Female Security Forces airmen will soon see new updates to the bulky uniforms they wear while guarding bases worldwide, according to the general in charge of acquisition management and logistics support for the U.S. Air Force.
Gen. Arnold Bunch, head of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, said he has seen five prototypes that aim to downsize some field gear, adding that he will streamline the process of getting them to female defenders with a "try and buy approach."
"My intent [is] to have some of our female airmen at some of our bases wearing this probably in the January timeframe," he told reporters during a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
Women in the Security Forces, which operates as a base defense and military police force, will likely provide feedback, helping the Air Force make its "buy decision" in the April or May 2020 timeframe, Bunch said.
"The defender gear is not optimally built on them, and we're trying to take action," he explained.
Bunch said the initiative is in line with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein's mission to redesign female uniforms, including gear and flight suits, after many years of ill-fitting equipment.
The service has been working for months to provide improved, better-fitting uniforms not only for comfort, but also for safety.
The Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, under Materiel Command, has been working on "a lot of fitting, and doing a lot of the anthropometric measurements to make sure of what we want to design and build," Bunch said. That includes properly testing them to "get a new female flight suit out as quickly as we can."
Other gear, such as the vest that fits over the flight suit, is being developed simultaneously but may come later in the process, he said.
Bunch added that the Air Force is increasing its funding for prototyping and fielding better female bladder relief systems. Last year, the service began delivering upgraded Aircrew Mission Extender Devices, also known as AMXDmax, allowing pilots to urinate in flight. The device collects urine in a cup for men and a pad for women, and can hold 1.7 quarts, according to the service.
But if the systems can be upgraded, Bunch wants to get those out there as soon as possible.
"Some of the efforts that we're looking at for the bladder, we're actually trying to buy that in the next [calendar] year as well," he said. "[Roughly] five to six months from now, when I can get through some developmental and operational testing to make sure that it's safe and it works."
The general also mentioned that he recently reviewed proposals on physical training uniforms for group PT, but did not say when a decision on those would be made.
Uniforms in general have been put under the spotlight by Goldfein, and Bunch said he has been doing the same.
"I have been banging on my highchair like a spoiled two-year-old quite a bit lately in a couple of those areas to try to get a little bit of attention," he said.