Federal Republic of Germany (1945 to present)
Germany was one of the greatest innovators of military camouflage in the Second World War, and a complete history of WW2 era German military camouflage can be found in the seperate article on Germany (Third Reich). Although rebuilt and trained largely under the auspices of Allied nations (particularly the United States and Great Britain), the West German Army nonetheless quickly embraced many of her predecessor's military traditions, including a healthy interest in the employment of camouflage uniforms. Initially, the Germans experimented with and modified a number of WW2 era patterns, including Leibermuster, Sumpfmuster, and variations of the Wehrmacht Splittermuster (splinter). Nevertheless, the majority of the German Army remained outfitted in olive drab for the next twenty-five or more years, in keeping with unofficial NATO standards.
A renewed period of interest in camouflage arose in the mid-1970s and led to the Bundeswehr Truppenversuch 76, or German Army Uniform Trials of 1976. The work leading up to these trials produced a number of camouflage patterns, including the Sägezahnmuster ("saw tooth" pattern), Punktmuster ("dot pattern") and three variations of a pattern called Flecktarn (from the German Fleck, or spot, and Tarnung, or camouflage). The three flecktarn patterns are generally known as Flecktarn A (klein)/(small), Flecktarn B (groß)/(large), and Flecktarn C (Schattenmuster)/(shadow pattern). The pattern selected as most effective of the five was Flecktarn B, although it was not initially implemented by the Bundeswehr.
Indeed, adoption and implementation of a general purpose camouflage uniform for the German Army did not occur until the mid-1980s, when Flecktarnmuster was officially chosen as the camouflage pattern of the Bundeswehr. German Flecktarn camouflage has since come to be regarded as a highly effective and influential pattern, spawning a large number of derivative patterns in use by countries such as Denmark, Japan, Poland, China, and Belgium. Germany itself has produced tropical and desert variations of the Flecktarn pattern as well, and continues its use despite a widespread international fascination with so-called digital or pixelated camouflage designs.
German Army (Bundeswehr) Camouflage Patterns
- One of the last camouflage patterns implemented by the German Army during WW2 was Leibermuster. Although never fully implemented by the Nazis, the pattern apparently retained an enthusiastic following within the German Army after the war, and was in fact produced in limited quantities by a Belgian military firm for the newly formed Bundeswehr in the 1955-56 time frame. As with the wartime uniforms, the BW version was never fully implemented.
- At approximately the same time, another WW2 era pattern - Splitternmuster (splinter pattern) - was given new life as a general purpose uniform for the Bundeswehr. Although retaining many of the original characteristics of the Wehrmacht pattern, the 1956 version can be distinguished from the wartime era design by prominent white patches, indicating an intentional slippage of the print screens during production. The full pattern consists of grass green and brown splintered shapes on a blue-grey or green-grey background, with an overlapping pattern of thin grey-green colored rain straits. Produced between 1956 and 1960, the pattern was never fully-implemented into the Bundeswehr, being primarily employed by infantry and airborne units (as two distinctive styles of uniform), and were largely withdrawn from service by the end of 1960. Only privately produced helmet covers in Splittertarn might be encountered for the next ten or fifteen years. There were, in fact, at least two distinctive color variations of the BW Splittertarn camouflage, having either a pale blue or a pale green background color. It is unknown whether these variations were intentional or simply a product of mistaken dye lots or different manufacturers.
- A variant of the Splittermuster pattern dating to the same period employs much larger and more prominent rain flecks. This pattern, Bundeswehr Splittermuster - starke, incorporates grass green and brown splintered shapes on a grey-green background, with an overlapping pattern of thick black rain straits. Also utilized by both infantry and paratrooper units, evidence suggests that far fewer uniforms were produced in this pattern, it being much less commonly encountered. In English, the pattern might be called "broad splinter pattern." As with the standard Splittertarn, both infantry and airborne unfiorms were produced in this camouflage.
- The only general purpose item of camouflage to make it into the Bundeswehr supply system during its early years was a reversible Zeltbahn (shelter half). Possibly created by combining elements of both WW2 Wehrmacht and SS pattern camouflage designs, the BW Zelt-tarnmuster is nevertheless a fairly unique design. One side (Sommer/summer) consists of black, dark olive & tan amoebic shapes over a splintered background pattern of light and medium olive green, while the other side (Herbst/autumn) features black, russet & tan amoebic shapes over olive green & beige splintered pattern background. Although custom-made helmet covers were made, the only officially-produced item in either pattern was the shelter, which could additionally be worn as a poncho with a detachable hood that also served as a carrying pouch for the folded zelt. This pattern is often called amoebatarn or German "amoeba" pattern.
- Introduced to the Bundeswehr in the mid-1960s, Schneetarn (snow camouflage) is a general purpose coverall pattern designed for wear by soldiers operating in snow-covered terrain. The design consists of needle-like patches of dark green blurred edges on a snow white base. The design produced in the 1960s employs lighter colored green in less density than that of the 1980s. Both versions are illustrated below. Standard items of issue are a hooded poncho (reversible to solid white pattern), as well as smock and overtrousers. Despite its age, the German Army retains this pattern for use by its troops.
- The pattern with the most favorable results from the original Truppenversuch 76 trials was Flecktarnmuster B. Although not immediately adopted by the German Army, a subsequent Bundeswehr Truppenversuch in 1989 confirmed the effectiveness of the pattern and subsequently it was introduced as a standard combat pattern for the Bundeswehr in that year (in fact, implementation had begun a few years earlier). Officially known as Funf Farben Tarndruck der Bundeswehr (Five color camouflage of the Bundeswehr), Flecktarn remains the standard issue combat uniform pattern of the German Armed Forces, with a wide variety of uniform items and field equipment being produced in this camouflage scheme.
- An increased German presence in peacekeeping efforts around the world during the mid-1990s sparked an interest in developing a modified uniform for wear in tropical, hot weather climates. This resulted in the adoption of a another version of the Funf Farben Tarndruck der Bundeswehr (five color camouflage of the Bundeswehr) which has also been nicknamed Tropentarn. Printed on lighter weight fabric for issue on deployments in hot weather climates, the tropical or hot weather uniform uniform was adopted in 2001. The pattern itself represents only a slight modification in the coloration of the standard Flecktarnmuster.
- Following a trend set by NATO allies Great Britain and France, in 1993 Germany began trials of a desert camouflage pattern based on the schematics of its standard issue Flecktarn. Initially nicknamed Tropentarn ("tropical camouflage," although the term was entirely unofficial), early versions of the design consisted of sparse dark olive & reddish-brown spots on a sandy background. This desert pattern would remain in the trial stages until 1998-1999, when the first official version of the desert camouflage uniform was introduced. Known officially as drei Farben Tarndruck der Bundeswehr (three color camouflage of the Bundeswehr), the pattern is also known among some collectors as Wüstentarn (desert camouflage), or Desert Flecktarn pattern. Although rumors have existed for years that two versions of the desert pattern existed, German sources indicate this is technically untrue. Early trial versions (1993-1998) may have had slightly different colorations, but the official version (issued in 1999) remains standardized, although the effects of washing with certain other types of clothing have a history of altering the appearance of the pattern. The three-color (desert) camouflage is the standard arid/desert pattern of the German Armed Forces, and is intended for wear in dry climates with some modest foliage cover.
- Introduced in 2004 and officially known as Wüstentarndruck der Bundeswehr (desert camouflage of the Bundeswehr), the pattern seen below has been primarily issued to German special operations units (although it is available commercially and has been worn in Afghanistan by individuals purchasing uniforms privately). Consisting of clusters of pinkish-grey and brown spots on a light tan background, the design is intended to perform in very dry regions with virtually no vegetation or plant coverage.
- Elements of the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK) or Special Forces Command, like many other special operations units around the world, have adopted Multicam pattern uniforms for some purposes.
- It was announced in late 2015 that the Bundeswehr would introduce two more flecktarn-based camouflage designs for use in arctic/snow conditions, and as a general-purpose camouflage pattern for personnel deployed outside of Germany. Initial research efforts began circa 2012, overseen by the Wehrwissenschaftliche Institut für Werk- und Betriebsstoffe der Bundeswehr (WIWeB) (the Federal Army Material and Supply Research Institute). Multitarn - as the multi-purpose pattern is being called - will incorporate light green, dark green, brown, beige, grey and off-white colors in a design presumably based on the standard BW flecktarn pattern, and will initially be supplied only to the German Army Special Operations Command (KSK). Presumably new uniforms will filter into the conventional ranks as time progresses. One distinct improvement the Multitarn pattern makes is that is provides increased efficacy in thwarting night vision devices.
German Federal Border Guards (Bundesgrenzschutz) Camouflage Patterns
- The Bundesgrenzschutz (BGS), or German Federal Border Guards, are a seperate service from the Armed Forces, and in fact pre-date the Bundeswehr by several years. The earliest known post-war camouflage pattern employed by Germany was utilized by the BGS, this being a close copy of the Wehrmacht Splittermuster. The pattern features grass green and brown splintered shapes on a pale grey background, with overlapping pattern of darker grey rain straits; all fabric produced reverses to a solid white for use in snow-covered terrain. Although very similar to the wartime pattern, the BGS version can be differentiated by direct comparison and was printed on a different type of fabric. In use from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, the BGS eventually replaced this camouflage with a version of the wartime Sumpftarn.
- At some point in the late 1950s, Germany again revived a wartime pattern for the BGS, the old Wehrmacht Sumpftarnmuster (marsh camouflage pattern). As with its Splittertarn predecessor, the BGS Sumpfmuster pattern can be distinguished from the WW2 era version, although it is much more difficult, particularly with the early versions, and fake WW2 era items are known to have been produced using postwar fabric. There were, in fact, three consecutive versions of the Sumpftarn camouflage pattern produced for the BGS, each one associated with a particular group of uniform items. The 1st BGS Sumpftarn pattern consists of non-overlapping russet & olive green shapes (having blurred edges) on a khaki background with an overlapping pattern of olive green rain straits. A BGS style field jacket, smock, trousers, M43 style cap & shelter quarter were produced using this 1st pattern camouflage from the late 1950s until circa 1960.
- The 2nd BGS Sumpfmuster pattern seems to have been fairly short-lived, or to have seen minimal production runs. It is most easily distinguished from the earlier pattern in having overlapping russet and olive green patches, whereas the earlier pattern had none. A BGS pullover-style jacket was produced in this pattern, and possibly matching trousers as well, most examples of which are dated to the mid-1960s.
- The 3rd and final BGS Sumpfmuster pattern was the longest in production and the longest lived. This version is much easier to distinguish from both the wartime and the two preceeding BGS patterns. Employing the same overlapping russet patches but with a blurred tan border, this late version also features much heavier and more prominent pattern of rain straits. Many items were produced in the 3rd pattern BGS Sumpfmuster, including a new BGS style field jacket, three-quarter length insulated parka, waterproof rain apron, helmet cover, and a fragmentation vest cover. These items remained in production until 1976, when camouflage was officially discontinued for the Bundesgrenzschutz, presumably in an attempt to de-militarize its public appearance.
Unofficial and Experimental German Camouflage Patterns
- One of the patterns tested during the Truppenversuch 76 was this Sägezahnmuster or "saw tooth" pattern, so-called due to the resemblance of the foliage-like shapes to the sharp edges of a saw.
- Another pattern tested in the Truppenversuch 76 was called Punktmuster or "dot pattern," similar in some respects to the flecktarn family but with far smaller and more concentrated spots.
- An experimental variation of the Desert Flecktarn having a slightly different color palette is known to exist, although it appears only to have been made available on the commercial market.
Articles on German Camouflage Patterns and their derivatives