Portuguese development of camouflage patterns for military usage were strongly influenced by the French tenue du leopard or lizard patterns. Indeed, the original Portuguese design seems to have been copied directly either from the original drawings or from a sample of French fabric, probably from an early TAP Mle 1947 airborne smock. Interestingly, however, whereas the stripes of the French patterns are consistently oriented in a horizontal manner, the Portuguese designs (from the earliest to the most current) have always had a definite vertical orientation. Whether this was an intentional design feature, intended to differentiate the Portuguese patterns from those of its French neighbors, or unintended, is unknown.
Portugal fought a lengthy and taxing series of campaigns in her African colonies while attempting to stave off insurgencies being waged largely by Marxist idealists backed by the Soviet bloc. These African wars ran from 1961 to 1974, during which time most Portuguese units deployed there were clad in camouflage combat uniforms. Although the standard combat uniform remained plain olive green, the association of camouflage - particularly with elite unit status - was retained long after Portugal granted independence to her former possessions in Angola, Guine, and Mozambique. Well into the 1990s, Portuguese Commandos, Paratroopers, Marines and Special Forces could still be observed wearing essentially the same camouflage design worn by their predecessors 30 years earlier, setting them distinctly apart from more conventional units. Nevertheless, in the year 2000 all units of the Portuguese Armed Forces were outfitted in a single camouflage pattern, which remains standard issue today.
Early Portuguese camouflage patterns are best categorized by the use of color, rather than by specific design features. Although at least one pattern has historically been associated strictly with a single unit (the paratroopers of the Air Force), the remainder could be found scattered within elite and conventional units alike while serving in Africa. Some standardization of design did occur in the 1980s, and today the only remaining primary user of the vertical lizard design is the Portuguese Marines.
Portuguese Camouflage Patterns
- It is believed the earliest camouflage pattern to emerge from Portugal was developed in 1955. This design, vertical stripes of mint green and purplish-brown on a sandy background, appears to have been heavily influenced by the camouflage pattern commonly found on French Mle 1947/52 uniforms. The pattern is generally associated with the Páraquedistas (paratroops) of the Air Force - who continued to wear modern incarnations of it well into the 1990s - but was also worn by the Caçadores serving in Africa, as well as Air Force Police units. Several variations have been produced throughout the years, by different manufacturing firms.
- The pattern most commonly associated with Portugal is the M1964 vertical lizard, or simply m64 (commonly referred to as the M1963 or m63 by collectors). Although the original drawings for this pattern remained relatively unchanged for many years, there is a wide enough variation to the colorations of the printed fabrics that many collectors categorize them by their primary or most recognizable color feature. In the case of the example shown below, a very early print on cotton sateen fabric, the purplish-brown and dark green stripes on a pale green background is also the most common coloration associated with the m63 pattern, and reappeared in several incarnations during later years.
- By far the greatest amount of variability among Portuguese lizard camouflage patterns seems to occur within those versions printed with a reddish-brown stripe (as opposed to the purplish-brown of the above pattern) as part of the design. These variations are often called "Portuguese red lizard" and seem to have seen service almost exclusively in Africa. The red lizard pattern was printed almost entirely on HBT cotton fabric. Seen here are three different variations, all probably produced within ten years of each other.
- The m63 vertical lizard design changed little once the wars in Africa were over, but continued to see service primarily amongst elite units such as the Commandos and Operações Especiais (Special Operations units). The original purplish-brown and dark green on a pale green background were retained but the stripes appearing to lose some of their finer details. The example seen here is from the 1980s.
- The only version of the original m63 design to survive into the present era is worn by the Fuzileiros Navais (Naval Infantry). This again is a slight color variation, having primarily chocolate brown and dark green stripes on a dark khaki background.
- At some point in the 1990s, the Portuguese Air Force introduced a copy of the US m81 woodland pattern camouflage. This has been worn primarily by the Air Force Police (PA), although some other units have been known to wear the pattern as well, in lieu of the standard blue working uniform. Woodland camouflage was disctontinued in 2010, although old stocks are still being worn.
- The standard camouflage pattern of the Portuguese Army and Air Force today is a locally-produced copy of British DPM. The pattern consists of black, brown & foliage green disruptive shapes on a tan background and is produced in two styles of uniform.
- Introduced in 2005, the desert DPM variant below is now issued to Portuguese Air Force personnel serving in arid or desert regions.
- More recently, the Portuguese Army began wearing a different version of desert DPM.
- Peter Abbot & Manuel Ribeiro Rodrigues: Modern African Wars (2): Angola and Moçambique 1961-1974 (Osprey Pub, London, 1988) p 37