Marines currently have two separate utility uniforms they wear outside tropical environments: the digital-patterned combat utility uniform and flame-resistant organizational gear, known as the FROG combat uniform. The combat utility uniform provides signature mitigation, designed to camouflage a Marine from possible enemy detection, but no flame protection. The FROG gives flame protection and signature mitigation, but it's significantly more expensive, officials said, and not as durable or comfortable as the combat uniform.
Marine Corps Systems Command is on the hunt for a uniform that combines the benefits of the two.
"A single-issued uniform with these protection properties will allow the Marine Corps to focus on optimizing funds and streamline the acquisition process while providing maximum protection and comfort to its servicemembers," a solicitation updated this month by Marine Corps Systems Command states.
The next-gen uniform will still look the same as the one Marines wear now, said Kelly Flynn, who is with the command. But with each combat utility uniform running $89 apiece and the FROG uniform costing another $184, Flynn said there is money to be saved.
"Value is in a reduction of the logistic burden of maintaining separate FROG combat uniforms," Flynn added. "The Marine Corps expects a cost saving of a few million dollars due to not having to buy replacement FROGs."
Documents posted on the federal contract and awards site say the Marine Corps wants to evaluate between 100 and 200 fabric samples. The samples don't need to be wearable, such as a blouse or trouser, the documents add.
Each new uniform should cost no more than $105.60, officials wrote.
"The preeminent goal of the Marine Corps is to modify the existing [Marine Corps combat utility uniform] in order to provide a durable uniform to every Marine that provides [fire-resistant] protection and spectral mitigation properties across visual, [near infrared], and Shortwave Infrared (SWIR) wavebands without a significant increase in cost," the request for information states.
Flynn said the effort to meet the new uniform requirements is still in the research and development phase. No companies have yet been selected to provide uniform samples.
The Marine Corps also hasn't set a target date for when wear tests on prototypes might begin or what units would test the new uniforms, Flynn added.
The service updated its Enhanced Flame-Resistant Combat Ensemble in 2016. The long-sleeved shirt and trousers were made from a new flame-resistant material designed to self-extinguish, which was meant to better prevent burn injuries.