Late in July 2017, the head of U.S. oversight for Afghanistan described wasteful US spending on untested camouflage uniforms to the House Armed Forces Committee. The uniforms, known as HyperStealth Spec4ce Forest, were purchased for the Afghan Army at a cost of $94 million to the U.S. Defense Department.
John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, testified that the purchase had been made without evaluating “…the pattern’s effectiveness in Afghanistan compared to other available patterns.” He went on to explain that the purchase cost taxpayers excess costs of $28 million and will “needlessly cost … an additional $72 million over the next 10 years.”
While the Forest colors may seem an odd choice for Afghanistan, Hyperstealth’s website contends there was a great deal of research which went into the selection process:
- A) The ANA operations consist of many night missions and they required a color scheme which would conceal them better than other desert, arid or multi environmental color schemes did during night-ops. The colors selected combined with the Spec4ce pattern makes the uniform virtually invisible at night, field testing showed an astonishing initial acquisition distance of less than 5 meters at night (far superior to other Multi, Arid and Desert and traditional Woodland colored uniforms). The uniform also uses the most advanced IR reduction coatings to provide an advantage over any night vision equipment used by the opposition.
- B) The colors and pattern differs from those of the coalition forces (International Security Assistance Force – ISAF) – important for both the ANA (which are very well respected in Afghanistan) and the ISAF to be able to identify their own troops from the ANA soldiers during operations.
- C) Darker colors have a greater psychological impact (based on numerous studies) providing a greater sense of authority and strength to both the user and the viewer than lighter colors do.
- D) The previous pattern used by the ANA (older U.S. Army Woodland pattern) was easily attainable around the world (both as surplus and new uniforms) and was being acquired by their adversaries to infiltrate both the ANA and ISAF. Special passive anti-counterfeit items are placed into the new Spec4ce uniforms to both identify actual ANA uniforms and specific soldiers and allow recognition of imposters at long distances with advanced (undisclosed) technology. This specific requirement took HyperStealth months to develop but provides a new measure of security for both the ANA and ISAF.
When the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee asked Sopko how the forest camouflage pattern was selected over other patterns currently owned by the Defense Department, he stated that Afghanistan’s minister of defense was never shown any Defense Department-owned camouflage patterns
“He was basically shown only the patterns owned by one company,” Sopko said.