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Desert Camouflage Uniform
- Apr 28, 2018 -

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The Desert Camouflage 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 nearly identical to the U.S. 

military's Battle 

Dress Uniform (BDU) uniform, but features a three-color desert camouflage pattern of dark brown, pale green, and beige, as 

opposed to the beige, pale green, two tones of brown, and black and white rock spots of the previous Desert Battle Dress 

Uniform (DBDU).




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 also known colloquially as "coffee stain 

camouflage"",[citation needed] 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.[2] 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.[2][3]

In mid-2005, the DCU and the BDU began slowly being discontinued within the U.S. Army. By late 2006, most U.S. soldiers were 

wearing the ACU and the DCU was fully replaced with by the ACU by early 2008.[4][5]

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 2002. 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.[6]

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),[7] 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 U.S. Navy has authorized a replacement uniform of its own for the U.S. Navy SEALs, known as the NWU Type II. The DCU was retired by the navy in late 2012.[8][9]

U.S. Coast Guard[edit]

The DCU was introduced to the Coast Guard sometime in the 1990s. As of the early 2010s, the DCU is still issued to members of the U.S. Coast Guard when deployed to Southwest Asia or arid regions.


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