Kuwait

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The territory of what is now the State of Kuwait (دولة الكويت) was once part of the Ottoman Empire, but emerged as an independent shiekhdom under the protection of Great Britain after the First World War. Granted full independence in 1961, the nation remained out of the limelight until 1990 when it was invaded and annexed by neighboring Iraq. A subsequent military intervention to expel Iraqi forces by the United States as well as several Arab and European nations, resulted in the seven month long Persian Gulf War (or the First Gulf War).

Prior to the Iraqi invasion, the Kuwaiti Armed Forces were relatively small in size (16,000 Army, 18,000 National Police, and a small contingent of National Guards). [1] Since the Gulf War, however, significant efforts have been taken to increase the size and efficaciousness of the Kuwaiti armed services, including establishing defence cooperation agreements with the United States, United Kingdom and France. Although it has not been a direct combatant in the Iraq War (Second Gulf War), Kuwait is a major deployment center for coalition personnel and is permanent host to an American battalion task force.

Historically organized around British standards, the Kuwaiti Army and National Police each issued a single camouflage uniform based on the British DPM design prior to 1991. Since then, the nation has adopted a multitude of different designs, including special patterns for the Royal Guard, Special Forces, and Installation Guards.

Kuwaiti Camouflage Patterns

  • The oldest camouflage pattern worn by Kuwait is a four-color desert derivative of British DPM, which was probably introduced in the 1980s. Similar to the original design created in the UK and later sold to Iraq, the Kuwaiti versions tend to have a more yellowish tinge, depending on the type of fabric. Besides uniforms, camouflaged ponchos (below, right), specialized uniforms (parachutist smocks and sniper coveralls) and some other field equipment were issued. Manufacturers of the uniforms were largely Chinese and South Korean (including the L'Berge label - illustrated below, 1st & 2nd from left - often mistaken as a French company), although some imports from India may have also ended up in Kuwait prior to 1991. Large quantities of these uniforms were pillaged from Kuwait during the 1990 Iraqi invasion and ended up with Iraqi forces after they were routed by Coalition forces in 1991, which has caused some confusion amongst the collecting community as to whether certain uniforms were originally Kuwaiti or Iraqi in origin.

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  • Special units of the Kuwaiti Ministry of the Interior wore a distinctive blue colorway DPM pattern prior to 1991. As with the Army issue uniforms, most were produced in South Korea. The pattern is the only original design that was retained after the Kuwaiti armed services were re-organized, although the colors and design of the uniforms changed somewhat.

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  • The Kuwaiti Special Forces (Commandos) have worn a two-color "desert amoeba" camouflage pattern since at least 1989, and continue to do so. The unit was re-organized, equipped and trained by the United States following 1991, but the camouflage design does not appear to have changed much, if at all.

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  • The Kuwaiti Marines were a very small, pre-invasion force, and wore their own camouflage pattern, a grey dominant version of the US designed six-color "chocolate chip" desert pattern. This design is very similar to that worn by the Saudi Border Guards into the present time period. Following 1991, this pattern fell into disuse.

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  • Another variation of the US six-color desert pattern having a blue colorway was worn by the Kuwaiti National Police during this time period. Following 1991, this pattern also fell into disuse.

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  • The Kuwaiti Armed Forces were largely re-equipped after the Iraqis were routed in 1991. A natural aversion to uniforms or equipment "contaminated" by the Iraqis led them to discard the old camouflage uniforms (many of which were stolen by fleeing Iraqis anyway) and embrace new designs. The US tricolor desert camouflage pattern was one of the first patterns chosen for universal issue to the Kuwaiti Armed Forces. Uniforms were sourced from the USA and various Asian manufacturers.

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  • Yet another variation of the US six-color desert pattern was designed specifically for Kuwaiti National Police and Installation Guards, and probably introduced after 1991. Essentially a faithful copy of the US design, the pattern is often called "barbed wire" desert as the traditional tiny stone shapes of the original design have been replaced by small "barb" shapes in the same black color.

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  • The Kuwaiti National Guard, a border and internal security force, increased in size dramatically after 1991 and adopted their own unique camouflage pattern incorporating olive green amoeba shapes & rust/white "chips" on a pale green base. The design is the same as that of the Kuwaiti Commandos, but utilizes a different color scheme and incorpoates a "chip" theme similar to the six-color desert pattern originated in the United States. Ironically, the camouflage later ended up in use by Iraq following the US invasion. Several tint variations have been documented.

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  • Revived for use by the Kuwaiti Police Special Security Force, the "urban" DPM pattern is now generally darker and more grey than blue.

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  • The Academy of Saad Al-Abdullah for Security Sciences is responsible for training recruits for the Kuwaiti Police. Trainees wear a variety of uniforms, but one of these is a two-colored variation of the blue DPM worn by the MOI Police.

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  • A special camouflage design was created for the Kuwaiti Royal Guard circa 2003-2004, having sparse maroon spots & squiggles with large patches of yellow-tan on a sandy background.

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  • Like their Saudi counterparts, the Border Guards of Kuwait fall under the administration of the Ministry of Interior. A two-color desert DPM camouflage pattern is worn by this branch of service, copied from the original United Kingdom design.

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  • Following a trend set by Canada and the United States in the early 2000s, Kuwait also adopted a digital camouflage pattern in 2006 for general issue to its armed forces. Being a pixelated pattern of medium brown, reddish-brown and tan on a sandy-background, the pattern has strong similarities to the USMC MARPAT desert design.

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Other Camouflage Patterns Worn by Kuwait

  • Kuwaiti Military Forces in exile were outfitted as best as possible by Coalition forces, but suitable desert uniforms for many countries were in short supply. Nevertheless, many Kuwaiti units deployed wearing US-supplied six-color desert camouflage uniforms.

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  • Owing to the very real threat of Iraq using biological weapons as well as the shortage of uniforms, many Kuwaiti troops also deployed wearing surplus British DPM pattern NBC suits.

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Notes

  1. Gordon Rottman: Armies of the Gulf War (Osprey Military, London UK, 1993) p 31