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Tigerstripe is the name of a group of camouflage patterns developed for close-range use in dense jungle during jungle warfare by the South Vietnamese Armed Forces and adopted by US Special Forces during the Vietnam War. During and following the Vietnam war the pattern was adopted by several other Asian countries. It derives its name from its resemblance to a tiger's stripes and were simply called "tigers." It features narrow stripes that look like brush-strokes of green and brown, and broader brush-strokes of black printed over a lighter shade of olive or khaki. The brush-strokes interlock rather than overlap, as in French Lizard pattern (TAP47) from which it apparently derives. There are many variations; R.D. Johnson counted at least 19 different versions in early drafts of Tiger Patterns, his definitive work on the subject, although it is unclear if these are all different print patterns, or if they include color variations of a few different print patterns.
It is unclear who developed the first tigerstripe pattern, consisting of sixty-four (64) stripes. The French used a similar pattern (Lizard) in their war in Vietnam. After the French left Vietnam, the Republic of Vietnam Marine Corps continued using the pattern, a variant of which was later adopted by Vietnamese Rangers (Biệt Động Quân) and Special Forces (Lực Lượng Đặc Biệt). When the United States began sending advisors to South Vietnam, USMAAG advisors attached to the ARVN were authorized to wear their Vietnamese unit's combat uniform with US insignia. Soon, many American special operations forces in the Vietnamese theater of operations wore the pattern, despite not always being attached to ARVN units: it became the visible trademark of Green Berets, LRRPs, SEALs, and other elite forces.
Tigerstripe was never an official US-issue item. Personnel permitted to wear it at first had their camo fatigues custom-made by local tailors, ARVN uniforms being too small for most Americans; for this reason there were many variations of the basic tigerstripe pattern. From 1964 5th Special Forces Group contracted with Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian producers to make fatigues and other items such as boonie hats using tigerstripe fabric. Being manufactured by different producers, there were a wide variety of patterns and color shade variations. They were made in both Asian and US sizes. During the latter stages of the war, tigerstripe was gradually replaced in American reconnaissance units by the-then-new ERDL pattern, a predecessor of the woodland BDU pattern. The Special Forces-advised Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) used tigerstripes from 1964 until disbanded in 1971. Special Forces personnel wore tigerstripes when conducting operations with the CIDG.
Besides American and ARVN forces, Australian and New Zealand military personnel used tigerstripe uniforms while on advisory duty with the ARVN units. Personnel from the Special Air Services of Australia and New Zealand were the principal wearers of tigerstripe uniforms (and ERDL uniforms) in theater, while regular Australian and New Zealand troops wore the standard-issue olive drab green uniforms.
Outside of Vietnam, Thailand and Philippines have been the most prolific manufacturers of tiger stripe designs since the Vietnam War. The pattern became popular throughout the Middle East and South America as well.
- Afghanistan – Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police
- Argentina – Special Operations Group (Reddish Sparse pattern)
- Australia – Australian Special Air Service Regiment (Vietnam War)
- China – Chinese People's Armed Police Force
- Dominican Republic – Dominican Air Force Soldiers, Police Special Service Unit
- Ecuador – Use a "Flames" pattern
- France – French foreign legion in French Guiana
- Malaysia – Malay Tigerstripe Woodland
- New Zealand – New Zealand Special Air Service (Vietnam War)
- Nicaragua – National Guard (Nicaragua) EEBI "commando" troops in 1968–1979
- Russia – OMON, Spetsnaz and VDV use Tigerstripe
- Singapore – Desert Tigerstripe pattern
- South Korea
- South Vietnam – ARVN Rangers and Marines
- Vietnam – Border war with China in 1979
- Taiwan – Republic of China Marine Corps
- Thailand – Naresuan 261
- United States – United States Air Force, SEAL Team Six/DEVGRU circa 2008-11, Special Forces (Green Berets), CIA Operatives
The Tamil Tigers used a tiger stripe camouflage pattern in their uniforms, but it is graphically very different from the family of patterns famous as Tigerstripes from the Vietnam War. The Tamil Tigers' pattern lacks black, and is small and overwhelmingly horizontal.
Tiger Stripe Products, a professional camouflage designer, licenses variations to manufacturers for military use and for the civilian market. A desert version with the black and green colors substituted for browns has seen some use in Iraq and Afghanistan by British, US, and Afghan forces in the early 2000s. It is current issue for the Afghan National Security Directorate (NDS.) During 2006-2007 Singapore's ISAF contribution wore Tiger Stripe Products desert tiger stripe pattern.
US Special Operations Forces such as the US Navy SEALs and the Green Berets are still using tigerstripe camouflage in operations in Afghanistan, and it has proved itself to be very effective for this type of environment.
Special fabric rather than pattern artwork design determines NIR detection. Near Infrared (NIR) Signature Management Technology is used by the U.S. Department of Defense to prevent detection by NIR Image Converters. These photocathode devices do not detect temperatures, but rather infrared radiation variances. NIR-compliant uniforms use a special fabric that allows soldiers to appear at the same radiation level as the surrounding terrain, thus making them more difficult to detect. NIR technology also make uniforms less visible in low-light environments by reducing the reflection of light.
As of 2008, Australian Army SAS personnel serving in OPFOR roles have occasionally used commercial Tiger Stripe uniforms.
- Johnson, Richard Denis (1999). Tiger Patterns: A Guide to the Vietnam War's Tigerstripe Combat Fatigue Patterns and Uniforms. Schiffer Pub Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7643-0756-0.
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- The short film STAFF FILM REPORT 66-21A (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- The short film STAFF FILM REPORT 66-25A (1966) is available for free download at the Internet Archive