Britains Ministry of Defense has ordered over 11,000 sets of a new helmet and body armor ensemble for its troops in Afghanistan. A $26.3 million dollar effort, called PECOC (Personal Equipment and Common Operational Clothing) us underway to replace the current Combat 95 field clothing and gear. The intent is to outfit soldiers and vehicle crew with gear designed for use with the F.I.S.T (Future Integrated Soldier Technology) System and F.R.E.S (Future Rapid Effects System) combat vehicle family, respectively.
With modularity and weight distribution the driving forces, the new kit consists of the Mark 7improved combat helmet featuring a different profile, removable comfort pads and revised retention straps, enabling better fit. This will replace the venerable Mark 6 helmet. An improved Osprey battle vest is provided, with thinner strike plates offering increased comfort, equal protection at all levels, but less weight, and upgradable to heavier plates for Explosive Ordnance Disposal work. Also, a 48 hour mission backpack, essentially a variant of the British Mann bag with removable pouches, allows customization for specific assignments. Such pack designs have gained popularity due to their ease of use and versatility. Rounding out the advancements, a new multi-environment camouflage uniform with lighter colors and smooth-chest jacket, supplants the Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM) design worn for decades. Other accessories, including modular sleeping bags, gloves and footwear remain under development.
The initial 11,000 sets will go to Infantry, Engineers, and Medical troops. Forces wide distribution may begin in 2011. Suppliers of the helmet and body armor include NP Aerospace, Morgan Armor Ltd, Aegis Engineering Ltd and Solo International.-- Mike Perry