2003 a new fleece jacket was issued to soldiers. The problems with the
jacket itself are manifold. The design is too restrictive, it is too
bulky to be stowed in a pack, it stinks when wet, and it falls to
pieces the first time it is washed.

The specifications were so
restrictive that market-leading fabrics, such as Polartek, could not be
used. Manufacturers were told during the tender process that the
specified fabric had to be used because of the requirement for flame
retardance. Strangely, flame retardance is mentioned nowhere in the

In the event, only one manufacturer was able
to comply with the specifications. Combat Clothing spent nearly $8
million on this jacket. Interestingly, shortly after the contract was
awarded, the technical officer who liaised directly with the various
manufacturers resigned from Defence and began working for the company
that won the contract.

It has been reported to the Adjutant
General that the manufacturer has been involved in substitution of
fabrics (for cuffs and pockets) and using zippers which are cheaper
than those specified in the tender, and short-cutting jacket sizes,
have netted the company between $500,000 and $1,000,000 in windfall

Soldier complaints have been so vociferous that Combat
Clothing has now been instructed not to purchase any more jackets and
to design a replacement. Soldiers have little hope that the new jacket
will be any better than the old.


… and here’s some feedback on the subject from military-minded Crikey readers:

I recall about four years ago talking to a cabbie in Melbourne
whose son was serving in East Timor. His son and many of his platoon
mates were getting US combat boots by mail order because the standard
issue were crap.

– The Embalmer

Having served in the French Foreign Legion in the 1980s, I can
only cringe in horror at this story. The Legion marches like no other
army (“march or die” is their unofficial motto), and I can personally
testify that poor quality boots are a constant source of agony and
injury. They are the infantry soldier’s worst enemy. I find myself
asking the same question I asked back then – why don’t armies use
readily available quality hiking boots such as Scarpa’s, instead of the
lumps they pass off as footwear?

– Philip Uebergang

CRIKEY: You can also read more about sub-standard military equipment here.

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