The Marines took a major step forward in acquiring a combat utility uniform that builds in fire resistance, minimizes visibility and adds comfort, releasing a highly anticipated solicitation in May that lists the must-have features and requirements for the new garments.
The solicitation for the next-gen Marine Corps combat utility uniform, or MCCUU, was published May 12, giving interested companies a month to submit a proposal and fabric sample for a uniform that will keep the Corps’ distinctive Marine camouflage pattern, but incorporate new tech and better fabric.
The Corps’ interest in a new utility uniform was first made public in 2021, when it signaled interest in garments that would incorporate the durability of the standard uniform with the fire protection of the flame-resistant organizational gear, or FROG, uniform.
At the time, Marine Corps Systems Command officials said it wanted to pay no more than $105.60 per next-gen Marine combat utility uniform. The newly released solicitation limits uniform costs to $22 per yard, or about $110 apiece.
According to the solicitation, the flame-resistant properties of the next-gen uniform will include either no-melt, no-drip technology ― which protect the wearer from injury when the fabric is exposed to flame ― or self-extinguishing capabilities, which mean the fabric will stop burning once a fire source is removed.
The original flame-resistant organizational gear uniform, procured following a 2006 urgent need statement amid a preponderance of combat-related burn injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, includes a shirt, trousers and balaclava face guard. The current version features no-melt, no-drip fabric and can withstand temperatures of up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
Separately, the new uniform will build in an increasingly valuable tactical feature: signature management. The Marines’ patented MARPAT camouflage, highly effective for concealment under the naked eye, emits a glow under short-wave infrared optics.
The U.S. military has been working since at least 2012 to develop materials, from special fabrics to dyes, that neutralize this compromising effect.
Today, multispectral camouflage technology, like the “camoshield” developed by SSZ Camouflage and Schoeller Textil AG, aims to reduce or eliminate the glow effect by bringing down the worn uniform’s surface temperature.
The Marine Corps remains secretive about its specifications and requirements for signature reduction. The solicitation states that interested contractors must complete a nondisclosure agreement even to receive the spec list.
However, it’s clear this does represent an all-new feature for Marine cammies.
“The current MCCUU offers no [flame-resistant] capability or signature management beyond the visual spectrum,” Marine Corps Systems Command spokeswoman Morgan Blackstock told Marine Corps Times in an email.
Beyond the added technology features, the uniform will feature improvements in “breathability, comfort and durability,” according to solicitation documents.
It will remain lightweight at no more than 7.5 ounces per yard, and be required to air-dry in 85 minutes or less. It must pass high air permeability thresholds to ensure the fabric breathes, and have built in moisture management or water-repellent fabric technologies that will make it like cutting-edge athletic gear.
In light of past Marine complaints about uniform trousers that ripped along the seams, the next-gen uniforms must also pass a stringent battery of requirements ensuring they can withstand tearing under pressure. Manufacturers also must prove that the fabric won’t pill or degrade after repeated wash cycles.
Like the current utility uniform, the next-gen combat utility uniform also will be treated with insect repellent, offering bite protection of up to 96%.
Marine Corps Systems Command officials declined to provide information about when Marines would have the chance to evaluate new uniform items or the timeline for fielding, saying these things were predecisional. The solicitation provides some answers, however.
Up to six purchase orders will be awarded to buy fabric featuring various flame-resistant qualities, documents state. Systems Command will then down-select, buying up to 700 yards apiece from selected vendors to assemble uniforms for test and evaluation.
“The experimental MCCUUs shall be tested for several months in a Field User Evaluation (FUE) in a hot/humid/wet environment in early 2024 to establish suitability and acceptability in the operational environment with concurrent lab testing,” documents state.
A final decision about which uniform to acquire will be made sometime in fiscal year 2025. No information has been released yet about fielding dates.
Ultimately, according to the solicitation, the Marine Corps plans to buy via the Defense Logistics Agency, about 270,000 next-gen blouses and trousers ― roughly 1,350,000 yards of fabric.
Hope Hodge Seck is an award-winning investigative and enterprise reporter covering the U.S. military and national defense. The former managing editor of Military.com, her work has also appeared in the Washington Post, Politico Magazine, USA Today and Popular Mechanics.