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American Airmen.

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The new Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) has been a subject of many complaints from Airmen returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically, they have complained that it is much too warm for desert conditions. [Image: OhMyGov!.]

Air Force 'digital tiger-stripe' camouflage
United States of America

The first prototype of the Airman Battle Uniform (ABU), which was unveiled in the summer of 2003, was based upon a combination of the United States Marine Corps' MARPAT™ (which in turn, frequently rumoured to have been inspired by Canadian CADPAT™) and the Vietnam-era tiger stripe pattern. The early uniform prototypes consisted of trousers, an embroidered undershirt, and a blouse. The camouflage pattern, developed by Tiger Stripe Products and based upon their popular copyrighted Original Vietnam Tiger Stripe™ was a blue/grey, non-digitised tiger stripe pattern.

After months of wear testing, Air Force officials revised the colour scheme and camouflage pattern based upon feedback received from Airmen. More than 130 changes to the uniform were requested by Air Force Special Ops. However, none of the requested changes were implemented and because of the uniforms' unpopularity within the Special Ops community, it is commonly referred to as the 'Airman Barracks Uniform'.

As it stands, the Airman Battle Uniform is similar to the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) in colour and similar to the BDU in layout. The ABU does not have features such as slanted breast pockets, sleeve pockets, Velcro attachment points and closures, a gusseted back, or a mandarin collar. It does, however, have essential non-infared qualities.

The ABU is to be worn with low-maintenance foliage green suede boots, although desert boots may be worn with the ABU until the foliage green phase-in date. Similarly, accessories such as backpacks and gloves may be black, until the foliage green phase-in date.

The United States Air Force was to begin issuing the ABU to Airmen in basic military training by October 2007, and to be available for purchase by the rest of the Air Force in Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) outlets from June 2008. As of April 2007, however, some changes were made to the Initial ABU Distribution Plan, due to inventory shortfalls.

However, this new uniform has been a subject of many complaints from Airmen returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically, they have complained that the thickness of material, from which the ABU is manufactured, and the larger interior pockets makes it much too warm for desert conditions. To avoid overheating, Airmen have been cutting the pockets out of the inside of the blouse and have been authorised to roll up their sleeves. Additionally, many complain of a lack of storage space and a low ease of use with government issued body armour. It is also reported that many Airmen preferred to wear the U.S. Army-issued ACU as a temporary issue uniform.

kamouflage.net is grateful to Benjamin Myers, for his invaluable contributions to this article.

camouflage data

1cm grid

Air Force 'digital tiger-stripe' camouflage
2007–present

Specimen of Air Force 'digital tiger-stripe' camouflage

Specimen kindly supplied by Brad Turner

Actual size: 21.47×29.6cm

also known as:
  • Air Force Utility Uniform 'digital tiger-stripe' camouflage
country of origin:

United States of America

National flag: United States of America

United States of America

used by:
  • United States Air Force.

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