Army has identified the need for a Soldier Combat Ensemble (SCE) that is designed to be functional and fulfil its intended purpose. This means that different types of combat uniform, load carriage and body armour systems are required for different roles and tasks.
The SCE is best described as ‘a soldier system designed to provide protection to individual combatants from physical threats and the environment as well as facilitating an efficient means for individuals to carry mission loads in a close combat environment’.
In broad terms, the SCE includes: combat clothing (combat uniform, footwear and cold weather clothing); personal protection systems such as body armour, combat helmets and eye protection; and individual load carriage systems such as equipment pouches and field packs.
A tiered structure has been introduced within the SCE to cater for the different roles and tasks of close combatants. This structure includes Tier 1 systems for specialist unique roles such as tank crew; Tier 2 systems that focus on the dismounted close combatant; and Tier 3 systems that are designed to be general purpose.
After two years of design, development and evaluation by soldiers, 2011 was the ‘trial of truth’ for the equipment on operations. Components of the SCE were issued to the Mentoring Task Force and to the Special Operations Task Force operating in Afghanistan, with a commercial ‘off-the-shelf’ enhanced combat uniform and new lightweight body armour with a more integrated load carriage system.
Army’s intent is to ensure that the SCE will continue to evolve, with each iteration developed on an annual basis and provided to the Readying Force Elements of the Australian Defence Forces' land component. This will ensure that the equipment is capable of evolving rapidly to include new technologies and/or reflect changes in the operating conditions.
Another ongoing development is the new Tiered Body Armour System (TBAS). The current version (version 3) was first introduced to the Mentoring Task Force in April 2011 after two years of trials. Based on the feedback from this task force, the next version of TBAS (version 4) will be introduced in mid-2012, reflecting a 12-month development process.
This success is also indicative of the contribution of the recently created Diggerworks. This is an organisation of Army personnel in the Defence Materiel Organisation and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation. Diggerworks’ key role is to conduct soldier engagement while coordinating rapid trialling and implementation of soldier combat systems.
Over the past two to three decades, Army has successfully evolved its soldier survivability systems. With the adoption of an interactive development path and the coordination of Diggerworks, Army is now positioned to continuously evolve its soldier combat systems to meet the demands of contemporary operations.