An increase in jungle missions has prompted the Army to develop new Army Combat Uniforms, currently undergoing trials in Hawaii, Army Times reported. The news outlet recently talked with officials from Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) about their progress on these “tropical” outfits.
For the past 18 months, the Army has enlisted thousands of soldiers to test out potential uniforms in hopes of finalizing their product by the beginning of the fiscal year 2018. The ideal suit will be lightweight, quick-drying, comfortable and durable. NSRDEC and Program Executive Office Soldier are working with the 25th Infantry Division at their jungle school in Hawaii.
Soldiers were asked to test a “stripped down” version of the ACU, which included reduced pocket, nylon patches for the knees, the elbows and the seat, reinforced seams, and buttons instead of zippers. The Army is also testing a blouse with mesh vents along the shoulders.
Boots could be left unbloused thanks to the extra mesh material added at the base of the pant leg, which protects soldiers from insects and leeches. Other components currently under evaluation include a knit yoke that absorbs sweat from the lower back and a self-cooling combat shirt. The tests used a control group outfitted in the standard flame-resistant ACUs.
The Army is also testing eight separate materials for use in the new uniforms. Most consist of nylon-cotton blends, although some contain variant fibers such as extra-durable T420HT nylon, Aramids, and Cocona polyester, a material derived from coconut husks.
The NSRDEC hasn’t completed their analysis of the lab data and qualitative feedback yet. However, the Army Times was able to speak with soldiers about their experience during the trials. A 50/50 nylon-cotton blend and a T420HT nylon blend were notable favorites.
The Army’s standard combat boots are also on the chopping block because soldiers have complained the footwear holds too much water. In response, the NSRDEC has designed and is now testing five puncture-resistant alternatives — two with thick soles and three with thin “Panama” soles. They plan to present results to the PEO Soldier next winter.
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