The design of the Army's Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform has been finalized, and it's now being shipped to military clothing sales stores, officials told Military.com this week.
"The Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform gives warfighters an option in terms of having a uniform that is designed to allow soldiers to conduct their mission in an extremely hot or wet environment," said Col. Stephen Thomas, head of Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment.
Uniform officials have made final design adjustments on the original prototype based on soldier comments during testing last year.
"This is the final design," said Thomas, who was wearing the new uniform. "Based on the user evaluations, we did at Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks in Hawaii last year, we got some tremendous feedback from soldiers that were participating."
The new uniform is a 57/43 nylon-cotton blend, compared to the standard Army Combat Uniform's 50/50 nylon-cotton blend. The mix helps the uniform dry more quickly and perform better in the heat.
"It's designed to be cooler ... and it's designed to breathe better than the current ACU that's on the shelf," Thomas said.
The first prototype featured fewer pockets than the ACU to reduce the amount of fabric layers. The design, officials said, would help speed drying time and feel less bulky.
Based on soldier feedback, however, Army officials returned some of the ACU's features to the final design, Thomas said.
"On the initial prototype, we did not have the pen pocket on the left forearm; soldiers said 'hey, we like the pen pocket,'" he said.
The final design also features shoulder pockets with button-flap closures, similar to the original ACU design.
"Everything we have done in the design of the uniform is based on soldier preference," Thomas said. "Just like with the trousers ... the prototype did not have back pockets. Soldiers said 'hey, we like back pockets. We want to be able to put our wallets in our back pockets.' So we have added two back pockets to the final design."
One of the most noticeable differences between the ACU and the new hot-weather uniform is the absence of chest pockets on the latter.
Uniform officials tailored the original raglan, or baseball-style, sleeve to make it more fitted.
"The prototypes were kind of slouching off soldiers' shoulders a little bit," Thomas said.
The final design also eliminates the mesh material at the bottom of the trousers, which was added to speed drying times in a wet jungle environment.
"The soldiers didn't really like that ... it was additional material that was cumbersome and in the way," Thomas said.
The trousers also feature side cargo pockets in a more streamlined style, Thomas said.
The Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform, which costs roughly the same as the ACU, is currently available in military clothing sales stores at Fort Benning, Georgia as well as at Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks.
"The plan is to have seven waves; this is wave one," Thomas said. The second wave will deliver the new uniform to stores at Forts Hood and Bliss in Texas.
"The rest of the five waves will be completed by February 2020. And by that time the uniform will be in all the military clothing sales stores," Thomas said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.