The ACU, or Army Combat Uniform, is the combat uniform currently used by the United States Army. Formerly known as the BDU (Battle Dress Uniform), or the DCU (Desert Camouflage Uniform), the ACU is made of a nylon cotton fabric that features several design improvements, including a new camouflage pattern. This pattern, known as Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP), incorporates shades of green, tan, and grey that can blend effectively into woodland, desert, and urban surroundings. During the 1970′s, research into Dual-Texture Camouflage perfected this pattern, which is similar to the United States Marines MARPAT and the Canadian CADPAT camouflage designs.
A unique feature of the ACU is the pixel camouflage pattern. Combining slate grey, foliage green, and desert sand, the pattern appears lighter or darker depending on the amount of exposure to sunlight. In addition, using one universal camouflage scheme eliminates the need to issue more than one uniform type to troops.
Hook and loop tabs are used to attach items such as name tapes, shoulder patches, rank insignia, and devices for recognition, including the American Flag infrared (IR) tab.
IR IFF (identification, friend or foe) patches are permanently stitched to both shoulders to identify friendly personnel when night-vision devices are in use. When in garrison or otherwise not in use, the patches can be covered by velcro tabs for protection.
The ACU trouser features velcro-closure pockets for knee pad inserts, two thigh and two calf storage pockets, all with elastic drawstrings for closure during movement. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Army Combat Pants are being issued. They are identical to the standard ACU trousers except for their flame-resistant materials.
There are three types of headgear appropriate for wear in the field with the ACU: the MICH TC-2000 Combat Helmet with the ACU cover, the patrol cap, or the boonie hat. In garrison, troops may also wear the Paratrooper, Ranger, or Army Special Forces beret or patrol cap. In cold climates, the black knit cap is authorized.