ABU pattern development history –
Make it stand out…
As owner and co-founder of Tiger Stripe Products, I was tasked by the WPAFB Clothing Office to organize the initial tiger stripe ABU project in 2002. USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Jumper’s focus was simply to develop a “distinctive” uniform that would be recognized as being U.S. Air Force. Bottom line, the resulting pattern was never intended to be a first class real-world camouflage but rather just a distinctive looking uniform. Yes, that is the definition of a fashion statement.
Contrary to my professional recommendations, the initial decision was to go with the very fashionable blue tiger. As was told to me, fabric durability, color retention, ease of care, uniform comfort, as well as a range of female sizing were high priorities while camouflage effectiveness was essentially unnecessary and a non-issue.
Rejecting my ideas for a camouflage effective distinctive uniform, I was told to essentially “file away my camo ideas” and do my job in just making a distinctive pattern. Numerous more battlefield worthy patterns were submitted. All were rejected.
In the end, Leadership simply followed the lead of the U.S.M.C. and U.S. Army digital camouflage designs. A very substandard jagged digital tiger style, with a very distinctive colorway making the uniform stand out was chosen. (see at right).
It is a widely held misconception that Tiger Stripe Products designed this chosen digital tiger pattern for the ABU. TSP did not design this pattern. This substandard pattern was the idea of an individual brought into the project to provide fabric printing services. He provided this digital tiger pattern to the Air Force, for no charge, without our knowledge or authorization. He charged nothing for this pattern because he was going to make his money printing millions of yards of this fabric for the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force was very pleased not having to pay for a pattern. Clearly proving once again, “you get what you pay for”.
This individual, the operating owner/manager of a large printing plant in the northeast, has since had to close this plant and is no longer in business. Gross mismanagement, government regulation infractions, work force union issues, were all rumored to have lead to the closing of a factory that had been successfully operating since the civil war.
Now, you don’t want it to stand out?…
The initial “bright” ABU colorway was quickly found to be a distinct disadvantage in a battle zone because the uniform stood out just as leadership had originally wanted. After taking hostile sniper fire in the field, the ABU’s colorway was made to look more similar to the now failed U.S. Army’s Universal Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniform (UCP-ACU) colorway.
Check out the color similarities in the photo (see at upper right). A U.S. Army General is in the foreground wearing the UCP. Is it a coincidence the Army’s UCP-ACU pattern and ABU pattern look so similar? Not a chance. Emulating the Army’s failed UCP look was just putting a Band-Aid on a much larger systemic problem. Not any Battle in this Airman Battle Uniform if you ask me. All Airmen deserve much better like the All Terrain Tiger™.
Let’s NOT wear the Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) in battle zones…
U.S. Air Force personnel are now not wearing the current Airman Battle Uniform in battlefield operations but are instead borrowing the Army’s Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP). The Army is now wearing the OCP due to their UCP finally being officially recognized as a very poor performing pattern and colorway.
The U.S. Army has now dumped their admitted failed UCP colorway and camouflage design. The current U.S. Air Force ABU tiger pattern is every bit as totally inadequate as a real-world camouflage as was the Army’s failed UCP pattern. If actual battles were only fought in gravel pits, both the Army’s UCP and the Air Force’s ABU might just get by.
I’m truly sorry I couldn’t have been more helpful in providing a much more appropriate design from what was submitted to USAF leadership. At the time, Leadership was not interested in any professional opinions or recommendations. Leadership only wanted a distinctive looking, non-camouflage uniform that would stand out and say Air Force. That is exactly what they received. My copyrighted tiger stripe patterns, as well as digital designs in general, are not inherently bad camouflages. Any pattern, however, can quickly go bad when politicians decide to make the main purpose of a “Battle Uniform” to be just a fashion statement.
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UPDATE Sept 2014…
USAF says “NO” to new camouflage. This Leadership response was received after presenting the All Terrain Tiger™. “We like the look of USAF personnel in the current ABU tiger and with current budget constraints, we could not undertake a major uniform upgrade at this time”. It is evidently a very low priority matter that Airmen are seen running around in fashion uniforms with mismatched gear looking like some third world nation military.
“Leadership likes the (ABU) look. We also would prefer to save the individual Airman the personal financial cost incurred by upgrading all Airmen”…to a single, great looking, combat ready camouflage uniform like the All Terrain Tiger™.
Two uniforms… really? One for show (USAF’s ABU) and one for go (U.S. Army’s OCP)? Two sets of different uniforms and gear? How much is that costing the individual Airman requiring a real world camouflage uniform for field work?
If you’re paying for your own combat uniform, why not make it a great looking outstanding effective camouflage that while unique, will not stand out in the field. Plus, you maintain your Air Force organizational identity and do not have to borrow from the U.S. Army.
All one mission, all one useful uniform, All Terrain Tiger™. The one real-world camouflage design that does it all for all Airmen.
Common sense?… You decide
This may be old school but doesn’t it just make common sense to give everybody on the same Air Force team the same uniform no matter what the job? It’s a basic leadership concept to have everyone in an organization feel they’re ALL part of the same team. This is team building 101. Most of the military have done just that for decades. It makes no common or economic sense behind having one pattern for “show” and one for “go” especially when the All Terrain Tiger™ easily fills both requirements.
In today’s world, ALL Airmen need and deserve a single real combat ready uniform and not a fashion statement, no matter the job. The ABU pattern is strictly fashion and it belies the great military institution that is the U.S. Air Force. Airmen are being deployed with the Army’s new field uniform because Leadership knows the ABU is not really a Battle uniform. All Terrain Tiger™ puts the Battle into the Airman Battle Uniform for all Airmen.
Some wonder why you just can’t change the colorway of the current pixelated tiger pattern but it’s not that simple. First, the pattern only has four color zones allowing for only four different colors. A premium all-terrain pattern really comes together with many more than just four colors.
More importantly, the current artwork layout and pixel style is way too disorganized to work together as an effective all-terrain design. Your result would again be the equivalent of putting the proverbial Band-Aid on a broken leg.
The logical answer is… All Terrain Tiger™
It has a superior all-terrain pattern design and colorway. It simply looks great, is down-range ready, and is very affordable. Yes, a good camouflage can look great as well as being a world class working camouflage pattern.
Update: March 2018 – Communications have occurred recently with both CSAF Gen. Goldfein and the director of the WPAFB Uniform Office. They are now both aware of the All Terrain Tiger™ camouflage pattern. Gen. Goldfein responded with, the information was “very interesting” and “good timing” and would have his people follow up. Uniform Office Director is just waiting on direction from Leadership. Ultimately, the Air Force bureaucracy did NOTHING to follow up. No requests for uniform samples, no testing, no trials, no surveys, no communications, no … etc.
UPDATE: July 2018 – BREAKING NEWS ALERT – U.S. Air Force signs up and joins the U.S. Army. Air Force finally confirms the ABU was a fashion uniform made for “show”. Air Force has officially dropped the ABU tiger pattern for it’s unwanted fashion appearance and very poor field performance. All Airmen will wear the U.S. Army OCP uniform. Transition begins Oct 2018.
I guess it’s final. I’ll never see that $30,000 I paid out for project materials, printing, etc. the Air Force still owes me. The invoice from years ago, was ignored largely just because they could and nobody could do anything about it. The correct term that applies here is maybe “deadbeats”? Thanks for the $30,000 education in U.S. government. Plus, I get stabbed in the back by a project team member who hands the AF a free substandard tiger pattern the AF enthusiastically accepts. Never again.
Owner and Co-Founder
Tiger Stripe Products
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Non-camo "jagged pixel tiger"
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