The U.S. Army is diversifying its commitment to supporting the troops, saying it’s working to develop a new tactical bra for female soldiers. “Tactical” means that it’s meant to integrate into existing body armor and give an added level of protection to female soldiers, but comfort is also being considered as a key benefit to women in the field. About 15 percent of today’s active-duty military is female.
The Army reports that the bra’s development began with a survey given to female soldiers on what functionality and design features should be incorporated into the ideal battlefield brassiere. Several prototypes are currently being tested at the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or DEVCOM.
“This means that designers are evaluating options such as the inclusion of flame-retardant fabrics and expertly layered compression, structural and protective materials while also taking into account the importance of accurate sizing, reliable comfort, moisture management and breathability,” the Army reports.
“The overall goal is to produce garments that not only protect the user, but reduce the cognitive burden on the female soldier caused by discomfort and ill fit,” said Ashley Cushon, clothing designer and project lead for the ATB at the DEVCOM Soldier Center. “Achieving this will improve the soldier’s overall readiness and performance levels, allowing them to focus on their mission.”
The Army Times reports that the design development is part of the Army’s continuing campaign to make military uniforms more suitable for diverse body types. The Army is moving away from the idea of a gender-neutral solider and aims to make more gender-specific accommodations, including modifying uniforms for soldiers who are pregnant or nursing.
Four bra prototypes are currently under consideration: Concepts A and B are pullover sports bras with padding and either structured seams or a shelf style. Concept C is a compression bra with cross-back straps. Concept D closes with a front zipper and includes contoured seams and adjustable cross-back straps.
The designers say they are working closely with female soldiers and carefully considering their preferences and needs during the development process. “Soldier touch points allow our engineers and scientists the chance to see firsthand how new technologies integrate with existing soldier clothing and equipment, as well as how they fit into or enhance [tactics, techniques and procedures] and mission-specific tasks,” said Al Adams, team leader of the Soldier Clothing, Footwear and Integration Team at the DEVCOM Soldier Center. “Until you have the system in the field with soldiers, you don’t know what critical considerations you may have missed.”