NWU? AOR? What's the Deal with the New Navy Uniforms? - ITS Tactical

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NWU? AOR? What’s the Deal with the New Navy Uniforms?

By Bryan Black

NWU_Type2_Type3There’s been a big buzz in the last few days about the newest Camouflage patterns available to the Navy and the Special Warfare Community. You may or may not be familiar with NWU (Navy Working Uniform) Type 1, 2 or 3, but we’ll attempt to clear that up and update everyone on what’s happening.

The latest news kicked off with an August 10th announcement of NWU II and III conformance testing on a Website dedicated to official NWU information and news. The Navy has gone above and beyond to get the information out concerning the new uniforms, but some things are still strange.

Our friend Eric at Soldier Systems ran an article yesterday announcing the news on the conformance testing that was subsequently picked up by Christian at Kit Up!. Christian was able to extract some interesting answers out of the Navy, which we’ll get into below.


Before we get into the news, here’s some background on the patterns to clear up any misconceptions.

If you know much about the ACU (Army Combat Uniform) you’ll know that the pattern, which doesn’t blend in with anything other than a couch, is known as UCP (Universal Camouflage Pattern) not ACU. This is similar to the NWU II and III, where the pattern is known as AOR (Area of Responsibility) 1 and 2 respectively.

AOR1 is the Desert variant pattern used in the NWU II that to the untrained eye looks similar to Marine Corps Desert MARPAT. It’s a little harder to mistake AOR2, the woodland pattern (non-desert) used in NWU III, for Woodland MARPAT.

I’ve called and confirmed with the NAVFAC NWU Program Manager that the NWU II and III patterns used are in fact AOR1 and AOR2, patterns which have been in development for many years now by Naval Special Warfare. The only difference in the patterns used in the NWU II and III is the inclusion of the ACE (Anchor, Constution and Eagle), much like MARPAT features the EGA (Eagle Globe and Anchor).

NWU I is the welcome uniform change that the Navy recently instituted to replace those hated utilities/dungarees! I burned mine when I left the service… Was that out loud? While NWU I is part of the seabag issue, Type II and III are “tactical uniforms for expeditionary Sailors.”

Hopefully the photo on the right will give you a good understanding of what the patterns truly look like and how much different AOR1 is from Desert MARPAT. Some pattern images used in the compilation on the right via OC Tactical.

Conformance Testing

The full details of the conformance testing can be read in the NAVADMIN here. It breaks down like this. The entire conformance testing, which will last for six weeks, is ONLY for the Type III. While the testing is only for Type III, it will be to evaluate which version of BOTH the Type II and Type III will be issued.

There are currently two different configurations for the uniforms, version 1 and 2. These versions incorporate different design features such as pocket size, pocket flap design, rank placement and trouser waist adjustment.


The differences here in the Blouse are very slight, version one has smaller shoulder pockets than chest pockets and rectangular pocket flaps on all the aforementioned pockets. Version 2 has the same size shoulder and chest pockets, but all pocket flaps have a slight taper.


Version 1 of the trousers have belt loops and a button fly with no elastic. Like version 1 of the blouse, the trousers have rectangular pocket flaps. The thigh pocket is also vertical on version 1, as opposed to version two which has the thigh pocket canted.

Version 2 has the previously mentioned thigh pocket cant, an elastic waistband with the same belt loops and button fly on version 1. Like version 2 of the blouse, all pocket flaps have a slight taper.


The Type III uniforms will be issued 15o Sailors, representing NSW, Seabees (Naval Construction Force) and EOD. Testing will be conducted in the vicinities of Norfolk, San Diego and Tampa. Type III will replace the existing woodland camouflage in CONUS and as prescribed by commanders OCONUS.

Fielding of the new Type II and Type III uniforms is expected to start in the summer of 2011.

Type II


So now that we’ve cleared up the Type III issue, let’s move into Type II. NWU Type II will ONLY be worn by Naval Special Warfare Operators and the Sailors who support them. The 3-color desert camouflage uniform is not going away. Sailors not authorized to wear the NWU Type II will continue to wear the current tricolor desert camouflage utility uniform in desert environments when issued by authorized command.

Remember, the conformance testing is primarily for finding out which “version” works the best, and that will be produced in both NWU II and III. Christian from Kit Up! mentions that an “official” version has already been named, and that it’s what the MCPON (Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy) is wearing in the photo to the right.

I’m not sure if Christian has some insider information, but the photos of the MCPON may just be with what he prefers to wear. Christian goes on in the article to say that he believes that when this is all over Type III will be issued in version 1 and NSW will continue to buy their uniforms from Beyond and Crye in AOR1 and 2.


This is probably true, but there’s more to it than that. Naval Special Warfare still has to have a set of Type II cammies to show their face in when deployed, and they sure aren’t going to walk around in Crye Combat Uniforms. So in the end I personally feel certain that whatever version is chosen for the Type II and III will be issued to NSW as well.

Operationally they won’t wear it, but it will be worn in place of the current Woodland and Desert uniforms. Also, the KitUp article mentions that even EOD will continue to wear the tricolor desert uniforms, but I believe that they’ll be issued the Type II as well. They’re just as much a part of Naval Special Warfare and work side by side with SEALs. They’ll be wearing Type II.

I do agree with Christian that it’s a bit ridiculous to have spent 80 million on uniform development to only issue Type II to a few thousand in Naval Special Warfare, but I’m willing to bet a substantive part of that development money was spent when DevGru was originally developing new combat uniforms for just themselves.

Keep up to date with what’s happening in NWU development with their Website or Facebook page.

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  • Riceball

    I’ve been following this and I find this whole thing confusing and a bit pointless. First off, what’s the purpose of having Type III when most tactical sailors will be likely be attached to another service and thus wearing whatever they wear all the rest should just be issued either MARPATs or a version of MARPAT sans the EGAs in them like the commercial knockoffs or simply wear the old woodland BDUs. Then it gets even more ridiculous with the NSW only Type IIs, why develop a uniform just for a small part of the Navy and one that they probably won’t even wear on operations since the SEALs reportedly don’t like the Type IIs.

    • Rob The Blob

      because even sailors want to be highspeed! I know I’ll catch flack for the comment! lol

    • Navy for shipboard sailors should have skipped Digicam NWU and went with solid gray or blue. Special warfare/ops would have been fine with Marpat instead of a close cousin in AOR 1/2.This approach AOR1/2 is neither cost effective or necessary. Only Multi-cam is equal with Marpat which is better made anyway!

  • Great article that clearly explains everything that has come up recently with the NWU Type II and III uniforms. I’m very eager to see what happens as I start my training for Navy EOD in a few months.

  • Tango7

    G-d love the Navy.

    I’m with the folks that scratch their heads and wonder why “Big Blue Uncle” had to spend the money to have their own version of a DigiCam, and they chose to make it match… the ocean? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

    Of course I guess the folks in DC wanted something to chat about at cocktail parties. ;D

    Great writeup as always.

    • Phil

      The reason for the blue camo in the NWU I is perfectly logical, it’s not meant to be a tactical or field uniform but a work uniform that will replace dungarees (for the enlisted), work khakis for the officers and Chiefs, and coveralls for all ranks and the color and pattern were chosen to hide any dirt and/or grease stains that the wearer might get on their uniform. The idea was that the camo hides stains so that the sailor doesn’t have to wash the uniform as often since stains don’t show as much.

      What I don’t understand is the need for the Type II & III since very few sailors will actually deploy to the field where they’ll need a camo uniform. Most that do will be deployed with another branch of service (ala Corpsmen & Marines) and will wear whatever they wear and then let the NSW folks just wear whatever they want since that’s what they pretty much do anyway.

    • Joey Guns

      The Blue Berries are a waste of money and they look like sh#t. My Wife is from another country never had been on a base in her life the first time she saw that ridiculous uniform, she thought they were the Navy’s Janitors. The excuse is stupid too. After all, the texture (eventually they feel dirty) and the smell dictate when a sailor might wash his/her clothes not some paint stain. Besides when has a sailor taken the effort to soak his clothes to get out grease oil and paint? UMMMM Never!?!?!? Whomever thought up the “oh, its to hide dirt” is a con artist at best. I call BullSh#T for ripping off the Navy. Last time I deployed was in the Deserts that uniform picks up every thing. Stop wasting time on so many uniforms. have an Idea! Multi-Cam ( the stuff is pretty cool, Blends in with everything except snow) for the forward deployed in field Ops and on board Navy Vessels. On uniform for one navy serving one country.

    • Eric

      Being a person that wears a uniform to operate in on a daily basis I can tell you that whoever thinks 1 uniform for the whole Navy is an idiot. For one, junior Sailors are going to complain about uniforms no matter what. I’m a Chief and I’m in NSW. Theres no way in hell that the bean counters of the Navy would waste the money on having every swinging Ricky Recruit wearing Crye Percision camis because you dont need them. I suggest you do some research on the uniform and material patten and you’d know why big Blue Navy wont pay 400.00 a uniform for so fat out of shape shipboard sailor to wear around so he feels cool. Theres alot of bias towards NSW sailors because the fleet sailors think we get away with what we want. In all actuality, I hold my junior troops to a very high uniform standard because we hardly ever wear them. My rule is that you may only put a uniform on a couple of times a year, but when you do you better look like a rock star! Yes was in the fleet first and the Navy does need a cami uniform and one that it up to date. For you unoperational types, wearing a 50 year old pattern around ACUs and Marpat or Tigersripes you stick out really bad. And when your in a combat environment you dont want to stand out. Thats just my 2cents. All and all, the new uniforms are awesome, they were designed for operators by operators.

    • Great comment Chief!! Thanks for adding your two cents!!

    • Bryce

      Hey ever heard of the Seabees? Just wondering since these are the only uniforms we should and do wear (DUU’s and CUU’s) and yet because we are in the Navy we have to have four sets of those stupid ass Aquaflage uniforms that we will never wear, uh, because we don’t go on ships and we do work out side the wire and we do deploy with other services specifically the Marines oh, and the Army oh and whoever else needs the job done, and we wear “our” uniforms that operationally match the environment we are in so yes certain changes do make sense and by the way we are Not “very Few” sailors, and we are constantly deployed to AOR’s which require an applicable camoflauge uniform….

    • Cody Madura

      I 100% agree… I am also a fellow Seabee and I think we should receive a different TACTICAL (key word is tactical) uniform. the DUU and CUU uniforms are ok, but they are out of date and are not the best in the field…. and the Aqua is very pointless to Seabees……

    • Jean

      It’s not about how often uniforms have to be washed, but how often they have to be replaced. I wore the old pre-utility dungarees, and all it took was a bit of ketchup at lunch to stain one of those old blue chambray shirts. I ruined (and had to replace) several uniforms because of a single stain. I probably spent more than $300 replacing uniforms, simply because I got oil on them.

      Plus, the utilities/dungarees were so embarrassing (they looked like prison or car mechanic uniforms) the Navy wouldn’t let us out in public while wearing them. Now that they have a sharp, professional, MILITARY looking working uniform, my son, who has followed in my footsteps, can stop at the store on the way home and is allowed to actually be seen in public. The uniform has been so well received among young adults, my son’s former recruiters are begging their COC to be allowed to wear their digis all the time.

      As for what it looks like in the water, it’s no worse than coveralls or dungarees. It’s wet, underwater, and blue.

    • jordan

      The NSW groups still have set uniforms! Please know what you are saying before you write about it.

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  • When I look at the NWU Type III, I almost instantly think of the Italian Army camo Vegetato. The difference it seems is that the Type III has more of an olive cast and the Vegetato has more of brown cast to it.


    The above is a link to a jacket in Vegetato.

  • someguy

    $80M is for initial fielding of Type III uniforms for 61,000 troops, plus 10,000 troops for Type II. And it includes a couple of years of inventory in case things wear out or get lost.

    Conformance test will indicate not which uniform is better (V1 or V2), but what features on V1 or V2 are preferred. The final uniform is likely going to be a hybrid of V1 and V2 based on feedback from operators/testers.

  • riley

    The greens really look like the marines in avatar. I know ill catch flak for that but its actually very similar. I am with most of you though, about how much money was spent for what was gained. The army needs new camies before the navy does. just saying.lol.

  • Moose

    Its hard to believe that there are still so many people that think sailors never hit the ground. The Seabees have been around since 1942 and have worn the same uniform as the Marines for much of their existance. With the Seabees comes the rest of the Expeditionary community; EOD, Combat Camera, Riverines, ECRC, NEIC, ESU, MESF and MCAST. There are many sailors that will get great use out of these uniforms, and I am glad to see that they developed them. Could have spent alot less, but that is DOD for you.

    Thanks Moose

  • Jim Maniac

    First off those uniforms are only for Navy SEALs.

    Second…. Navy SEALs arent allowed to wear multicam because the big gay green Army said Navy SEALs cant wear it anymore. So we went to that colored green

    Third. Regular Navy Sailors wont even own or see these uniforms

    • Cody Madura

      well what about the Seabees…. we are there right beside the SEALs

    • jordan

      WRONG you are WRONG learn something

    • michael

      Actually there ar VP squadrons that are issuing this uniform out. I see it on NAS regularly.

  • branden

    I am in the seabees currently in Afghanistan. first I would like to say i cant wait to get the new uniform upon returning home. the only bad thing is i think the seabees should get the new desert digital uniforms not just nsw. I would have to say it will be nice to finally have our own uniform instead of this hand me down crap we have now. yes hand me down we took the old pattern that the army airforce and marines have.
    For those of you who dont know Navy and marines means the same thing in pastu the language most common in afghanistan. so why not have a new uniform that would confuse the enemy a little more.
    lastly i would just like to throw in the fact that it is also sad the Afghan army has digitals and yet the seabees do not….not only that but i believe some people need to make a trip to this country to see that it isnt just brown and the new woodland digi pattern would probably do a better job if we were to try to blend in with surroundings.

    • Cody Madura

      tru that!!!!!!!!!!!!! i love how you think. i myself am going soon too… and i agree with you completely

  • matt s

    I’m an Master at Arms in CONUS right now and from what I’ve heard and read in October all MA’s in CONUS will be issued the NWU type III uniform to separate us from the rest of the sailor population on bases and to establish more of a physical presence as law enforcement.

  • Bull

    “The 3-color desert camouflage uniform is not going away.” Well, they’re still authorized, but they are going away. At least according to the Navy Exchange uniform folks I spoke with last week.

    Apparently they’re no longer stocking/ordering the 3-color desert camo any more. I know this because I’m on my way to JTF HOA in a couple months, and I talked to three different NEX folks who told me the same thing. Apparently I can’t put my seabag together unless I buy my uniforms from a commercial vendor. And in the meantime you can’t get the Type IIs anywhere.

    So the Navy continues to be a little jacked up, but I am happy about the new uniforms. Whenever they get here….

    • Interesting, thanks for the heads up Bull!

  • Reminds me of the uniform boondoggle back in my day (70’s) when the CNO got the bright idea to give enlisteds what we referred to as “ice cream man” uniforms (we’re talking dress blues and whites here not dungarees or camos) with ties and navy chief-like hats. This was to replace the “cracker jack” uniform so revered by America’s women (when seen on our sailors). You can imagine how good this felt and mind you as well that we weren’t the heroes (vietnam and post vietnam) that ya’ll are now. In fact we were ORDERED to not wear our uniforms ashore even in the CONUS for fear of our safety. Anyway, at some point they had a vote throughout the fleet (this was the first and last time I believe we were asked to vote on anything….) and hands down everyone wanted the crackerjacks back. At the time everyone thought the whole thing was a boondoggle to get some company a good uniform contract. Whatever is going in you really, really have to wonder about some of the uniforms the NAV has been putting in place, including the black dress uniform with Eisenhower cap. Blue camos? Were I enlisting today, based on the uniform alone I’d go into the Marines for sure.

  • Sailor who’s got some

    I’m a Seabee. I was issued the NWU type III’s. They are an improvement over the CUU and DCUs. The current scuttlebutt is that we will never be issued either of those uniforms again. The type threes are also a MUCH lighter color than Woodland MARPAT, there’s a marine recon unit sharing our building, when you stand a Bee and a Devil Dog side by side you can tell the difference. Someone in another threat mentioned that because its public that the NSW will be the ones receiving these uniforms that their cover is now blown. Well, here’s a dose of reality, the only people wearing any kind of uniform in Afghanistan are NATO troops and ANA. It’s easy to tell the difference between them. SpecWar operators are good at their jobs and KNOW that it’s a bad day if they get captured, no matter the uniform, they’re not afghans and the Taliban can tell the difference.

    I’m gonna finish by saying that I agree that NWU I (blueberries) are lame. I’m glad I don’t wear them. I AM pleased that the Navy finally decided to join the rest of the force in the 21st century.

  • Ian Delmar

    The new NWU, as stupid as it may look (just like ACUs), is probably a good replacement for all the Navy’s different work and service uniforms out there as someone mentioned. It simplifies supply and it gives the Navy a uniform that is theirs to have pride in (if they can find it in themselves to have pride at all!). They don’t need it as a tactical uniform, just as an everything else other than dress uniform. Since its the Navy, blue is at least an appropriate color. I don’t have a big problem with them, but then again I was an Army guy haha.

    On that note, then why did they spend millions of dollars developing uniforms when the Marine’s have MARPAT that works perfectly well? I think that they should have just gone with MARPAT with Navy tapes if they were deploying with ground forces…like the corpsmen…or just use MARPAT uniforms as their work uniform. That would simply have made things even easier…

    That was the nice thing about M81 woodland and DCU patterns – everyone used them – just different tapes. Certainly makes strategic supply a lot easier.

    I do believe that each service has its own unique needs it requires of its uniforms, but honestly its now so rediculous that the AF has their uniform, the Army has ACUs and some multicam, the Marines have 2 types MARPAT, and the Navy will have at least 3 uniforms. Really?

  • Jeff

    These are “NOT” NSW specific uniforms and YES all “EXPEDITIONARY” commands or associated commands are now wearing them. I know, because I am issuing them to active and reservists that are in support of NSW. SEABEE’s , EXPEDITIONARY and EXP MEDICAL, SEALS, EOD, CSS/CS, etc, etc, etc.

  • manuel

    The NWU I uniform has to be the most idiotic, wasteful & silly uniform the Navy has ever fielded. Camo dark blue patern, drk blue t-shirt & 9 lace mid calf boots for shipboard use?! Really? An absolute lack of functional thought was applied in the development of this foolish uniform. Good luck if you fall into the drink at sea. If the powers that be ‘HAD’ to move away from the tradtional dungarees or utilities, the Coast Guard has already perfected a sea going uniform. The lame excuse of hiding stains or what ever is a red herring. It’s a screaming disgrace that this boondoggle has been allowed to occure so some insiders can squeeze the government/our taxes for more unnecessary uniform expeditures.

    • CG59

      Camoflage on board ship? Utility? Really?

  • Marsh

    I agree with the boondoggle comment. Being an old Chief, and a wrench-turner, the lame excuse that the aquaflage was to hide paint and stains is a joke. Guys like me live in coveralls. Not because their comfy, but because they wash halfway decent, cost near nothing (I get the green ones for free), and no one cries when you have to chuck them in the trash.

    Operators, or anyone that supports their ops, should get the new duds. If you need them you get them. I agree with my Brother that every fat admin (or insert the trade you hate here) Sailor doesn’t need type IIIs to get his self esteem up. Earn them.

    The driving idea $$$ should be “the right uniform for the right job.” I’m a helo mechanic– I get coveralls. If I get sent to the dirt to support spec ops, I get something else… maybe the camo coveralls that I’ve seen on Marine mechanics. Right uniform– right job. Simple.

    I agree with the idea of having a Navy working uniform, and a BDU is fine, just not the blue gayness we have now. Maybe a pattern that matches some sort of terrain that humans inhabit. I just don’t care for the ‘Pakistani police officer look’…

  • The nwu 1 is a great uniform for sailors to wear and actually feel like they are part of the military because they are and should be respected just as much as every branch. Idk why people are making a big deal about them if you don’t like it that’s your opinion but I sure as hell would rather wear the aqua’s in public over the old “prison like” jumpsuits or the bell bottomed cracker jacks. Buuut I don’t think seabees should be issued them at all seeing how they are always on land and should definitly be wearing what the marines are since we are right there with them wether its building or helping defend an attack on an establishment in the process of being built. My basic point is seabees deserve nw 2’s and I could care less if the navy sailors wear blue, green, white, or even damn orange as long as it looks professional for military wear not some mechanic jumpsuit…but anyways CAN DO!

    • CG59

      Type 1 is the Navy’s ‘UCP’!

  • Jay219

    Whats wrong with the navy just using off the shelf “navy” colored BDU uniforms? As the other poster mentioned, the Coast Guard does it and it looks great. Btw navy blue doesn’t show stains easily as the Navy already knows because enlisted submariners and others already wear navy blue…..besides it’s called “NAVY BLUE” to point out the obvious.

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  • 8 Bells

    @Marsh Bravo Zulu

    Anyone that has spent a single day in the military can tell you that the military is about “UTILITY.”

    If you need camo, you get it; if not, you don’t. That is the way it is suppose to be. Makes no senes to drop the bux on a single thing that is not needed; make the defense dollar go further. 


  • CG59

    When will Navy and Marines change over to the new OCP? LOL!

  • Frank Santa-Teresa

    Personally, I think th Air Force should replace their ABUs with the Navy’s current NWU “blueberries”….after all, the original idea behind the ABUs is that they are a work uniform and are not really to be used in “battle”.

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