I have always been a big fan of modern US figures sculpted by Maciek Rebkowski. Maciek is the owner of a small Polish company Airborne Miniatures. In my opinion, Airborne Miniatures produces the best large-scale modern figures on the market today. I enjoyed painting one of Maciek’s figures for Missing Links Expo2005 tremendously and was really looking forward to getting some more of his wonderful offerings. You can imagine my surprise when Maciek contacted me with the proposition of painting the box art for his latest figure. Wow, what an ego boost! I accepted the honor and soon received Airborne Miniatures’ 120mm US Army soldier from Iraq wearing the new Army Combat Uniform (ACU).
After years of study and several prototype uniforms, the US Army unveiled its new combat uniform on 14 June 2004. Designed to replace both BDU and DCU, the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) is produced in an Army adaptation of digital MARPAT print; the three-color digital camouflage pattern nominated as ARPAT. Interestingly, ACU was originally designed in three distinct color schemes: green (woodland), grey (urban) and sand brown (desert). However, after trials by the Stryker Brigade in Iraq and feedback received, US Army decided to combine the color schemes into a “universal” three-color camouflage pattern comprised of pixilated blocks in sand brown, olive grey and dark green color. The complete absence of black in ARPAT provoked a big debate among camouflage uniform analysts; claims of black not being useful in camouflage since it is not frequently found in nature were met by suggestions of black giving depth to camouflage patterns. In his ARPAT analysis, Guy Cramer of Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corporation implied that replacing black by grayish tones indicated “a critical loss in pattern depth”.
In addition to pattern and color changes, other ACU modifications include Mandarin collar, Velcro for wearing unit patches and skill tabs, tilted chest pockets, shoulder pockets with Velcro, integrated Friend or Foe Identification Squares on shoulder pocket flaps, etc. indicating that ACU is not just a simple cosmetic redesign of the BDU but “a functionality change of the uniform that will improve the ability of soldiers to execute their combat mission”.
Army Combat Uniform (ACU) was set to become standard issue for all deployed troops by April 2005 and is to completely replace BDU by December 2007. Above images are use with permission from www.special-warfare.net.