Switzerland

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The Confederation of Switzerland

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Switzerland (or the Swiss Confederation) has maintained a state of neutrality since the 19th century. The Swiss Armed Forces (German: Schweizer Armee, French: Armée Suisse, Italian: Esercito Svizzero) have therefore not been involved in combat operations for nearly two-hundred years, but do participate in international peacekeeping operations through involvement in the United Nations (UN).

Swiss camouflage designs have largely been influenced by those of WW2 Germany, although modified and given a national flavor.

Swiss camouflage patterns

  • The earliest camouflage pattern adopted by the Swiss Army was the Zelteinheiten 1901 pattern. This was introduced in 1938, and is a splinter design resembling the German Wehrmacht splittertarn pattern. [1] In service from 1938 until around 1955, the pattern was only printed on rectangular shelter halves and never as a field uniform. The shelters are fully reversible, with one side overprinted with small yellow dots.

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  • Introduced around 1944 for use on the M1918 steel helmet was a reversible camouflage pattern having a "splinter" style design printed on one side, and a muted or airbrushed type pattern on the other. The "splinter" side (below, left) features brown, mauve, moss green & grey-brown splinter shapes with an overprint of thick dark grey rain straits. On the reverse side is a pattern that may have been derived from German WW2 era sumpfmuster (marsh) pattern, although it lacks most of the distinguishing features of the wartime print. The Swiss version (below, right) has airbrushed shapes in dark green, reddish-tan & ochre with few distinctive edges. These helmet covers were used throughout the 1950s and possibly later. Although designed for the M1918 helmet, they can be and were fitted to the M1948 paratrooper helmet as well.

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  • First seen between 1955 and 1957, the Swiss Leibermuster pattern is modeled after the German WW2 Leibermuster camouflage design of the Waffen SS. Some sources suggest the Swiss obtained original German WW2 era roller-printing machines through Czechoslovakia, which is how they arrived at this particular camouflage pattern. [2] The Swiss pattern appears in many guises and color combinations, particularly variations in the dominant background color. The original combat uniform in this pattern is designated the TAZ 57 (from the German Tarnanzug) or TASS 57 (from the French Tenue d'assaut), both meaning Combat Uniform (model) 1957. [3] The first model (below, left) was made of lightweight canvas and featured a lighter coloration than the second model (below, right), fabricated from a heavier weight twill and reinforced in some places with waterproofed vinyl fabric. This design also appeared on zeltbahn (shelter halves,) panzerkombi (overalls for vehicle crews) and helmet covers. This Swiss camouflage pattern is often called Alpentarn or Alpenflage by historians and collectors; locally, the uniform was frequently referred to as Vierfruchtpyama (four fruit pajamas) by Swiss troops.

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  • A unique green coloration of the pattern (sometimes called green Alpenflage) was issued only as a helmet cover for the M1918 model steel helmet. This was issued from 1957 into the 1960s.

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  • A unique blue coloration of the pattern (sometimes called blue Alpenflage) was issued on a trapezoidal-shaped shelter half, carry bag/hood & tent pole bag.

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  • A plastic poncho issued to Swiss personnel was printed in an ochre-coloration of the 1957 Leibermuster pattern. This saw service well into the 1990s.

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  • A simplified version of the combat uniform printed in essentially the same camouflage pattern was introduced in 1983 and officially designated TAZ 83 or TASS 83. The pattern also appeared on a rain jacket, fragmentation vest cover and the panzerkombi.

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  • In 1990 a new uniform was issued as a replacement for the TAZ 83, officially designated the TAZ 90 (or M92). This uniform was printed in a new coloration of the old drawings from the 1957 pattern. The colours for this pattern was chosen by the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich to suit the common natural surroundings found in Switzerland. This remains the standard camouflage pattern of the Swiss Armed Forces, and is printed in several types of uniform and field equipment.

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  • A desert version of the TAZ 90 uniform camouflage (printed in a desert coloration of the camouflage pattern) was introduced around 2007-8 and has been used by Swiss troops serving abroad. This pattern is nicknamed Südtarn (southern camouflage) and Wüstetarn (desert camouflage), with the uniform often referred to as TAZ 07.

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Experimental Swiss Patterns

  • The pattern below was reputedly tested for use on shelter halves and carry bags, but never adopted.

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Swíss uniforms and equipment

  • A Zelteinheiten 1901 shelter half showing one side of the pattern

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Notes

  1. Despite the patterns being quite similar there are a number of differences between the Swiss and the German shelter halves/zeltbahns: - the Swiss shelter is rectangular, the German triangular; the German zeltbahn does not have the yellow dots on one of the sides; there is green "lines" through the brown areas of the Swiss pattern - sometimes connecting the green areas. The German Zeltbahn does not have these lines. The Swiss shelter often has a stamped metal disk with the manufacturer etc.
  2. Daniel Peterson: Waffen SS Camouflage Uniforms & Post-War Derivatives (Windrow & Greene, London, UK - 1995) p. 59
  3. The word Kampftenue (combat pattern) is also used in German