MARPAT (short for Marine pattern) is a multi-scale camouflage pattern in use with the United States Marine Corps, designed by Timothy O'Neill and introduced between 2002 and 2004 with the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU), which replaced the Camouflage Utility Uniform. Its design and concept are based on the Canadian CADPAT pattern. The pattern is formed of small rectangular pixels of color. In theory, it is a far more effective camouflage than standard uniform patterns because it mimics the dappled textures and rough boundaries found in natural settings. It is also known as the "digital pattern" or "digi-cammies" because of its micropattern (pixels) rather than the old macropattern (big blobs).
The United States government has patented MARPAT, including specifics of its manufacture. By regulation, the pattern and items incorporating it, such as the MCCUU and ILBE backpack, are to be supplied by authorized manufacturers only and are not for general commercial sale, although imitations are available such as "Digital Woodland Camo" or "Digital Desert Camo".
MARPAT was also chosen because it distinctively identifies its wearers as Marines to their adversaries, while simultaneously helping its wearers remain concealed. This was demonstrated by a Marine spokesman at the launch of MARPAT, who stated: "We want to be instantly recognized as a force to be reckoned with. We want them to see us coming a mile away in our new uniforms." As such, the U.S. Marine Corps restricts use of the camouflage, preventing its use in most other divisions of the United States military.
The concept of using miniature swatches of color as opposed to large splotches is not new. In World War II, German troops used various patterns similar to the current German Flecktarn, which involved similar small dabs of color on a uniform to provide camouflage.
The Canadian Forces originally developed the pattern called CADPAT, on which MARPAT was based. Timothy O'Neill's USMC design team in charge of this process went through over 150 different camo patterns before selecting three samples that met their initial objectives. These were two versions of tigerstripe and an older design of Rhodesian Brushstroke. The influence of tigerstripe can still be seen in the final MARPAT. These three samples were then reconstructed using new shapes and unique color blends that would allow a more effective uniform in a great range of environments.
The new patterns were then field tested in different environments, day and night, with night vision and various optics. MARPAT did exceptionally well in their wet uniform test when viewed with night vision while illuminated with IR, where normally patterns appear as a solid. The MARPAT patent lists U.S. Army research into fractal pattern camouflage as the basis for MARPAT.
Preliminary development of MARPAT began in April 2000, with field testing of the pattern and the MCCUU beginning in 2001. The patent for the MARPAT pattern was filed on June 19, 2001, whereas the patent for the MCCUU uniform was filed on November 7, 2001. The uniform made its official debut at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on January 17, 2002, and the changeover was completed on October 1, 2004, a year ahead of the original requirement date set in 2001, of October 1, 2005. The MARPAT uniform was officially launched as standard issue to the recruits of 3rd BN Mike Company in 2002 at MCRD San Diego and continues to be the standard issue to date.
In all, the MARPAT development process from concept to completion took 18 months, the fastest time for a U.S. military-developed camouflage pattern.
Design and colors
Different ratios and variations of colors were tested before final candidate patterns were actually printed to textile for field trials. A modified version of Vietnam tiger stripe also made it to final trials but was eliminated due to MARPAT being superior in all environments. The purpose of the digitized pattern is to create visual "noise" and prevent the eye from identifying any visual templates. Thus, the pattern is intended to not register as any particular shape or pattern that could be distinguished. When compared to a white background the MARPAT does look surprising and would seem to catch attention, but when used in an operative environment, its textured appearance and lack of hard edges make it more effective than traditional patterns.
There were initially three MARPAT patterns tested: Woodland, Desert, and Urban. Only the Woodland and Desert patterns were adopted by the Marine Corps, replacing the U.S. Woodland pattern and the U.S. Three Color Desert pattern. Webbing and equipment worn with MARPAT Woodland and MARPAT Desert is produced in Coyote Brown, a mid-tone color common to both the woodland and desert patterns. Although a digital snow pattern has also been adopted on cold weather training over-garments, this uses a different pattern from the Canadian company Hyperstealth.
The United States Army used the same shapes in designing its Universal Camouflage Pattern, which uses a much paler three-color scheme of sage green, grey and sand for use on the Army Combat Uniform. After major questions about its effectiveness arose, the Army adopted the new Operational Camouflage Pattern in 2015, to be fully phased in by 2019.
The United States Navy announced approval for a digital "BDU-style" work uniform in late 2008. The Navy Working Uniform (NWU) was chosen by surveyed sailors for consistency and longer life, while the blue-grey-black Type I pattern was designed for aesthetic purposes rather than camouflage to disguise them at sea. In January 2010, the Navy began considering new Navy Working Uniform patterns modified from MARPAT, named Type II and Type III, desert and woodland respectively. The Woodland pattern was actually an earlier coloration of the MARPAT scheme, not adopted following USMC trials. These patterns are overall darker than their respective MARPAT progenitors, modified with different color shades, and addressed the fact that the blue and grey Type I pattern was not meant for a tactical environment (the Battle Dress Uniform in M81 woodland and Desert Camouflage Uniform were still used for this purpose until the Type II and III patterns were introduced). Backlash from Marines, including an objection from former Commandant Conway, led to restrictions when NAVADMIN 374/09 was released: Type II pattern to Naval Special Warfare personnel, while Type III is restricted to Navy ground units.
Near-infrared (low light night vision device) comparison of a Navy Working Uniform blouse to MARPAT trousers
Camouflage comparison between a Singaporean guardsman and a U.S. Marine.
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He designed the Marine Corps' MARine PATtern, or MARPAT camouflage and worked with the Marines, Army, Office of Naval Research and Program Executive Office Soldier on various studies and adaptations of texture match.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to MARPAT.|
- Photos of USMC-issued MARPAT
- Notes from the original designer of MARPAT
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