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Plan to outfit Canadian troops with U.S. uniforms a waste of $500M: top camouflage designer

Plan to outfit Canadian troops with U.S. uniforms a waste of $500M: top camouflage designer
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The plan by the country’s top soldier to outfit troops with new U.S.-style camouflage uniforms is a waste of tax dollars as the current Canadian-developed pattern is still among the best available, says one of the world’s top designers of military camouflage.

In addition, the current Canadian camouflage pattern is owned by the federal government so there is no need to pay royalties for its use and the material is strictly controlled, preventing other forces from using it, said Guy Cramer, president of HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp., a firm that has provided camouflage patterns to 40 different nations.

The U.S.-style pattern is widely available in surplus stores and is in use by more than 20 countries, including by Russian special forces, Cramer said. At one point during the Syrian war, both Russian and American special forces were wearing almost the same type of uniform on the battlefield.

The National Post reported last week that Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance is pushing for a plan to spend an estimated $500 million on new uniforms with a U.S. military camouflage pattern known as “MultiCam.”

“As much as I would love a contract with the Canadian military, I don’t believe they need to change,” said Cramer, who did not play a role in the development of the existing Canadian pattern. “Half a billion dollars can be used in many other areas other than trying to improve on something that doesn’t need improvement right now.”

In a seven-page briefing note on Vance’s recent visit to Halifax, the general’s senior staff officers last month wrote, “The CDS stated his desire to replace” current uniforms with the new “MultiCam” pattern now being used by the U.S. military and Canada’s special forces.

MultiCam is a patented brand made by Crye Precision of New York and is in use by the U.S. military. Militaries pay royalties to the firm to use the pattern.

But Cramer noted NATO testing has shown CADPAT to be still a highly effective camouflage, even though the pattern was developed almost 20 years ago.

Pat Finn, the Defence Department’s procurement chief, said it is still too early to determine how the military will proceed on the issue of uniforms. Various options are being examined, he added.

It is possible the military will purchase small quantities of new uniforms and test them sometime this fall, Finn said. “We’re looking at different patterns (and) configurations,” he added.

Half a billion dollars can be used in many other areas other than trying to improve on something that doesn’t need improvement

Canadian Army commander Lt.-Gen. Jean Marc Lanthier said the process is to examine whether the army has the right equipment for evolving environments. He noted that Vance asked him to look at various options but the chief did like MultiCam. “What he likes is the colour pattern, the mix of colours, the predominance of brown,” Lanthier explained.

According to the July 11 briefing note signed by Vance’s senior staff officer, Lt.-Col. Geoffrey Mundy, and special adviser Col. Jamie Speiser-Blanchet and obtained by the National Post, Vance told personnel in Nova Scotia that the arid pattern CADPAT he saw on soldiers arriving in Mali was so worn it will “likely have to be disposed of.”

Vance, the note said, wants to see the whole Canadian Forces adopt the special forces’ “MultiCam.”

But Cramer said just because uniforms are worn doesn’t mean a country has to switch to a new camouflage pattern. Instead, it creates new uniforms using the same effective patterns it has developed, he added.

“The problem is, when you get someone at the top who sees something, that to them might look effective, that doesn’t mean it is effective,” Cramer said. “It’s going to be hard to change that perception. Once the people at the top get their minds set on something, everything becomes very difficult at that point to modify.”

Finn also acknowledged the lack of security controls over MultiCam and the fact that numerous militaries, including the Russians, now wear the same or similar uniforms. “We would have to consider those factors, absolutely,” he added.

— With files from Christie Blatchford

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