The Desert Battle Dress Uniform (DBDU)was the arid-environment camouflage battle uniform used by the United States Armed Forces from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, most notably during the Persian Gulf War. Although the U.S. military has since abandoned the pattern, it is still in widespread use by militaries across the world as of the early 2010s.
The Desert Battle Dress Uniform uses a camouflage pattern known as the Chocolate-Chip Camouflage, Cookie Dough Camouflage, or the Six-Color Desert Pattern. The camouflage received its nickname because it apparently resembles chocolate-chip cookie dough. It is made up of a base pattern of light tan overlaid with broad swathes of pale olive green and wide two-tone bands of brown. Clusters of black-on-white spots are scattered over, to mimic the appearance of rocks.
Although the chocolate-chip camouflage became well known during the Persian Gulf War, it was originally designed decades prior, in 1962. The U.S. Army, believing that it might become necessary to intervene in the Arab-Israeli conflicts, developed a test pattern using the deserts of southwestern United States as a model. When the hostilities in the Middle East wound down, the test pattern was mothballed. The formation of the U.S. Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) in 1979, with its remit to operate in the Middle East, and protect U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf region, saw the need for desert camouflage clothing to emerge again.
The six-color desert pattern entered service in 1981 at the same time as the woodland BDUs and would be worn in limited numbers by U.S. troops taking part in the biennial Bright Star exercises in Egypt during the 1980s, and by FORSCOM peacekeepers assigned to the Multinational Force and Observers in the Egyptian Sinai Desert, but issued in large numbers prior to the Persian Gulf War. However, there is evidence that the six-color desert pattern camouflage was in use before 1981 with photographs of American military personnel involved in Operation Eagle Claw in April 1980 using this camouflage pattern in the failed attempt to rescue U.S. embassy staff being held hostage Iran.
Feedback from these users indicated that the design contrasted too much with the terrain, preventing the camouflage from blending in effectively. Anecdotal evidence suggested that the dark areas of the pattern warmed up more than the paler parts under desert sunlight, and retained the heat longer. The six colors were also more expensive to manufacture than three or four colors, and the need for a camouflage that would be suitable for use in any desert resulted in a requirement for a new desert camouflage uniform. The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center began the search for a substitute. Samples of sand and earth from the Middle East were measured for optical and infrared reflectance, and seven trial patterns were created using these statistics. The patterns were evaluated in fourteen different desert locations and narrowed down to one favourite. The resulting "Desert Camouflage Pattern: Combat" was standardized in 1990, but was not ready before troops deployed to Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War. Consequently U.S. forces wore the six-color BDUs during the campaign. During that war, after initiatives by General Norman Schwarzkopf, the six-color Desert BDU was produced in 100% cotton poplin without reinforcement panels in order to improve comfort in hot desert conditions. A total of 500,000 improved cotton BDUs were ordered. However, cost concerns caused the cotton six-color Desert BDU to be discontinued shortly after the Persian Gulf War.
An initial batch of desert BDUs in the new camouflage scheme was en route to the Middle East when hostilities ceased. The pattern, officially issued with the newer Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU) in 1993, consisted of a subtle blend of large pastel green and light tan shapes, with sparsely placed, narrow, reddish brown patches, leading the design to be unofficially nicknamed the “Coffee Stain” pattern.