|Navy Working Uniform|
From left to right: A U.S. Navy Lieutenant wearing the NWU Type III, bearing the AOR-2 camouflage pattern and a chief petty officer wearing the NWU Type II in AOR-1.
|Place of origin||United States|
|In service||2008–2019 (NWU Type I)[a]|
2010–present (NWU Type II and III)
|Used by||United States Navy|
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps
New York Naval Militia
|Wars||Global War on Terrorism|
|Designed||2004 (NWU Type I), 2009 (NWU Type II and III)|
|Unit cost||120.00$ (MSRP in 2010, minus boots)|
|Produced||2004–2017 (NWU Type I)|
2009–present (NWU Type II and III)
|Variants||NWU Type I, NWU Type II, NWU Type III, NWU-D (limited prototype, defunct, obsolete), NWU-C (limited prototype, defunct, obsolete)|
The Navy Working Uniform (NWU) is a series of military uniforms that are currently used by the United States Navy (and some elements of the U.S. Coast Guard) for wear by its members. The NWU is a "working" uniform, which means that is made to a more durable and utilitarian standard, thus being worn in lieu of more formal and delicate uniforms that might get unduly damaged or dirtied in the process of normal military duties.
Made from a ripstop nylon-cotton blend, there are currently two variants of the NWU in use by the U.S. Navy. They are the NWU Type II, which is primarily brown and tan and is designed to be worn in sandy, arid, and desert battlefield environments, and the NWU Type III, which is primarily black and green in hue and is designed to be worn in more temperate environments such as the contiguous United States.
The first NWU variant, known as the NWU Type I, was designed in late 2004 and began being used by the U.S. Navy in limited quantities beginning in late 2008. By late 2010, it had completely replaced most other "working" uniforms. Though the NWU Type I was originally intended for shipboard use, it soon was dropped from that role when it was realized that the uniforms were not suitable for such duties due to their lack of flame resistance, as fires are a serious threat to sailors aboard a warship. Instead, the U.S. Navy's sailors wear specialized flame-resistant coveralls when working shipboard. Due to its lack of flame resistance making it unsuitable for shipboard use, the NWU Type I was retired from use in 2019, being replaced by the NWU Type III.
The NWU Type II is worn by specialized units such as the Navy SEALs, Seabees, and Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen, whereas the NWU Type III are worn by all U.S. Navy sailors, regardless of rank or billet. The NWU Type III has been issued to new naval recruits since late 2017 and completely replaced the NWU Type I in 2019, when the latter was discontinued and phased out of service.
As a standing professional military force, the U.S. Navy has three main categories of uniforms for its members to wear, referred to as dress, service, and working. Dress uniforms are elaborate, designed to be worn during formal occasions of prestige and state, in that regard, they are roughly analogous to a civilian tuxedo or a three-piece suit. Service uniforms are more casual, designed to be worn in everyday contexts, such as in office buildings. Working uniforms are more durable and utilitarian, designed for use in battle and environments where other more formal clothing would be impracticable and might get unduly damaged or dirtied.
Prior to the NWU's introduction in late 2008, the U.S. Navy's sailors and officers wore three main working uniforms: The coveralls, which were worn by all sailors and officers and were made from a blue polyester and cotton blend fabric; working khakis, also known as wash khakis, which were tan in color and worn by officers and chief petty officers only; and utilities, which consisted of a light blue shirt and dark blue trousers and were worn by seamen and petty officers only.
During this time there were also various other working uniforms that were available to U.S. Navy sailors to wear, such as the winter working blue (consisting of a black shirt and trousers) and aviation working greens (an olive green jacket and trousers worn with a tan shirt and black tie), but these were rarely worn. In late 2010, the NWU replaced all of these uniforms with the exception of the coveralls, which are still worn today in the polyester/cotton version and a newer flame-resistant version. In addition, some sailors, such as U.S. Navy corpsmen wear the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform when assigned to a U.S. Marine Corps unit. Other sailors, such as Navy SEALs, SWCC, and Seabees, formerly wore the Battle Dress Uniform and Desert Camouflage Uniform when in operating areas, both of which have since been largely replaced by the NWU Type III and NWU Type II respectively.
The NWU comes in three main components, the blouse, trousers, and a hat known as an eight-point cover. The uniforms are made using a fabric bearing a camouflage pattern reminiscent of computer pixels, the version designed for use in arid dry areas known as AOR-1 and the version for use in lush woodland areas known as AOR-2. The blouse is worn over a short-sleeved T-shirt, brown for NWU Type II and NWU Type III, and blue for the NWU Type I. The NWU is worn with a pair of boots, black for NWU Type I, and tan for NWU Type II and NWU Type III. However, the NWU Type III is worn with black boots if the wearer is in the borders of the contiguous United States.
The overall blue color of the NWU Type I, according to the U.S. Navy, reflects the U.S. Navy's heritage and connection to seaborne operations. The colors were also chosen to match the most commonly used paint colors aboard ship, extending the lifetime of the uniform on long deployments where uniforms often come into contact with freshly painted surfaces. The pixelated pattern was advertised as ostensibly being able to hide wear and stains, something unavoidable with the utilities and working khakis used previously. As of 2012, the uniform is authorized for wear outside of military installations.
The uniform is primarily composed of a ripstop 50/50 nylon and cotton blend, which eliminates the need for a "starch and press" appearance and reduces the possibility of snags and tears from sharp objects (thus making the garment last longer). However this blend combines high flammability with the strength to hold onto the sailor's body while burning. All-weather garments include a unisex pullover sweater, a fleece jacket, and a parka, all of which are available in matching camouflage patterns. Beginning in 2016 the Navy had planned to also issue a lightweight version of the NWU Type I more suitable to hot environments.
Black safety boots, identical to those worn by the U.S. Coast Guard with their Operational Dress Uniform, are worn with the NWU Type I. Brown or tan boots can be authorized for wear with the Type II and III, though black is the standard color of boot for sailors located in the contiguous United States. The black boots come in two versions: black smooth leather boots, and black suede no-shine boots for optional wear while assigned to non-shipboard commands.
The NWU Type I uniform is worn with rank insignia on both collar points and on the front panel of the cover, with sew-on name and "U.S. NAVY" tapes, also on the new digital background pattern, having gold-colored lettering for officers, CPOs and midshipmen. All sailors with rates below CPO (E-7) wear silver-colored name tapes. An embroidered logo depicting an anchor, USS Constitution, and eagle, known as an "ACE" emblem is stitched onto the left breast pocket on all Type I NWUs. The ACE on the pocket is omitted from the NWU Type II and NWU Type III.
The NWU Type III has its rank insignia in the form of a slip-on piece of fabric displayed on the chest between the breast pockets. The NWU Type III also is worn with an embroidered U.S. flag on the right sleeve pocket flap, and an embroidered First Navy Jack flag patch on the left sleeve pocket flap. Also on the NWU Type III, name-tapes and badges are placed and sewn onto the blouse, but can be attached via hook and loop fasteners, similar to the Army Combat Uniform.
Like the previous working uniforms, the NWU is designed to allow personnel to stay warm and dry in inclement weather, thus they are designed to be slightly larger for the wearing of sweaters underneath. The NWU, unlike its predecessors, was also designed to be longer-lasting and does not need to be ironed like previous uniforms. The uniform also has more pockets than its predecessors, with four on the shirt including the two pockets on the sleeves of the uniform, and six on the trousers. The NWU Type I was phased into service beginning in late 2008 and through to January 2009.
From 26 February 2003 to 20 September 2003, the U.S. Navy's Vice Chief of Naval Operations, William J. Fallon, directed the U.S. Navy to create a survey group under the name of "Task Force Uniform" to begin conducting a study of the U.S. Navy's then-current uniforms to see if any of them should be replaced by newer, more contemporary ones. From this study and subsequent initiative, the NWU and Navy Service Uniform (NSU) were created.
More than a year the Task Force Uniform initiative was created, early versions of the NWU, still in its prototype stage, were publicly unveiled before a crowd of sailors for the first time on 18 October 2004 aboard USS Iwo Jima, by Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Navy Terry D. Scott. Overall, the NWU prototypes that were showcased in late 2004 and early 2005 were similar to the BDU and DCU uniforms used by the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force at the time.
There were originally four prototype variants of the NWU, two of each which had their own different camouflage patterns. One variant, known by the developmental moniker of NWU-C, used a more traditional blob-like "analog" camouflage pattern that was essentially a blue, black, and gray version of the US Woodland. The other prototype variant, known as the NWU-D, used a pixelated blue-dominant camouflage pattern reminiscent of the U.S. Marine Corps' MARPAT and U.S. Army's Universal Camouflage Pattern. Two uniforms featured rounded collars like those founded on the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform, the other featured more sharper, pointed collars reminiscent of those found on the Battle Dress Uniform and Desert Camouflage Uniform. Two variants featured pockets on the sleeves near the shoulders and removed the lower row of pockets on the blouse, whereas two other variants kept the lower row of pockets and featured no sleeve pockets, like on the BDU and DCU. The NWU-D variant was selected to become the NWU.
In addition to the different pockets, different collars, and different camouflage patterns proposed, there were two different variants of hats proposed as well. One hat was a flat-topped patrol cap reminiscent of that used on the U.S. Army's BDU. The other was an eight-point utility cover like those worn by the U.S. Marines.
The early NWU prototype uniforms were tested throughout late 2004 and into 2005 over a period of six months by a test group of select U.S. Navy sailors. In early 2006, the U.S. Navy's Chief of Naval Operations, Michael G. Mullen, selected the pixelated blue camouflage pattern with pointed blouse collars and an eight-point cover to become the NWU's finished product.
The NWU Type I, known then as simply the NWU, began being made available to U.S. Navy sailors in late 2008 and early 2009. It completely replaced most of the U.S. Navy's other working uniforms by late 2010. In March 2006, the U.S. Navy set the introduction date for the NWU as late 2007, but that date was ultimately pushed back by almost a year to late 2008 and early 2009.
In January 2010, the Navy began using new camouflage patterns for the Navy Working Uniform derived from MARPAT, named Type II and Type III, desert and woodland, respectively. The new patterns were approved the previous year, in 2009. These patterns are overall darker than their respective MARPAT progenitors, modified with different color shades and a vertically-aligned pixel pattern for the woodland version, as opposed the horizontal alignment of woodland MARPAT. The additional patterns addressed the fact that the blue and grey Type I pattern was not meant for a tactical environment. Rank insignia is embroidered and worn on a tab in the center of the torso, name and "U.S. Navy" taps are embroidered in brown (Type II) or black (Type III). Further rules were detailed when NAVADMIN 374/09 was released: the Type II is restricted for wear to Naval Special Warfare personnel, while Type III was restricted to Navy ground units until late 2016.
In August 2016 the U.S. Navy announced that it will be eliminating the NWU Type I in favor of the Type III which completely replaced it on 1 October 2019 for wear as the standard working uniform for all Navy personnel ashore. Type III NWUs began being sold across the U.S. and issued to new U.S. Navy recruits and officer candidates from October 2017 onward, with production of the NWU Type I being ended. The Type II will remain restricted to wear by Naval Special Warfare sailors in arid desert environments.
The New York Naval Militia mirrored the Navy's policy of phasing out the NWU Type I in favor of the NWU Type III. The Ohio Naval Militia automatically follows the regulations set forth by the Department of the Navy and will phase into the new uniform on the same timescale as the Navy.
In 2018, the eight-point cover used with the Type III NWU began featuring the Anchor, Constitution and Eagle (ACE) logo in place of the rank or rate insignia previously worn, similar to the Eagle-Globe-Anchor insignia is worn on the eight-point covers of the U.S. Marine Corps' combat utility uniforms. In October 2019, the ACE logo completely replaced rank insignia on the NWU Type III's eight-point cover.
The U.S. Navy's original goal of developing a single working uniform for wear shipboard and ashore, for which the NWU Type I was found to be unsuitable because of its lack of flame resistance, has largely been abandoned. With the NWU Type III having become the main shore uniform, the U.S. Navy continues to work to develop a new two-piece shipboard working uniform, prototypes of which were tested from May to September 2018. For the time being, sailors wear an improved flame-resistant variant of the coverall, known as the IFRV.
Currently, the U.S. Navy has four prototypes in testing to replace the IFRV coveralls. Three are based on the former wash khaki and utilities worn until 2010, and the other is based on the NWU Type III though in tan and blue instead of camouflage.
- Airman Battle Uniform, the U.S. Air Force's former equivalent to the NWU
- Army Combat Uniform, the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force's equivalent to the NWU
- Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform, the U.S. Marine Corps' equivalent to the NWU
- Operational Dress Uniform, the U.S. Coast Guard's equivalent to the NWU
- Prototypes tested from 2004 to 2008.
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The color pattern of the NWU (navy blue, deck gray, haze gray and black)
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Terry Scott addresses sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) during the unveiling of the new Task Force Uniform concept for Sailors E-1 through O-10. The Navy will use four different concept uniforms for a wear-test this winter. Each uniform offers a variety of options that Sailors will have the opportunity to choose from. Feedback from the fleet will be used to determine the final Navy Working Uniform. Iwo Jima will be one of the test platforms used to determine the best uniform to replace current working uniforms. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Shane T. McCoy (RELEASED)
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Two sailors pose aboard USS Constitution wearing the blue digital patterned battle dress uniform concept. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen approved plans for a single working uniform for all ranks, E-1 to O-10, based on recommendations made during a comprehensive briefing in Washington, D.C. by Task Force Uniform Feb. 24. The BDU-style working uniform, designed to replaces seven different styles of current working uniforms, is made of a near maintenance-free permanent press 50/50 nylon and cotton blend. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Matthew Chabe (RELEASED)
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While development and fielding of an FR Coverall (Improved Flame Resistant Variant) to replace the Blue Coverall has been ongoing for several years, the Navy has been working more recently on a two-piece design. Undergoing trials have been Heritage and Modern variants. The Heritage variants replicate traditional sea service uniforms, with a Khaki shirt and pant for Officers and Chiefs and a Blue version for lower enlisted and noncommissioned Sailors. Interestingly, the Blue version is similar in appearance to the old Dungarees, but one style harkens all the way back to the Dark Blue on Dark Blue of enlisted deck wear, worn up until WWII. Another option, replaces the Dark Blue shirt with a Light Blue, similar to the Chambray shirts worn until the advent of the current Navy Working Uniform. On the other hand, there is a Modern variant utilizing the cut of the NWU Type III, which was recently adopted for wear as the service’s utility uniform while ashore, and replaces the AOR 2 pattern with Khaki for officers and Chiefs and Dark Blue for lower enlisted and NCOs. Additionally, NAVAIR continues to approve FR materials for Deck Jerseys and the service is working on FR base and insulation layers as well as hardshell garments for inclement weather.
- Carroll, Robert B. (14 April 2005). Task Force Uniform: Outfitting the Sea Warrior of the 21st Century (PDF). pp. 2–6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 January 2017. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
- U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations, Summary of Changes (March 2017)
- Navy Clothing & Textile Update Presented to Joint Advance Planning Brief for Industry (October 2015)
- U.S. Navy uniforms as of October 2019
- U.S. Navy uniforms as of February 2006
- U.S. Navy uniforms as of January 1998
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