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EXPLAINED: How Indian Army's Combat Fatigues Underwent A 'Digital Disruption'

The new combat outfit for the Indian Army was unveiled on the occasion of the 74th Army Day on January 15. (@ANI/Twitter)

The new combat outfit for the Indian Army was unveiled on the occasion of the 74th Army Day on January 15. (@ANI/Twitter)

The new combat strip features a digital camouflage pattern and is more lightweight and suited to different weather, terrain conditions where jawans are posted

The new year has brought with itself a change of outfits for the Indian Army as jawans are set to trade in their old combat fatigues for a new camouflage pattern with a designer touch having been brought to it by the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). Here’s what you need to know.

Why The New Fatigues?

Unveiled as part of the 74th Army Day commemorations on January 15, which incidentally mark the occasion in 1949 when General (later Field Marshal) KM Cariappa took charge as the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army replacing the last British commander-in-chief, the new combat uniform was debuted by commandos of the Parachute regiment during the ceremonial parade in Delhi.

That new battle fatigues were on their way to replace the traditional combat print worn by Indian Army jawans had been reported in late 2021. It is now set for being introduced in a phased manner for the 12 lakh-strong Indian Army.

How Was The New Camouflage Designed?

The new uniform was designed in collaboration with the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), where designers worked on specifications shared by the Army to put together multiple options for the future combat wear.

A News18 report said that the NIFT designers shared 15 exclusive camouflage patterns along with four different designs each for men and women and eight types of fabrics for the uniform. In coming up with the designs, the 12-member team comprising seven professors, three students, and two alumni of NIFT are said to have stuck to the “4Cs” of ‘comfort, climate, camouflage, and confidentiality’, reports said.

A source told News18 that “four camouflage patterns, three designs and five fabrics were shortlisted” eventually with reports adding that domain-specific experts for fabric, camouflage patterns, and designs were consulted during the design phase.

“More than 150 Army personnel across two infantry brigades, an artillery brigade and a military police unit of Delhi were given 15 sets of combat uniforms, which were in different combinations of the shortlisted patterns, designs and fabrics for feedback,” the source said.

The uniform was finalised based on the feedback and presented to all Army Commanders during the Army Commanders’ Conference in October last year with Army Chief Gen. MM Naravane having had given his in-principle nod for the uniform upgrade.

What Are The Improvements It Brings?

The new battle fatigues are designed for greater comfort and are designed keeping in mind the different terrains and weather conditions in which soldiers need to serve. The fabric is lighter while being more suitable for extreme climatic conditions. The quick-drying material is reported to be a mix of cotton and polyester in a 70:30 ratio.

The significant visible change is in the way the combat fatigue is worn. As opposed to the earlier uniform, the shirt for the new outfit does not need to be tucked inside the trousers and has to be worn over a round-neck vest. Also, the trousers now will be tucked into the boots, unlik earlier. The general look and feel of the new strip is akin to that worn by US and UK army personnel as also the camouflage pattern.

The camouflage — which features a digital disruptive pattern designed using computer tech — incorporates a mix of colours and shades in an olive green and earthen palette so as to be effective in different terrains. Reports say that many modern militaries feature “newer mass-produced computer-digital pixelated camouflage (digicam) fabric patterns for combat uniforms” with an eye on “desert night visibility in the near infrared as well as visible light spectrums to make detection by the enemy through use of image intensification devices (eg. night vision goggles) more difficult”.

Also, for the first time, reports said that a special version of the combat uniform has been designed keeping women personnel in mind.

Who Will Be Donning These?

Combat gear is mainly worn in the Army by personnel posted in forward or operational areas though officers posted at headquarters also don the gear every Friday in solidarity with soldiers posted in the frontlines.

While the existing fatigues are easily available in the market, Army sources said that the distribution of the new outfit will be more controlled and they can only be procured through ordnance stores or military canteens.

A report in The Indian Express said, in fact, that “the new uniform will come in over a dozen pre-stitched standard sizes… [and] will be barcoded and QR coded to maintain their uniqueness”. To that extent, the new Army fatigues will also be different from the similar combat gear worn by the members of the paramilitary forces with uniformity being anothetr key aspect behind their design.

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first published:January 16, 2022, 11:47 IST