One of the coolest new uniforms we’ve seen here on our embed to Afghanistan is the recently-deployed Airmen Battle System – Ground combat ensemble.
We made good friends with a tactical air control party operator attached to 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry over in Paktika who had some pretty high speed kit that most general purpose force troopers weren’t authorized to wear. He has a sweet plate carrier in MultiCam, complete with MC pouches and rigs. And his rifle is all tricked out.
But he raved about the AFSOC-issued ABS-Gs he wore every time he went out on a mission.
Basically the ABS-G is patterned in the Air Force’s new digital tiger stripe, but departs from the Airman Battle Uniform in both material and construction. The material is a fire-resistant weave that is deceptively thin and airy, our TAC-P buddy (we’ll call ‘Square’) remarked. It definitely is lighter than what the Army is going to issue with its EOF FR-ACUs and that makes a huge difference in the Afghan climate which can reach 120 degrees in the south.
Square had both a standard blouse, with arm pockets and low-profile chest pockets for easy access under body armor. There’s also the option of a combat shirt not-unlike the Army’s in overall construction, but with arms made out of the thin, light FR material like the other items.
The coolest part, though, were the pants. These things had pockets right where you needed them, had zippered closures and the fit was pretty streamlined, allowing for more freedom of movement and less bunching when you’re strapping on thigh rigs and other gear. The one thing they didn’t have were the integrated knee pads like the Army’s experimental combat pants, but I’m pretty sure they had compartments so you could slip in thin pads. Soldiers I talked to complained constantly about the strap on knee pads they sometimes have to use, saying the material behind the knee bunches up and causes discomfort.
The only thing Square didn’t like about the uniform was the pattern. There’s a pretty universal dislike here toward the Army UCP pattern and the Air Force digital tiger. But the TAC-P explained that the Air Force camo helps him blend in with the units he’s supporting in this airborne infantry unit, so he opted for the ABS-G in the standard camo rather than a MultiCam setup.
As far as I know these uniforms are for limited issue only to Airmen executing ground missions in support of other units our going “outside the wire” for extended periods. But from the Airmen I talked to who had it, the service hit a home run with this one.