Air Force unveils new uniform plan

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. David A. Jablonski
  • Air Force Print News
Air Force officials announced Aug. 6 plans for the wear test of a new utility uniform to possibly replace the current battle dress uniform.

The blue, gray and green tiger-stripe camouflage ensemble is a departure from the current woodland pattern uniform and includes many new features that are intended to increase functionality and provide a distinctive look for airmen of the 21st century, officials said.

Three-hundred uniforms will undergo wear testing from January to July at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Langley AFB, Va.; Luke AFB, Ariz.; McChord AFB, Wash.; Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Robins AFB, Ga.; Vandenberg AFB, Calif.; and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The test will generate feedback about fit, durability and functionality.

“Our intent is to create a uniform that will be distinctive, practical, easy to maintain, comfortable and, most important, a uniform you will be proud to wear,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper.

“We have become a more expeditionary force, with less time at home to spend caring for the uniform,” Jumper said. “In the last 20 years, material technology has improved greatly. As a result, we have designed one uniform that can satisfy our various climates and utility needs, while eliminating the need for professional ironing to provide a polished appearance.”

Jumper said the distinctive Air Force uniform is designed to fit well, look sharp and require much less maintenance than the current uniform.

“We (also) need to ensure our airmen have a uniform that fulfills our unique air and space missions,” he added.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray, explains that great care is being taken to ensure the best possible uniform is created to meet future needs.

“I believe that one of the great strengths of our Air Force and its airmen is the ability to adapt to new missions, new technologies and an ever-changing world landscape,” he said. “This new utility uniform is another example of seeing a need for improvement and moving forward.”

A key step in bringing any new uniform item into service is feedback from airmen in the field, Murray said.

“I believe it’s a uniform fitting of the world’s greatest expeditionary Air Force and one that we will be proud to wear,” he said. “We want your feedback as well -- not shoot-from-the-hip feedback, but feedback that comes from seeing the uniform in action and thinking about how it will meet your needs based on your work environment.

“It’s important to remember that this is a wear test, and the decision about whether or not to adopt some, all or none of this uniform will be made after considering the results of the test and feedback about how it meets airmen’s needs,” Murray said.

According to officials, the wash-and-wear uniform will be easier to maintain and will not require professional laundering or starching. Officials estimate that home laundering will potentially save between $180 and $240 in laundry costs over the course of a year.

Unlike the current BDU, the new version comes in men’s and women’s cuts. The separate women’s uniform reflects the growth in the number of women in the service. In the late 1980s women comprised less than 13 percent of the total force; today nearly one in five airmen are women.

Officials said that preliminary study shows other possible advantages to the uniform include:

-- Using the same fabric identified by the Marines as the optimum material for wash-and-wear characteristics;

-- A camouflage pattern that corresponds to the jobs airmen do in most situations that require a utility uniform,

-- Recalling the “tiger-stripe” camouflage pattern used during the Vietnam War, but with the distinctive Air Force logo embedded into a color scheme that preliminary testing indicates may provide better camouflage.

Officials are also considering maintenance-free boots and alternative T-shirts.

The uniform patterns are being cut, with production to begin in November. Data collection and analysis, and any potential adjustments, will occur from August through October 2004. A final decision on the uniform is expected in December 2004. If approved, production could begin as soon as 2005, with a phase-in date to be determined.