Italian Republic (Italy)
Italy has one of the longest-standing military traditions of employing camouflage printed fabrics for concealment purposes. Although many nations experimented with camouflage schemes during the First World War, the Italians were the only nation to manufacture camouflage clothing in significant quantities for issue to a military unit. A one-piece all white coverall was issued to Alpine soldiers (Alpini) and continued to be worn in the Second World War and thereafter.
The Italians also have the distinction of developing the first mass-produced camouflage pattern for military usage, the M1929 telo mimetico. This pattern saw widespread usage by paratroopers and some other Italian soldiers throughout WW2, and was even utilized by the German Army towards the end of the war. The original M29 design was modified in the 1950s and 1960s for general issue to Italian Marines and some units of the Italian Army in at least three distinctive color variations. Yet, following a NATO tradition of the Cold War era, the majority of the Italian Armed Forces did not wear camouflage clothing during the postwar period, instead utilizing dark olive green or other solid colored service uniforms.
Given their long tradition of employing the M29-based camouflage uniform, it is no surprise that the elite marines of the Reggimento San Marco were the first unit of the Italian Armed Forces to be outfitted in an entirely original camouflage pattern in the late 1980s. This pattern incorporates a unique "airbrush" style design that has spawned a number of variants for use in beach assaults, mountainous regions, desert operations, and for wear by the ultra-elite Navy Special Forces (COMSUBIN). The Italian Army retained its M29 derivative camouflage for use by paratroops and some other units, but the Alpini copied German snow camouflage for issue to its personnel in the 1980s. By 1990 the Army had begun work on its own series of general purpose camouflage patterns, including a woodland variant for general issue, and a desert pattern for wear in deployments to arid regions.
Beginning in 2004, the Italians again re-evaluated the needs of modern combatants and replaced all of their older designs (excepting those of the marines) with a new series titled mimetico Vegetata (vegetated pattern). These patterns remain in usage with Army and Air Force personnel.
Italian Camouflage Patterns
- The M1929 telo mimetico (1929 model camouflage pattern) is believed to be the first mass-produced camouflage pattern in existence. Introduced in 1929, it was widely distributed to Italian soldiers as a square shelter half or shelter/poncho combination (printed on one side only). Limited numbers of special smocks were also produced in this pattern for the Paracadutisti (paratroops) of the Italian Army during WW2, and some custom-tailored uniforms are also documented for wear by special units of the Italian Army. After the capitulation of Italy in 1943, German units operating in Southern Europe are known to have adopted the M1929 camouflage pattern for their own use. It has further been documented that original Italian machinery, moved to Czechoslovakia during WW2, was used after the war to produce camouflage uniforms for the new Czechoslovakian Army. The M1929 camouflage pattern is distinguished from the several postwar patterns by its coloration, large chocolate-brown and greyish-green distinctive patches on an ochre background, and by the general arrangement of the shapes.
- Circa 1950, the Army introduced a slightly modified version of the M1929 telo mimetico that remained in circulation for the next 35 to 40 years. Although based on the M29 drawings, the Army (Esercito) version incorporats a slight condensing of the basic shapes, with a fairly consistent color scheme using russet or reddish-brown and ochre shapes on an olive green base. In addition to a general purpose shelter half, an Infantry oversuit, helmet cover and a specialized paratrooper uniform were produced in this pattern.
- Also introduced circa 1950 is a Navy (Marina) version of the M1929, using the same drawings as the Army pattern but incorporating russet or reddish-brown and ochre-colored shapes on a blueish-grey background. Also used on a shelter half, the pattern was widely produced as a one-piece coverall, helmet cover and two-piece jacket-trouser combination, both worn almost exclusively by the Battaglione San Marco Marines well into the 1980s.
- Another variation, also utilized by the Italian Navy, can probably be dated to the 1960s or so. This version, again using the same drawings as the standard Army and Navy patterns, incorporates reddish-brown and sand-colored shapes on a light grey background. The pattern was certainly produced as a one-piece coverall, and possibly also has a helmet cover and shelter half. It is unknown whether the pattern was worn by the Battaglione San Marco or solely by the Navy COMSUBIN (Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei e Incursori Teseo Tesei).
- Italian Army Alpini (Alpine) units, and other personnel assigned to duties in snow-covered conditions have been wearing the German-designed "pine-needle" snow camouflage for many years.
- Circa 1990-92, the Battaglione San Marco (expanded to a Regiment in the mid-1990s) discarded its faithful, 1950s era M1929 style tricolor camouflage pattern in favor of a modern design. Although production runs have varied depending on manufacturer, the scheme can generally be described as a five-color, soft-edged mottled pattern of black, olive green, pinkish-red, light grey and yellow-tan. To the observer this design almost appears as thought it were spray-painted or airbrushed onto the fabric. This remains the standard camouflage pattern of the RSM today, of which several shade variations can be observed based on different manufacturers and contract runs. Illustrated below are two slightly different color variants of this pattern, known colloquially as ginestra.
- The Italian Navy's COMSUBIN (Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei e Incursori Teseo Tesei), or Special Operations Group - a unit with tasks similar to the US Navy SEALs - was also issued a similar camouflage pattern during the 1990-92 period. Essentially of the same design as the BSM pattern, the colors are just a shade or two darker.
- Following a trend set by the United States, Great Britain and France, early in 1991 the Italian Army introduced a camouflage pattern specifically for military personnel deployed to desert environments. This mimetico deserto was initially worn by Italian soldiers deployed to Somalia (UNOSOM II), but became the standard issue Army desert camouflage pattern for the next fifteen years. The design incorporates reddish-brown, olive green and beige woodland-type shapes on a sandy background.
- In development since 1990, the Italian Army also introduced a general purpose camouflage pattern beginning in 1992. Highly influenced by the US m81 woodland camouflage, the pattern - mimetico Roma 90 - utilizes a slightly different set of drawings. As with the desert pattern, this remained in general service with the Italian Army until around 2005, and was printed on a variety of different uniform types and pieces of equipment.
- Between 1993 and 1995, the Battaglione San Marco experimented with a desert version of their recently introduced camouflage pattern. Also a five-color, soft-edged mottled pattern, this version incorporates brown, light brown, yellow-tan, off-white and light grey shapes in the same "spray-paint" or "airbrush" style design. It was worn by the unit when serving in Somalia circa 1994/95 but never officially adopted.
- At approximately the same period, the Navy COMSUBIN also introduced a desert camouflage uniform based on similar drawings. A five-color, soft-edged mottled pattern of russet, light pink, dark pink, sand, and off-white, this and the subsequent version that followed it have been nicknamed "pink panther" camouflage by the operators (although, as can be seen, the early version is much more orange in appearance). Seen below are the original (1st type) and late type (current issue) patterns.
- The current camouflage pattern of the Italian Army (Esercito) is mimetico Vegetata (vegetated pattern), introduced for general issue in 2004. This is a mottled pattern of chocolate brown, russet & olive green shapes on a khaki base. Color variations of this pattern have been documented, a result of fabric lots being produced by different manufacturers.
- Also appearing in 2004 was a desert version of the Vegetata pattern (mimetico Vegetata deserto). A mottled pattern of chocolate brown, ochre & light tan shapes on a sandy-beige base, this is the current desert pattern of the Italian Army. Color variations of this pattern have been documented, a result of fabric lots being produced by different manufacturers.
- The Italian Navy Special Forces (COMSUBIN) has also been documented wearing its own variation of the Vegetata camouflage design for desert deployments. The pattern differs from the standard armed forces versions in having darker brown elements.
- The commercially-marketed pattern below, known variously as "Vegecam" and "Multiland," among other titles, has been adopted by Italian Army Special Forces units and is currently (circa 2012) being fielded by teams operating in Afghanistan. The pattern is essentially a recolored variation of the standard Army vegetata design, utilizing a color scheme very similar to that of Crye Multicam.