Story About The “RDF” Combat Uniform

Author: Beta-TNT


The “RDF” combat uniform, which referring to a transitional type of combat uniform between the Tropical Combat Uniform (TCU) and Battle Dress Uniform (BDU). Since the formal nomenclature of the “RDF” combat uniform: Coat, Hot Weather, Camouflage Pattern, is almost the same as BDU’s, collectors named it by its best known users: the Rapid Deployment Forces. In some certain context, when we are talking about “RDF”, it may be also referring to the transitional ERDL camouflage pattern.

Five soldiers from 82nd Airborne Division in the Operation URGENT FURY. The one in the middle wears “RDF” combat uniform, while the others wear 1st pattern BDUs.

Basically, the “RDF” combat uniform is modified from the last variety of Tropical Combat Uniform, and the only difference is the pockets. Looking back through the history of US Military Combat Uniforms, the “RDF” combat uniform we are talking about was some sort of standard or basic combat uniform pattern in the 1970s. The NLAB tested and evaluated many camouflage patterns based on it. But thanks to the limited number and range of issue, most US Military Ground Forces were still wearing utility uniform or TCU, only the RDF got issued the “RDF”.

OG107 combat uniforms: the last TCU variety (left half) and the “RDF” combat uniform (right half). Author’s collection

The “RDF” combat uniform shares the same MIL-SPEC with the TCU: MIL-C-43199 (coat)/ MIL-T-43217 (trousers), both of them has many modified or improved versions, but I didn’t make the way to the detailed papers. The years of the “RDF” combat uniform started from 1972, ended and replaced by BDU in 1981. Not like its predecessor and successor, the issued “RDF” combat uniform has only one pattern and no known varieties. Even the uniform itself is quite neat, there are still some interesting things with it.


Camouflage Patterns of the “RDF”

ERDL Camouflage (Issued)

“RDF” uniforms of three ERDL. Author’s collection

So let’s begin with the most common ones, the ERDL “RDF” uniform. There are three types of ERDL “RDF”: Low Land/Green Dominate ERDL, High Land/Brown Dominate ERDL, and the “RDF” ERDL.

ERDL combat uniforms: TCU (left half) and the “RDF” (right half). Author’s collection

Lowland / Green Dominate ERDL

Highland / Brown Dominate ERDL

Vietnam War collectors are too familiar with the first two, and I believe it’s not necessary to repeat common sense here. In the late 1970s, both green and brown dominate ERDL camouflage fabrics were running out, and new fabric came with modified and improved ERDL camouflage pattern: the tone is much colder and pattern edges are not blur anymore.

“RDF” camouflage “RDF” combat uniform. Author’s collection


OG107 (Issued)

One of two OG107 “RDF” combat uniforms form author’s collection

The OG107 ones are much more hard to find nowadays. Rangers wore them in the 1980s.

Rangers in OG107 “RDF” combat uniform in the Operation URGENT FURY

There must be something unusual happened to the OG107 “RDF” combat uniform: we’ve discovered almost twenty individual OG107 “RDF” coat on the internet and we bought three of them, the coats we’ve discovered were all in Small-Regular size.

There are at least four “RDF” coats in this photo, it can’t be only in Small-Regular size…or not?

One more weird thing, so far we have not confirmed the existence of any OG107 “RDF” trousers, not even anyone mentioned. Are the trousers really exists? Or they just wear TCU trousers instead?


Six-color desert camouflage (Military assistant)

Six-color desert camouflage “RDF” uniform for Saudi Arabia Army. Photo from eBay dealer

Both nomenclature and MIL-SPEC are changed on this one: Coat, Special Forces, Airborne (MIL-C-1109). It has some more characteristics: elbow reinforcements, liner buttons, etc.

Detailed info


Six-color desert camouflage (Experimental)

The six-color desert camouflage, or “chocolate chip camouflage”, maybe much more earlier than your stereotype. The assign date of Desert Battle Dress Uniform, or DBDU, is in 1980, but the camouflage was competed and tested in the early 1970s.

“RDF” uniform in chocolate chip camouflage, NLAB photo, Dec, 9th, 1976

Learning from the label, we can know that the contract was in FY 1972, DPSC. Like many other experimental items, no stock number  was assigned to it. It’s not the same thing as the Saudi Arabia Army version mentioned above.

Experimental six-color desert camouflage “RDF” uniform, photo from USMF


Woodland Camouflage (Experimental)

Yes, it does exists.

Experimental woodland camouflage “RDF” uniform, photo from USMF
The US Army MASSTER (Modern Army Selected System Test Evaluation and Review) Camouflage Evaluation Program. From left to right: Model A (control, original green ERDL), Model B (70% enlarged ERDL), Model C (250% enlarged ERDL) and Model D (400% enlarged ERDL). Not only the pattern, but also the tones were adjusted. NLAB photo, July, 30, 1975.
400% enlarged ERDL (Model D) camouflage.


ERDL Covered With Vertical Black Brush

In the MASSTER Program, beside the Model A to D camouflage patterns, there was a special ERDL variety: the Model E. It looks like brown ERDL covered with some vertical black brush pattern like tiger strips. The name “Model E” comes from the nomenclature on the label: Coat, Hot Weather, Camouflage Pattern, Model E.

“Model E” ERDL camouflage pattern. Photo from USMF.
OG107 TCU and “Model E”. NLAB photo, July, 30, 1975


Tiger Strip Camouflage (Experimental)

Vietnam War tiger strip camouflage also appeared in the MASSTER camouflage evaluation program, but I believe it just took part as a control subject, the NLAB was not really considering accepting it.

“Model E” pattern and tiger strip pattern. NLAB photo, July, 30, 1975


Khaki (Experimental)

The Khaki “RDF” combat uniform was tested with other desert camouflages like chocolate chip and desert night. The interesting thing is, the date of the photo is far more earlier than both DBDU and Night Desert Camouflage Parka’s NSN’s assign date.

Three desert camouflages are under test in the desert field: six-color desert, khaki and night desert. NLAB photo, May, 12, 1972.


Caps And Hats

“RDF” Camouflage Hat, share the same stock number with ERDL hat.

“RDF” Camouflage Marine 8-Point Cover

“RDF” Camouflage M-1 Helmet Cover
OG107 Utility Cap
An Army Ranger School student

Besides these issued caps and hats, there are also some interesting experimental little things from NLAB.


Six-color desert camouflage hat with webbing strap around the crown part. NLAB photo, 1980
Issued six-color desert camouflage hat