Airman Battle Uniform
A captain of the United States Air Force wearing the Airman Battle Uniform
TypeMilitary camouflage patterned uniform
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service2007–2021 (USAF/USSF)[a]

2016–present (Civil Air Patrol)
Used by
WarsGlobal War on Terrorism
Production history
VariantsAirman Battle Shirt (ABS)
Airman Battle System-Ground (ABS-G)

The Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) is a U.S. camouflage combat uniform formerly worn by members of the United States Air Force, United States Space Force, and some civilian employees of the U.S. Department of the Air Force until April 2021. It replaced the Battle Dress Uniform and Desert Camouflage Uniform on 1 November 2011 after a four-year phase-in period.[2]

On 14 May 2018, The U.S. Air Force announced that all airmen will transition from the Airman Battle Uniform to the OCP Uniform. All airmen have been permitted to wear the OCP Uniform since 1 October 2018, and the wear out date for the ABU was 1 April 2021.[3] The ABU is currently worn by the Civil Air Patrol.[4]



2003–2006: Prototypes and testing

Experimental Blue Tigerstripe camouflage

The first prototype of the ABU was unveiled in the summer of 2003. The early uniform prototypes consisted of trousers, an embroidered undershirt, and a blouse. The prototype camouflage pattern was a blue/gray, tigerstripe pattern, based upon the tigerstripe uniforms worn by airmen during the Vietnam War.

After months of wear testing, Air Force officials revised the color scheme and camouflage pattern due to feedback received from airmen. The new semi-pixelated tiger-stripe pattern would trade its dominant blue overtones for a more subdued palette, similar to the Universal Camouflage Pattern, but with some added slate blue tones.[5] The uniform maintains a similar cut to the previous Battle Dress Uniform, rather than the contemporary Army Combat Uniform.[citation needed] The fabric was made in 50-50 nylon and cotton in order to reduce the need for summer/winter-type uniforms.[6]

2007: ABU Roll-out

On 2 October 2007, the Air Force began issuing the ABU to enlisted trainees in Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, was issued to the Class of 2012 at the United States Air Force Academy on 26 June 2008, and was made available for all airmen. Since 2008, it has been issued to airmen deploying to locations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

ABU digital tiger-stripe pattern

2009: Airman Battle Shirt introduced

Starting in 2009, airmen who were in ground combat roles, such as Security Forces, were issued the new Airman Battle Shirt (ABS). The ABS was based on the Army Combat Shirt (ACS). Like the ACS, the ABS is a stand-alone shirt designed specifically for use with Improved Outer Tactical Vest armor in warm and hot weather. It is intended to greatly increase user comfort through the use of lightweight, moisture-wicking, and breathable fabrics. The ABS features the same tiger stripe pattern on the sleeves.[7]


In 2010, the Operation Enduring Freedom Pattern Army Combat Uniform was authorized to replace the Airman Battle Uniform for airmen in the War in Afghanistan.[8]

In June 2011, The Air Force Times released the announcement of a summer weight ABU to be available in 2012. The Improved Airman Battle Uniform will be made of a 50–50 nylon-cotton blend and was composed of the same material used by the Army for the ACU. Just like the ABU, the IABU is machine washable and also wrinkle resistant. Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz gave approval of the IABU coat and pants which will be available to trainees at Basic Military Training first.[9]

The ABU was fully phased in on 1 October 2011, completely replacing the BDU and DCU[10] though most airmen had been wearing the ABU for several years by that point.

2016: Civil Air Patrol adopts the ABU

Civil Air Patrol cadet wearing Airman Battle Uniform (ABU)

The Air Force's civilian auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol, wear-tested the ABU in late 2015, and in May 2016, the national commander of the Civil Air Patrol issued a memorandum allowing the wear of the ABU effective 15 June 2016. However, the uniform is worn with dark blue background and light silver lettering name and branch tapes and black boots in order to distinguish CAP personnel.[11]

2018: Switch to Operational Camouflage Pattern

All airmen have been authorized to wear the Operational Camouflage Pattern instead of ABUs since 1 October 2018. Recruits in basic training and cadets in Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, and Officer Training School started being issued OCPs on 1 October 2019. The Airman Battle Uniform was no longer authorized to wear after 1 April 2021.[3][12]


2022: Use by Ukraine

A limited number of Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel have been photographed wearing the ABU during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[13][14][15]

Features and attributes

U.S. airmen in 2010 wearing the Airman Battle Uniform

The Airman Battle Uniform is similar to the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) in color, with the inclusion of slate blue, but is otherwise nearly identical to the BDU cut. The ABU is to be worn with sage green combat boots. The ABU does have essential NIR (near-infra red) qualities, and the sleeves are authorized to be rolled up.[16]

Overview of the Airman Battle Uniform is as follows:[17]

U.S. airmen wearing ABUs on an exercise in 2011

Backpacks and other accessories must be sage, black, or ABU pattern.


A U.S. airman and Dominican airmen in front of a UH-1N.

See also

Current U.S. uniforms

Former U.S. uniforms


  1. ^ Formally; limited prototype testing from 2006 to 2007. Used alongside the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) until 2011. Was discontinued in 2021.


  1. ^ a b "Space Force issues service-specific uniform guidance". 27 August 2020.
  2. ^ Uniform phase-out date set for Nov. 1 Archived 2 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b Cox, Matthew (14 May 2018). "Air Force transitions to a single combat uniform". Archived from the original on 14 May 2018. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Wearing the Uniform | Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters".
  5. ^ US Military, (2004). Air Force Changes Color for Proposed Utility Uniform. Retrieved 7 April 2006. Archived 12 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "USAF Contracts for New Uniforms and Clothing".
  7. ^ New uniforms: Comfortable, functional are goals . New uniforms: Comfortable, functional are goals. Retrieved 14 May 2009. Archived 2 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Bruce Rolfsen. "Airmen will receive MultiCam, eventually". Army Times Publishing Company. Retrieved 13 September 2010.
  9. ^ Lighter ABUs to help Airmen to beat heat in 2012, (2011). "[1]"
  10. ^ Air Force Link, (2006). "Airman Battle Uniform finalized, ready for production Archived 22 March 2006 at the Wayback Machine"
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 May 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Mancaso, Shon J. (13 July 2018). Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel (PDF) (Report). Department of the Air Force. p. 9 of PDF. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 August 2018. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Soldiers received boots and uniforms – United Help Ukraine".
  14. ^ @Militarylandnet (28 July 2022). "📷Ukrainian volunteer battalion Freikorps in the area of operations #UkraineRussiaWar" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  15. ^ . 13 April 2023 ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ "Sleeves can now be rolled up". Archived from the original on 30 June 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  17. ^ Air Force Link, (2007). Airman Battle Uniform poster. Retrieved 10 July 2007. Archived 23 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "The irresponsibly stupid and dangerous camouflage patterns of the U.S. Military". The Week. 22 January 2013.
  19. ^ "It's Official: The Air Force Is Switching to the Army's OCP Uniform". 14 May 2018. Archived from the original on 10 August 2018. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  20. ^ "Pentagon spends billions on duplicative camouflage outfits, GAO says". 12 April 2013. Archived from the original on 10 August 2018. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  21. ^ "Airman Battle Uniform in Ukraine". 27 April 2023.[better source needed]