El Salvador

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Republic of El Salvador

The Republic of El Salvador (República de El Salvador) forms part of the region claimed as Spanish territory during the 16th century, formerly called the General Captaincy of Guatemala. Major uprisings in 1811 and 1814 initiated a movement towards independence from Spain, finally achieved by all the nations of Central America in 1821. Following a brief period as part of the Mexican Empire, El Salvador joined the five other nations of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) in forming the United Provinces of Central America, which lasted from 1838 to 1841.

In an attempt to quell a rising revolutionary movement, a military junta siezed power in 1979, but was dissolved shortly thereafter due to popular pressure. With the aid of the United States, a second junta under Napoleon Duarte was then installed in 1980, but the government was unable to stifle the insurrectionist movement in time, and so the nation degenerated into civil war.

A Salvadoran Civil War raged from 1980 to 1992, fought between the military government of El Salvador (supported by the United States) and a coalition of leftist groups known as the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). Under US direction, the Salvadorian government invoked a "scorched earth" policy using airstrikes and deployed counter-insurgency techniques learned from their American advisors. The government was also known to deploy "death squads" that kidnapped, tortured and executed suspected FMLN members and their supporters. Following the revolutionary principles of Che Guevara, Mao Zedong and the Viet Cong, the FMLN were proponents of economic sabotage, intimidation of the rural population, and using civilians as human shields. After twelve years of war, in which the FMLN made some territorial gains, a truce was finally reached in January of 1992.

During the early portion of the Civil War (particularly 1984-86), government soldiers could be observed wearing quite a varied number of camouflage patterns scattered amongst different units. These ranged from fairly common variations of leaf and woodland, both well-documented, to obscure patterns with little documentation, such as DPM, various Korean designs, and even some undocumented patterns like a vertical stripe pattern. Included in this section are only the camouflage patterns that can be substantiated from several sources, but it is likely more patterns were worn during that time period.

Today the Armed Forces of El Salvador (Fuerza Armada de El Salvador) consist of the Army, Air Force, and Navy, with approximately 17,000 active duty personnel. Despite its small size, the armed forces have consisted of a number of specialized units, including commandos, paratroopers, marines and counter-terrorist units. Recently, El Salvador has been committed to the Multi-National Force in Iraq, sending small contingents from 2003 until 2009.

Camouflage Patterns of El Salvador

  • Long supported by the United States some of the earliest camouflage uniforms worn by Salvadoran troops were made from both 1st and 2nd generation ERDL pattern fabric, both donated uniforms and bolts of printed fabric. The pattern would later be copied and reproduced locally, although with considerable variation as to colors and fabrics.

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  • Limited use was made of a duck hunter type camouflage during the Civil War period. The camouflage is of undetermined origins, and was certainly issued to the US-trained Atlacatl Battalion, although may have also seen use with airborne and other elite infantry units.

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  • El Salvador eventually developed its own industry for the manufacture of military equipment and uniforms in the 1980s, which included the production of camouflage fabrics. One of the earliest patterns produced was a copy of the US m1948 ERDL, which was printed using a variety of fabric types.

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  • One Salvadorian variation of the ERDL design uses similar drawings, but the dyes more closely resemble those of the later US woodland camouflage design.

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  • Another Salvadoran ERDL camouflage variation commonly seen throughout the 1980s and 1990s was the so-called "dark leaf" or "dark ERDL" pattern. Using the same drawings as the earlier ERDL copy, the "dark" pattern incorporates black, dark brown and dark green leaf shapes on pale green background. The Salvadoran produced uniforms of this period are rather crudely printed, with dyes so dark they tend to blend into one another at distances greater than a few feet away.

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  • El Salvador also produced its own indigenous version of tiger stripe pattern camouflage during the Civil War period (1980s), although like other patterns it was very crudely printed and often unrecognizable at a distance. Although leaf patterns tended to be distributed widely throughout the Army, the tiger stripe patterns seem to have been the province of elite units such as the BIRI (Brigada Infantria Reaccionmente Immediamente), Atlacatl Battalion, and Paracaidistas (paratroops).

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  • Another pattern encountered during this period is the South Korean-made "waves" design, worn primarily by the Atlacatl Battalion. This pattern also saw widespread distribution among forces in Guatemala.

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  • The US m81 woodland camouflage pattern came into use with Salvadoran forces some time in the late 1980s, originally donated from the United States. Locally-produced copies would shortly also see production, most made from imported fabrics, and a BDU style uniform remained the standard issue combat uniform of the Salvadoran soldier until the mid-2000s.

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  • Variations of the m81 woodland design could be found throughout the Salvadoran Armed Forces, including the design seen here. Having much brighter coloration than the US-made original, the printing and fabrics were nevertheless of lower quality.

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  • The US six-color "chocolate chip" camouflage pattern has been worn since the 1990s by the Army's Comando de Fuerzas Especiales or CFE, the Special Forces Command.

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  • Salvadoran military personnel (primarily the Cuscatlan Battalion) deployed to Iraq wearing US-issue tricolor desert camoufage uniforms.

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  • Salvadoran Air Force have worn a woodland camouflage pattern with a blue colorway, incorporating black, medium blue & blue-grey woodland shapes on grey background. This has since been replaced with a pixelated variation.

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  • Some units of the Salvadoran National Police wear a unique pixelated camouflage design using an urban colorway of black, dark grey & medium grey digital pattern on light grey background.

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  • Both Marines of the Salvadoran Navy (Infanteria de Marina) and Army Special Operations teams have been observed recently wearing a copy of the US Marine Corps temperate MARPAT camouflage.

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  • The Fuerza Aérea Salvadoreña currently wear a pixelated version of their old blue "woodland" design, which has gradually replaced the previous version since around 2012.

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