From 'blast boxers' to Golden-i: Five military gadgets that could change war

3. Army combat pants

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    A Marine kneels in the desert outside Khan Neshin, Afghanistan on Dec. 7, 2009.
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Sure, they don’t sound like a particularly high-tech innovation, pants. But try telling that to soldiers when they tear.

Consider, too, that troops on patrol in Afghanistan spend a fair amount of time on their knees “because when you stand up, you’re a target,” notes Maj. Joel Dilion, assistant product manager for flame-resistant clothing and equipment at the Pentagon’s Program Executive Office Soldier. 

And so the new Army combat pants have high-tech stretch fabric and removable knee pads built into the pants. That’s handy since soldiers tend to tote knee pads along with them on patrols, but the straps on them are often irritating to troops.

“They go right into the small of your knee and that gets to be uncomfortable and sweaty,” Major Dilion says. “Because they’re now attached to the pants they’re more comfortable to wear.”

It’s no secret that the current Army Combat Uniforms, or ACUs, have run into “some durability issues,” Dilion acknowledges. “Being sweaty and up and down on one knee puts a lot of stress on the crotch area and the inner thigh area.”

The new pants are designed for soldiers operating in mountainous terrain, “climbing all day long, with large amounts of weight, rucksacks, weapons,” he adds. 

The pant seat also has an “anti-abrasion coated fabric” to allow soldiers to slide down hills, as they often do as they make their way with heavy packs down steep mountains passes, or from the side of armored vehicles.

“That’s very, very hard on pants,” Dilion says, “and we’ve seen some failures because of that.”

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