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Air Force to switch to Army camo, ditch tiger stripes beginning in October

Air Force transitions to a single combat uniform. (Corey Parrish/U.S. Air Force)

The Air Force will adopt the Army’s Operation Camouflage Pattern combat uniform already worn by some airmen overseas as its official utility uniform for the entire service beginning in October, Air Force officials announced Monday.

The switch to the uniforms developed by the Army initially for use in Afghanistan means the Air Force will ditch its Airman Battle Uniform with its camouflage pattern of gray, blue and green tiger stripes. Airmen can begin wearing the OCP uniform on Oct. 1, and ABUs are to be fully retired by April 1, 2021, the service said in a statement.

The change is expected to be embraced by airmen, said Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, who acknowledged the popularity of the Army’s green, brown, tan uniform that airmen already wear in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Personnel assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command and security forces airmen assigned to Air Force Global Strike Command also wear the OCP uniform, including in the United States.

“We spoke to and listened to airmen on this, and the OCP was the clear choice,” Goldfein said in a statement. “The uniform works in all climates – from Minot [in North Dakota] to Manbij [in Syria] – and across the spectrum of missions we perform. It’s suitable for our airmen working on a flight line in the Northern Tier states and for those conducting patrols in the Middle East.”

The Army adopted the Operational Camouflage Pattern for its everyday utility uniforms in 2015, about five years after it began wearing the similar MultiCam pattern in Afghanistan.

The Air Force version of the Operation Camouflage Pattern uniform will include some minor changes to differentiate the services. The Air Force version will include name tape and Air Force lettering in “spice-brown” instead of the Army’s black. The Air Force uniform will also include an unique squadron sleeve patch to identify an airman’s unit, the service said.

The Air Force indicated airmen who have worn the OCP uniform found it more comfortable and better for everyday use than the ABUs. In addition to the standard unisex uniform, it will be available in female-specific sizes that the Army recently began issuing, officials said.

Because the new uniform is slightly more expensive than the ABUs, about $20 more per uniform, the Air Force will boost the annual clothing allowance in October for enlisted personnel, according to the Air Force statement.

Those airmen who already have OCP uniforms from past deployment will be allowed to begin wearing them on Oct. 1. The new uniforms will go on sale on that date at Army and Air Force Exchange Services locations at Aviano Air Base in Italy, Charleston Air Force Base and Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, and MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. They will be on sale at other Air Force locations in the following months, officials said.

“Many of our airmen already have this uniform from their numerous deployments, so they will be able to make the transition easily,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, the service’s senior enlisted leader. “For other airmen, we must provide enough time for their clothing allowance to fund the items to avoid out-of-pocket expenses.”

The Air Force OCP uniforms will require airmen to wear tan T-shirts and belts, coyote brown boots, and “DLA green” socks. Airmen will be authorized to wear desert sand T-shirts with their OCP uniforms through April 1, 2019. Tan boots can be worn with the new uniforms through June 1, 2019.

Goldfein said adopting the Army’s camouflage pattern permanently also reflects on the services’ joint work across the world.

“This celebrates joint warfighting excellence as OCPs will become the joint combat uniform for airmen and soldiers while patches and nametapes will identify our respective services,” the general said. “We’ll maintain our distinctive Air Force uniforms in blues, service dress, mess dress and [physical training] gear.”


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