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Living in a material world

Advances in technology are driving change when it comes to the clothing worn by British soldiers.

Apparently, there is no such thing as bad weather - just the wrong clothes! That may be an over-simplification as no amount of waterproof garments and stout walking boots are going to provide you with a comfy experience in a ‘Force 10 gale’.

However, that being said modern fabrics can make a big difference. From the waterproof capabilities of Gore-Tex to ripstop fabrics that mean you don’t have to be an expert with a needle and thread every time you snag your clothing, modern fabrics can make things just that little bit easier.

Advances in clothing technology have meant big changes for service personnel over the years. The heavy khaki woollen tunics, trousers and basic leather boots as worn during the 40s and 50s era by service personnel gave way to more light weight but just as hard-wearing camouflaged clothing and state-of-the-art footwear.

The supply of any new kit or equipment starts very simply by identifying the requirement; from socks to super-sonic missiles, supply is driven by need.

It is the small details that can make a difference to the operational effectiveness of a serving soldier

Typically, this starts with the soldier on the ground. They might identify a reoccurring fault with an item. This may be weak stitching in a particular area or a button that regularly catches on a rifle sling.

These details may seem inconsequential, but it is the small details that can make a difference to the operational effectiveness of a serving soldier – it is all about the marginal gains.

Marginal gains when added up have a significant effect and will give our fighting men and women a few less things to worry about, so that they can get on with the challenging job of defending the UK interests at home and abroad.

So, once an issue has been identified, a team will be formed to investigate the issues and create a Statement of User Requirement (SUR) which identifies what the new item must achieve.

These requirements will consider the issues that may have been raised but they also bring forward the best aspects of an item as well as draw from the relevant industry the latest technology and knowledge to ensure the new items specification is appropriate the requirements of today’s soldier.

This process involves the users input as well as input from Team Leidos to ensure the spec is intelligently applied. This is often quite a complex process as many garments are designed to work as a system, with many layers.

So, there is a balance that has to be had, by not 'over spec’ing' an item in order to ensure it provides adequate protection from all of the usual factors, as well as some more niche concerns such as infra-red detection, whilst ensuring that it remains something that a soldier can actually fight effectively in.

Items from the competing suppliers will be trialled extensively

Once the SUR is agreed the procurement of the item will go out to tender. This process may involve a number of companies all bidding to win the contract to become the single supplier.

Items from the competing suppliers will be trialled extensively and eventually be issued to the intended end user for trails and comment. The trials process is in three distinct phases:

  • User Assessment Panel (UAP)
  • Gross Error Trial (GET)
  • Full User Trial (FUT

Only after this exhaustive process has been concluded is a formal contract issued and the item enters service.

The process from identification of need to eventual supply is a rigorous one and designed to produce the most effective and best quality items for our service men and women whilst at the same time ensuring the most cost-effective use of taxpayers money

So, the next time you see one of our service personnel in uniform, be assured that from head-to-toe everything they are wearing is real high tech, designer ‘gear’.