States Marine Corps (September 22, 2004). "MARADMIN 412/04: MANDATORY POSSESSION DATES FOR THE MARINE CORPS COMBAT UTILITY UNIFORMS (MCCUU) AND MARINE CORPS COMBAT BOOTS (MCCB)". United States Marine Corps. United States Department of the Navy. Archived from the original on September 29, 2004. Retrieved September 29, 2004.
  9. ^ "Utility Uniforms" (PDF). Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Perspnnel. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of the Air Force. July 18, 2011. p. 70. AFI 36-2903. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2013. Retrieved September 19, 2013. The mandatory phase in date for the ABU is 1 November 2011.
  10. ^ a b c "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-09-25. Retrieved 2017-09-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Argentinian Coffee Stain Camo ~ UNFICYP". 28 December 2019.
  12. ^ Larson (2021), p. 199.
  13. ^ a b Vining, Miles (22 April 2016). "ISAF armament of BLS". Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  14. ^ Larson (2021), p. 255.
  15. ^ Bredick, Marcus (3 June 2021). "Kampfschwimmer in der afrikanischen Wüste". marineforum (in German). Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  16. ^ "Saudi DCU 3 Color Camo Copy".
  17. ^ "United Arab Emirates - Camopedia".
  18. ^ "Afghan SOF small arms photo essay -". 29 December 2015.
  19. ^[dead link]
  20. ^ ""New" Dutch Camo on Deployment - Soldier Systems Daily". Archived from the original on 26 March 2019. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  21. ^[dead link]
  22. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 March 2020. Retrieved 12 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)


  • Larson, Eric H. (2021). Camouflage: International Ground Force Patterns, 1946–2017. Barnsley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 9781526739537.

External links[edit]