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News > ABS-G: New gear integrates function, capabilities for combat Airmen
Providing better protection
A battlefield Airmen stands guard wearing the new Airman Battle System-Ground ensemble. The ABS-G provides battlefield Airmen with fire resistance and tactical integration with body armor. Distribution will begin in February 2009, and it will most likely be in testing phase for 18 to 24 months. (Courtesy photo)
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ABS-G: New gear integrates function, capabilities for combat Airmen

Posted 9/25/2008   Updated 9/25/2008 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Andrea Thacker
USAFCENT Public Affairs - Combined Air and Space Operations Center

9/25/2008 - SOUTHWEST ASIA  -- Battlefield Airmen will soon receive a new equipment item that will improve their ability to execute their combat duties.

The new Airman Battle System-Ground is a tactical ensemble, or equipment item, for Airmen who perform their mission outside the wire in close coordination with ground forces.

"It will provide Airmen with the right level of safety combined with a fully functional, tactically proficient ensemble, thereby, increasing their confidence and ability to perform their mission," said Chief Master Sgt. Scott Dearduff, 9th Air Force and Air Forces Central Command Chief Master Sergeant.

Airmen are operating outside the wire in an increasing number of ground-centric traditional and non-traditional Air Force missions. The ABS-G was created to fulfill an urgent operational need to enable Airmen to function effectively in ground combat operations.

"The safety and confidence provided to our ground combat Airmen from the development of the ABS-G is a key "outside-the-wire" priority," said Lt. Gen. Gary North, Air Forces Central commander.

"Today, more than ever, we have Airmen conducting operations in the the ground battle space, " General North said. "Our effort to provide them with our Airman ground combat ensemble provides them with the highest level of utility, comfort and protection ... this is key to our ability to work outside the wire in an ensemble that is optimized for the environment our airmen are facing."

Traditional battlefield Airmen who had experience operating outside the wire contributed to the ABS-G development by providing suggestions and feedback during the first prototype phase.

According to Col. Lawrence Jackson II, Air Forces Central Expeditionary Ground Combat Support advisor, the ensemble was designed with the tactical configuration in mind.

"We spoke to members in the field to find out what changes would be tactically efficient. These inputs guided the design," he said.

The Airman Battle Ensemble is comprised of the coat, pants and battle shirt. It is basically a tactical fire resistant adaptation of the current ABU. The ABE is the core of the ABS-G.

"It wasn't designed to replace the Airman Battle Uniform," said Chief Dearduff. "It was designed to give us a fire-retardant tactical ensemble that is fully integrated through multiple layers of clothing and equipment to provide maximum fire protection, warmth and tactical functionality."

The developers stressed the ABE is considered a personal protective ensemble and not a uniform. The ABE will be unit controlled, issued equipment and will only be worn by select Airmen based on their assigned mission. The Air Force will issue an ABE only if it is needed. It will not be for sale in the military clothing sales stores.

Two fundamental warfighter requirements drove the ABE configuration: the need for fire resistance and the tactical integration with body armor, said Col. Jackson.

"The ABE was designed for ground combat Airmen by ground combat Airmen," said Col. Jackson, who spent a year commanding Airmen of the 732nd Air Expeditionary Group during the Operation Iraqi Freedom 2006-2007 surge. "We spoke with ground combat Airmen, we lived with ground combat Airmen, we are ground combat Airmen."

Since ground combat is a full spectrum business, wearing the ABE in layers allows for maximum temperature and weather adaptability across the full range of climate and weather conditions.

Pockets were configured for access while wearing full body armor, including shoulder and side plate protection. Each layer of the ABS-G has identical sleeve and leg pocket configurations.

The ABS-G will be distributed in the February 2009 timeframe. The testing phase will most likely last 18 to 24 months. Several Airmen are wear-testing the ensemble in selected units in the AOR now.

"We will use the constant feedback from the test phase to improve the ensemble accordingly," Col. Jackson said. "We want to get it right ... your feedback will help us make it so."

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