The Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) survived a little over a decade before the Air Force decided to get rid of it. Today, the United States Air Force announced that they'll be switching to the Army's Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) uniforms.
According to a report by Military.com, the OCP will be available at four base exchanges: Aviano Air Base in Italy, MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, and Shaw Air Force Base and Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina. The OCP will fully replace the ABU by April 2021 at a total cost of $237 million. To put price that into perspective, that's enough to buy roughly two and a half F-35A Lightning II multirole fighters.
Air Force personnel wearing the ABU in hot climates, like these Airmen in the Nevada desert, were often feeling the heat.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class George Goslin)
"The uniform works in all climates — from Minot [North Dakota] to Manbij [Syria] — and across the spectrum of missions we perform," Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force Chief of Staff said in an Air Force release. "It's suitable for our Airmen working on a flight line in Northern Tier states and for those conducting patrols in the Middle East."
So, why spend so much money on a new look when you could spend it on couple extra F-35As? It turns out, the Airman Battle Uniform wasn't quite hitting the mark in some areas. First and foremost, it's fairly uncomfortable in hot climates. In fact, some Air Force personnel were already using the OCP over the ABU on deployment.
Airmen were already wearing the Army's Operational Camouflage Pattern in a number of instances on deployment.
A few notes for Airmen with this rollout: It will take time for the OCP to be fielded across the entire Air Force. Additionally, as noted in the "frequently asked questions" document, mixing ABU items (like cold-weather gear) with OCP items is not authorized. Also, some ABU items must be returned, like flight suits and tactical gear. Uniform disposal boxes will be available and any items put in there will be burned or shredded, so dispose carefully.
The Air Force expects that all Airmen will be wearing the OCP by April 1, 2021.