New Soldier Gear Coming Soon
From a new rifle to better-fitting body armor for women, the Army is moving forward with several programs designed to help the individual soldier fight on a future, deadlier battlefield.
The programs are part of a major modernization effort by the Army as it shifts its focus to deterring and fighting a near-peer adversary.
In May, the Army expects to evaluate several weapons prototypes that could potentially replace the M4 carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, said Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Futures Command.
The goal is to select three prototypes in July. A final selection is expected in the first quarter of fiscal 2021, with fielding in the fourth quarter of that year, Richardson said during a recent hearing on Army modernization before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on airland.
The Army is looking for weapons that can “address a threat of a peer or near-peer competitor,” and they will be issued primarily to the Army’s close combat forces—about 100,000 infantry and similar troops, not the entire force, said Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, principal military deputy to the assistant Army secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology.
“The current weapon systems that we have are OK in the fight with the respect to the war that we’re currently in, in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “The issue runs deeper, though, with respect to a peer or near-peer threat and their ability for individual protection that they have.”
The Army also will, in the next six months, field a dual-tube night-vision goggle that uses thermal imaging. Soldiers have been testing the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular for nine months, and plans call for the goggles to be fielded this fall to an armored brigade combat team that’s preparing to deploy to South Korea, said Lt. Gen. James Pasquarette, deputy chief of staff, G-8, who heads the Army’s resources and planning.
Also in the works is better personal protective equipment for women, Ostrowski said. This includes adjusting the size of body armor plates and changing the yoke on the collar of protective vests.
“It is very important for us to get the sizing right because we realize that they are an extremely important part of our force and now are in every single branch within our Army,” he said.