You're issued everything you need. Really?
Professional soldiers expect to be able to add to their issued equipment, and that age-old cry of â€œyou're issued everything you needâ€ is as naive today as it ever was. It would be near impossible for a procurement chain to meet every need of every member of a large, varied, technically advanced and rapidly evolving army.
With the tight limitations on the use of its new Multi Terrain Pattern (MTP) camouflage however, the MoD seems to believe that it has achieved the unachievable, with its clothing and load carrying equipment at least. The MoD will not allow the manufacture of MTP products except for MoD contracts.
MTP - A work of art
The MoD has every right to protect MTP of course. While not many people would associate camouflage with the phrase â€œLiterary and Artistic Workâ€, the 1886 Berne Convention covering the protection of such work does protect camouflage designs.
The implicit or explicit threat of legal action on this basis is the control that Crye Precision has over MTP's parent Multicam (MTP is a version of Multicam licensed to the MoD), and in turn the MoD's control over MTP.
Looking at the issue more practically raises some obvious questions. What does the MoD gain from tight restrictions on the use of MTP? And who is affected by it?
Crye Precision benefit from the MoD's strict control of MTP
Interestingly it is not the MoD that most benefits from the restrictions, but Crye Precision. Since soldiers will continue to purchase equipment and clothing privately, and small smaller units such as special forces demand equipment not on regular issue, an alternative to MTP must be used.
Snugpak Sleeka in Crye Multicam
Until very recently the only camouflage pattern similar to MTP was itâ€™s parent; Crye's Multicam â€“ and it doesn't come cheap. It is in fact a stroke of business genius by Crye; license a custom camouflage design to an organisation who will not allow anyone else to use it (the MoD), then meet the resulting demand with your own camouflage pattern.
The main loser in all this is of course the soldier on the front line who wants to buy a piece of clothing or equipment to supplement his issue equipment. Currently his alternatives are cheaper camouflage designs of dubious performance which look markedly different from MTP or more costly Multicam products that are similar in appearance to MTP over small areas.
It's also interesting that UK special forces continue to use (allegedly!) some Multicam items in part because equipment is not readily available in MTP.
Multicam Ops Commanders Rig
Does the MoD want to control the spread of the British military corporate identify? Or just stop equipment theft?
So why is the MoD so protective? It was not possible to get a definitive answer, but a source in the MoD explained that military corporate identity is the main issue. The old DPM pattern had spread so far and wide that the British military was wearing the same as many other armies, and in many cases forces with which any association was to be avoided.
A secondary benefit may well be to crack down on (illegal) sales of military equipment by serving personnel via sites such as ebay. There has been an increasing level of concern over this practise by the MoD with increased enforcement by service police. If it is impossible to get MTP from anyone but the MoD then the standard argument that it was bought elsewhere simply doesnâ€™t stand up in court!
Vista ATP - It's the new MTP, and you can buy it.
What the restrictions produced was an opportunity for the development of a camouflage pattern that is compatible with MTP, performs well and is cheaper than Multicam. An official MTP fabric manufacturer for MoD contracts, Coating Applications Group (CAG), have done exactly that with their new Vista ATP camouflage, released under their Ability brand.
Vista ATP is an original UK design and the fabric is manufactured in the UK, avoiding the costly import duties of the US Multicam, and looks very similar to MTP as the photos below show.
MTP Shirt lying on Vista ATP
Niche equipment manufacturers Dixie's Corner and Vanguard Products have already started manufacturing Vista ATP products. While the Vista fabric types currently on offer are few, contracts with larger manufacturers would give the scale CAG needs to expand the range, to include technical clothing fabrics for example.
Vista is similar in appearance to MTP, but a unique design
CAG have had their pattern independently designed and asserted that Vista is unique and original, despite its similarity to MTP. They certainly have plenty of experience in this area. CAG Sales Manager David Ingham first dealt with camouflage designs for the Mod over 30 years ago, meeting an urgent requirement for desert camouflage for SAS operations in the Oman.
Despite such extensive experience CAG have been asked to indemnify potential Vista ATP equipment manufacturers against possible action from Crye Precision and the MoD. David Ingham explained that this is currently being addressed, â€œ â€¦.. by offering indemnity we will enable large scale use of Vista ATP and the result will be the availability of high-quality and well-priced products which work well with issue equipment.â€
It's back to business as usual
The introduction of Vista ATP to the UK camouflage market is undoubtedly good news, and will help release the UK military equipment market from the grip of Crye and the restrictions of the MoD. Vista will remove a soldiers' worries about visible differences between non-issue items and MTP, and give confidence that the camouflage performance is good.
Vista does have the potential to frustrate the MoDâ€™s apparent aim of limiting the use of UK camouflage as it is so similar to MTP, but the lack of large amounts of Vista ATP surplus stock mean that the spread of the pattern shouldnâ€™t happen on the scale of the spread of the old DPM camouflage.