Gone are the days when all of the U.S. Armed Forces looked the same. Until 2001, all of the branches of the military wore the same uniforms with slightly different rank patches. In 2001, the Marine Corps developed an entirely new pattern, replacing the woodland camo with a digital pattern. The old pattern had been oddly shaped blobs in 4 different colors, overlaid on each other; the new one was a “micropattern” that uses much smaller, pixel-like and square-ish blobs. This pattern was called MarPat (Marine Pattern). The pixels were meant to break up the view of the entire marine, resulting in better camouflage.
The Army was the next in line. Seeing the success of the digital camo design that the Marines had in woodland and desert color schemes, the Army started to develop their own version. In the mid 2000s, the Universal Camo Pattern was rolled out, replacing the woodland BDU (Battle Dress Uniform).
The UCP was similar to the MarPat in that it was also pixelated, but instead of having 2 separate patterns for desert and for woodland, the color scheme was designed to blend into virtually every background. The reaction among soldiers seems to have been mixed, with quite a number of them being rather unhappy with the new camo pattern.
There was however universal acclaim for the ability of the new pixilated gray/green pattern to blend in with grandma's couch:
At the same time as UCP was being developed, a company called Crye Precision developed a non- pixilated seven color camouflage called Multicam. The pattern was based on a gradient background, going from tan to green with shades of green, brown and white blobs overlaid. The result is a camouflage that looks like completely different colors depending on which part of the fabric you are looking at.
This pattern originally lost to UCP, but was brought back by the Army during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, resulting in its being called ‘Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern’ or OCP. First introduced into service by the 173rd Airborne Brigade in 2010, it quickly was taken on by more, and eventually all of the Army.
Multicam is a privately owned pattern, copyrighted by Crye Precision, and the army was paying a licensing fee for each use. It was largely designed off an existing pattern, Scorpion, which was developed together with the Army and Crye. Recently, in order to save money on the licensing fees, the Army took the old Scorpion pattern, before the Crye modifications, and brought into use. Using their own pattern saves the Army licensing fees that were being paid to Crye.
Additionally, owning the licensing rights allows the Army to limit the use of the pattern to service members only, unlike Multicam, which being owned by a private company could be used by anyone. In 2014 it was announced that Scorpion would be replacing Multicam all across the Army at the beginning of August 2015.