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Air Force looks for better protection in the field and in the laundry

From Mike Mount
CNN Washington Bureau

For the first time, the Air Force will offer uniforms tailored for women.
For the first time, the Air Force will offer uniforms tailored for women.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Air Force Wednesday announced it has begun testing a new camouflage utility uniform with a distinctively different look than the traditional uniforms the military branch has used for years.

The new fatigues will drop the "woodland," or green looking pattern, and the "desert" light brown colored pattern for a blue, gray and green "tiger stripe" pattern reminiscent of the jungle uniforms worn by U.S. troops during the Vietnam War, according to a statement from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper.

The pattern is believed to provide more camouflage protection for personnel who work on flight lines close to jets that typically have a more blue-gray color.

One major change put into the new battle dress uniforms is the range of sizes for women, who make up almost 20 percent of the Air Force. Current uniforms are designed to fit only men, Air Force officials said.

Officials stress that the new durable fabric in the uniform will take a page from the Marine Corps new camouflage uniforms that are "wash and wear," cutting time of pressing the uniforms at home and saving money from having to take them to the laundromat. The estimated savings is between $180 and $240 a year.

Officials are also considering maintenance-free boots and alternative T-shirts.

Air Force officials will be testing only 300 of the uniforms over the next six months at major bases around the world starting in January.

The bases participating in the tests are: Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Hurlburt Field, Florida; Langley AFB, Virginia; Luke AFB, Arizona; McChord AFB, Washington; Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Robins AFB, Georgia; Vandenberg AFB, California; and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Officials will compile the test results from the uniform testers and then decide whether to put them into service.

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