US Army uniform officials will begin evaluating a new Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform (IHWC) in January 2018 by issuing troops in Hawaii thousands of lighter uniforms that are more suited to the Pacific theater’s sweltering environment.
The development of new, more breathable uniforms follows another Army effort when between March and August the service fielded 9,000 pairs of new Jungle Combat Boots to combat teams with the 2nd and 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.
Until now, troops with the 25th Infantry trained in tropical environs wearing Hot Weather Combat Boots and Universal Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniforms (ACUs) that were designed for a desert climate.
Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, an assistant product manager for Extreme Weather Clothing and Footwear, told Military.com that this January “is going to be huge,” explaining that soldiers “are going to be pure-fleeted in the [Operation Camouflage Pattern] with jungle boots in a hot weather combat uniform.”
Made by Source America, the new uniforms will have a 57 percent nylon/ 43 percent cotton blend, which Ferenczy says will give them “greater airflow” and make them dry faster than the ACU’s 50/50 nylon blend.
He noted, “It adds a little bit more strength which allows us to make it a lighter blend or a thinner weave… so it should dry a little quicker” and that “there are also architectural differences between the ACU uniform and this one.”
Ferenczy described the forthcoming uniforms as having less layers of fabric, which helps it dry quicker since it can’t hold much moisture, with better flexibility as well. He also said there will be no breast pockets since the soldier’s gear usually covers the uniform when they’re in the field, so the Army decided to remove that extra layer as it winds up retaining heat and moisture.
The service removed back pockets from the uniform pants for the same reason, and a pocket for identification cards has been added inside the waistband. Instead of a zipper, the IHWC’s blouse will have a button-down front, and a button-down flap at the top of the pocket will replace the side zipper that’s usually placed on the shoulder.
Ferenczy said, “Every design feature on this uniform came straight out of the horse’s mouth,” and that the designers have worked closely with Hawaii’s Jungle Operations Training Center. In January, the $14 million program expects to issue about 20,000 sets of uniforms to Hawaii’s 2nd and 3rd BCTs with another 10-12,000 sets coming in March.
Once troop from the 25th have trained in the new Jungle Uniforms, Ferenzcy’s team will are planning to return in April or May to get feedback and make whatever necessary adjustments are required.