WASHINGTON (AFNEWS) --
Air Force officials move forward with the Airman Battle Uniform roll-out and plans for a new service dress coat.
The new ABU, designed to eventually replace both the Battle Dress and Desert Combat Uniforms worn by Airmen, is currently in full production.
Early deliveries of ABU inventories in 2007 are earmarked for issue to a select group of deployers for Air Expeditionary Force 7 and 8.
Distribution plans also have the ABU replacing the BDU in the initial clothing bag at Basic Military Training in early fall. Production expectations at this time support plans to have the ABU available for purchase in many Military Clothing Sales Stores later this year, with AAFES wide availability in early 2008.
"Distribution decisions regarding which Airmen deploying in AEF 7/8 will be issued the ABU were based on a number of factors, with mission requirements and security paramount." said Brig. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, the Airman Development and Sustainment director. "Not all deployers will receive the new uniform due to initial stock levels, but I've been inspired by countless deployers who, after learning supplies of the ABU inventories are limited, emphatically supported the distribution plan that gives precedence to our front line Airmen. This is a team effort on all levels."
Battlefield Airmen are those with Air Force specialty codes for combat rescue, special tactics, pararescue jumper, combat control, tactical air control Airmen, members of the special operations weather team, battlefield weather Airmen and explosive ordnance members. Their missions take them "outside the wire" for much of their duty. The majority of Battlefield Airman deploying in AEF 7 and 8 will each be issued four ABU sets. All other 7 and 8 deployers will receive the DCU.
General Allardice said the ABU is a uniform that is not only easy to wear; it's easy to see the improvements as compared to our current utility uniforms.
"While similar to other services' uniforms in some ways, it carries a distinctive Air Force design," the general said. "For example, the ABU has a four-color design. Additionally, the digitized tiger stripe pattern of the ABU pattern capitalizes on and skillfully employs a tested, proven pixilated camouflage advantage that proved very effective in tests."
Some of the ABU features are both men and women's sizes for better fit, improved pocket placement, and no starch maintenance thus lowering time and costs of upkeep.
General Allardice's favorite aspect of the ABU is its ease of care.
"I've had the same couple of ABUs for a year and a half and have not once put an iron or starch to it and it still looks good as new," he said. "Airmen will never have to take this uniform to the dry cleaner. It's comfortable and I love the way it looks, it feels and how easy it is to care for."
General Allardice said now that the ABU is being fielded, development has started on other new uniform items. Specifically, Airmen can expect a field test of the new service coat later this year.
The new service coat has gone through several prototypes, with officials recently deciding which version will be released for field testing.
"We talked extensively to Airmen, both in the field and through the Air Force Uniform Board process, and this is something they've repeatedly asked for," General Allardice said. "We want a service dress that clearly represents our pride as Airmen and history as a service, and we want to make sure we get it right. That's one of the reasons we're referring to the proposal as the Heritage Jacket.
"We considered the uniforms that both Gen. Hap Arnold and Maj. Gen. Billy Mitchell wore," the general said. "We then tried variations of those designs with different lapel styles and sizes, with and without buttons, belted and unbelted, as well as versions with a wide variety of pocket configurations. The prototype jacket being tested pulls the strongest mix of detail preferences into one jacket and combines them with the latest in textile assembly industry."
Once feedback has been received from the Heritage Jacket wear test, Air Force leaders will make a final decision on the new coat and send it into production, he said.
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