UK — Flexibility key to future forces’ kit

An ambi­tious over­haul of sol­diers’ per­son­al kit based on a ground­break­ing mod­u­lar sys­tem has been unveiled. Report by Joe Clap­son.

Left to right: sol­diers wear­ing the cloth­ing of the future, cur­rent oper­a­tional cloth­ing includ­ing mul­ti-ter­rain pat­tern cam­ou­flage and Mk 7 hel­met, and the past — the uni­form from five years ago and the Mk 6 hel­met
Source: Andrew Lin­nett, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Experts from Defence Equip­ment and Support’s Per­son­al Com­bat Equip­ment (PCE) Team have been work­ing hard to cre­ate a ful­ly-inte­grat­ed line-up cov­er­ing every­thing from body armour and back­packs to boots and gloves. 

The result is a futur­is­tic pack­age known as the Per­son­al Equip­ment and Com­mon Oper­a­tional Cloth­ing (PECOC) project: 

“It’s a mod­u­lar sys­tem that has been devel­oped to work togeth­er,” explained War­rant Offi­cer Class 1 (WO1) Dave Sharp of the PECOC tri­als team. “For exam­ple, the glass­es work per­fect­ly with the hel­met and you can also use pouch­es which can be added on. 

“We are try­ing to inte­grate all the kit, mak­ing it work togeth­er as a bet­ter sys­tem. It has also got to work with the vehi­cles and sight­ing systems.” 

The equip­ment list for PECOC encom­pass­es bal­lis­tic and sen­so­ry pro­tec­tion, load-car­riage, cloth­ing, footwear, gloves and sleep­ing bags. 

Dif­fer­ent oper­a­tional envi­ron­ments and extend­ed deploy­ments were tak­en into account dur­ing the design process, and the PECOC team only finalised the hi-tech update after analysing ini­tial tri­als and receiv­ing feed­back from soldiers: 

“It’s due to come into ser­vice in 2012 and we will know if it’s going to go through in Jan­u­ary,” added WO1 Sharp. “The idea of PECOC is to make us a bet­ter fight­ing force.” 

As well as pro­vid­ing a high lev­el of mod­u­lar­i­ty, weight dis­tri­b­u­tion was one of the key con­cerns for the PCE Team, which decid­ed that sev­er­al lighter com­po­nents were bet­ter than one heavy load pulling a sol­dier down. 

PECOC encom­pass­es this aim with the inclu­sion of a load-car­riage sys­tem inte­grat­ed with the assault vest and close-fit­ting frag­men­ta­tion and bul­let-proof plate. 

Troops tak­ing part in mis­sions of up to two days will receive a spe­cial­ly-made back­pack, while those head­ing out on the ground for longer peri­ods will deploy with a larg­er Bergen opti­mised for heav­ier loads. 

Lieu­tenant Colonel Andrew Mac­don­ald, Chief of Staff with the PCE Team, said: 

“Our chal­lenge is to make it as light as pos­si­ble while main­tain­ing pro­tec­tion. The aim is to allow sol­diers max­i­mum flex­i­bil­i­ty. They need to be able to mix and match equip­ment for their roles and tasks for the day. 

“We would­n’t expect to see any two sol­diers wear­ing the same com­bi­na­tion of kit and we want to give max­i­mum flex­i­bil­i­ty and the abil­i­ty to car­ry kit when it suits the soldier.” 

Per­son­al com­bat equip­ment which is eas­i­ly cus­tomised, com­fort­able, and allows for speed on foot for extend­ed peri­ods tops many sol­diers’ oper­a­tional wish lists. With PECOC, that is exact­ly what they could get. 

This report by Joe Clap­son first appeared in the August 2010 issue of Sol­dier — Mag­a­zine of the British Army. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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