OpForce is the name given to British Army troops portraying enemy combatants on training exercise. Different regiments rotate into the role at the various British Army training grounds and centres and they are equipped with a variety of British and overseas weapons to make them realistic as an opposing force (AK variants are a common weapon for this unit). Until fairly recently they used desert DPM uniforms which had been overdyed in blue to create a unique pattern of uniform that was clearly different to the British forces MTP. Supplies of this uniform slowly dried up and it was decided to produce a bespoke uniform for these training units. The pattern chosen is a version of the older DPM pattern, but rendered in various shades of blues, greys and blacks. A number of different items of clothing were produced, in very small numbers, and the uniform was issued for the length of a unit’s deployment as OpForce, before being collected back in, laundered and reissued. It is an incredibly hard pattern of uniform to find on the collector’s market, but last year a small quantity of the uniform appeared on eBay for sale and I was lucky enough to snag a few different pieces that we will be looking at over the next few months. We start today with an example of the UBACS under body armour shirt in the distinctive pattern:
The arms of the shirt are produced in the camouflage, as is the collar, whilst the chest panel is made of a light blue-grey self-wicking material to keep the wearer cool:
The cuffs of the shirt are secured with a tab and a pair of buttons that allow two different adjustments:
The UBACS has two sleeve pockets, each at an angle with a deep top flap secured by Velcro:
Below this is a removable panel, held on with Velcro around the edges, to which insignia could be attached:
The left arm sleeve panel features a small Union flag sewn to it:
All these features match the standard UBACS shirt made in MTP and can be seen here being worn by soldiers acting as Op Force:
These uniforms seem to have been introduced sometime in 2015 and the following account comes from an article on Joint Forces.com:
Throughout the three days of Combined Arms Demonstrations (CAD) run at the conclusion of Exercise TRACTABLE 15, a platoon of soldiers from 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment clad in blue 4-colour DPM (Disruptive Pattern Material) combat uniforms defended objectives during the blank firing phases as the Lead Armoured Task Force attacked. The uniforms these troops wore were not surplus garments, as seen on previous exercises, but new ones tailored in PCS-CU style.
In 2011, when Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP) camouflage fabric was introduced by UK MoD a new design of combat clothing known as Personal Combat System – Combat Uniform (PCS-CU) was also introduced to replace the CS95 (Combat Soldier 1995) designs. Inspection of the cut of cloth and the pocket placement revealed that the blue combat smock and trousers worn by OpFor troops on the 2015 CAD were based on PCS-CU rather than CS95 or earlier British DPM uniform styles.
The predominantly blue/grey shades of the new OpFor uniform offered a complete contrast to the earthy and slightly verdant colours of MTP, so they were a logical choice to dress ‘enemy’ in for rural settings. However even though these ‘Men In Blue’ usually stood out against green or dried foliage like the proverbial turd on a billiard table, in a gloomy urban setting their camouflage could work in their favour. Indeed this blue version of DPM, though originally produced as a naval camo, has been quite widely adopted internationally as a police and gendarmerie camouflage pattern for urban use.
On simple logistics grounds UK OpFor troops on exercises were frequently armed with SA80 assault rifles plus GPMG and Minimi machine guns, but to mimic the real-life opposition they were issued with laser simulation RPGs. Prior to 2016 the odd AK-47 assault rifle could also be found in the mix, but at the CAMD (Combined Arms Manoeuvre Day) on Salisbury Plain in the October of that year it was noticeable that AK-74 family weapons were being carried by both ‘Men In Blue’ representing conventional OpFor and ‘Little Green Men’ unconventional troops of the type first seen deployed during the 2014 Russian Federation incursions into Ukraine.