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Posted on February 15, 2012
In November 2011, the United States Air Force officially phased in the Airman Battle Uniform (ABU), which is comprised of ABU pants and ABU coats. The USAF made the switch in order to provide Airmen with a single uniform that could satisfy various climates and utility needs. However, due to an overwhelming amount of complaints about its weight, a new ABU fabric is being introduced.
“The improvements to the ABU are a continuum of the Air Force Chief of Staff’s initial direction to ‘fix what we have’ with regard to uniforms,” writes Michael Dickerson, chief of media relations for USAF. “The number one complaint about the ABU was that it was too heavy and too hot. We lightened up the fabric to help alleviate those issues.”
This newer, lighter ABU fabric will be a ripstop weave composed of a 50/50 nylon-cotton blend. Found in the ABU and other military uniforms, Near Infrared Compliant (NIR) technology allows soldiers to appear at the same radiation level as the surrounding terrain, which makes it much harder for enemy forces to detect them. In addition, the NIR technology makes the uniforms less visible in low-light environments by reducing the reflection of light.
The 50/50 nylon-cotton ripstop is much more breathable than the original ABU fabric, a 50/50 nylon-cotton twill weave that has been found especially ineffective in war environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, Army servicemen have been wearing nylon-cotton ripstop uniforms for years. Following suit, Airmen stationed in hot climates will happily embrace this change, as the new fabric is much more comfortable and will allow them to do their jobs more effectively.
The very first ABU prototype was unveiled in 2003. After extensive wear testing and several updates, the Air Force began issuing ABUs to those enlisted in basic training at Lackland AFB in 2007.
The fabric will be machine washable and wrinkle resistant. The ABU can only be worn inside the wire in a war zone. Incoming recruits will be the first ones to receive one of the ABUs in the new fabric because it will be issued during basic training. For everyone else, it will be phased in eventually; until then Airmen may continue to wear the original weight ABUs.
If you just can’t stand the heat anymore, you can pre-order the nylon-cotton ripstop ABU coats (MSRP $59.99) and ABU pants (MSRP $59.99) at BDU.com. The first orders are expected to ship by April 16, 2012.