Army Combat Gear & Uniform Changes Set for 2012

Though the official announcement has yet to be made, Colonel William Cole, program manager of Soldier Protection and Individual Protection said that new hot weather combat boots and stronger ACU pants will be released in 2012. Along with the new boots and pants, a new and better combat glove will also be released.Specific information about these changes are limited, however, it is known that the Twill combat pants will be made of "significantly" stronger fabrics and will come with knee pads. These pants will be using the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, better known as the OCP. It is noted that the OCP ACUs will likewise have stronger fabrics that offer about a 50% improvement.

The ACU digital uniform will be
made with a stronger material next year.
This improved fabric will most likely necessitate importation of materials and as required by the Berry Amendment, the U.S. Armed Forces should use American made textile. Using foreign made materials for this purpose would have to pass through Congress and necessitates a congressional waiver to be pushed through. The Defender M material consists of 65% flame-resistant rayon and the fibers used in them are from the Austrian based company, Lenzing. Only the fibers are bought from Lenzing, the weaving and all other processing it undergoes thereafter are done in the U.S.

U.S. based manufacturers argue that viable domestic alternatives to rayon are available. Because of this, there are rumors that these manufacturers are seeking to get the congressional waiver cancelled. Alternatives do exist and the Armed Forces are well aware of this fact. In 2008, the Air Force chose the Abrams V fabric for use in flame resistant ground combat equipment, a blend of nylon, cotton and Nomex and 100% U.S. produced. Nomex, however, is more expensive and needs a longer time to produce. Furthermore, rayon is more comfortable, moisture absorbent and can be easily dyed.

The new hot weather boots is expected to provide better ankle and foot support but will most likely be stiffer when worn. In February 2011, the U.S. chose the Belleville 950 Combat Mountain Hiker, which will be issued in addition to the current combat boots. Featuring a Vibram Bifida outsole, it boasts of better support, grip, fit and durability as ut is 20% thicker than what most combat boots have.

Col. Cole's office also revealed that selection is ongoing for the new ACU camouflage pattern, in which 20 submissions are being reviewed. It will be followed by wear and field tests and if all goes according to schedule, production of the new ACUs will commence in October of 2012.


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