04 Juli 2013

Cost of Australian Combat Soldier's Kit Soars to $27,700

04 Juli 2013

 The Digger's basic combat ensemble from East Timor in 1999 that cost $3700 has morphed into a high-tech $27,700 outfit in Afghanistan today. (all photos : news.com)

THE value of an Australian combat soldier's personal kit has jumped from $3700 in 1999 to $27,700 in Afghanistan in 2013.

Never again will Australian troops be sent to war with inferior gear thanks to an organisation that acts on soldier feedback and cuts through the red tape to quickly procure the right stuff.

"Diggerworks'' was established in 2010 with a simple mission to stop soldiers complaining about inferior gear by purchasing and developing the best available.

The improvement has been dramatic and the Diggers' basic combat ensemble from East Timor in 1999 that cost $3700 has morphed into a high-tech $27,700 outfit in Afghanistan today.

The 1999 version included a large field pack, Somalia-era flak jacket, old style webbing and camouflage uniform and Vietnam era combat boots.

The 2013 outfit includes multicam uniform, ballistic glasses, tiered body armour, GPS, pelvic protection system, stretch pants, knee pads and high-tech fitted boots.

A collaboration between battle hardened soldiers, defence scientists and the purchasing body - the Defence Materiel Organisation, Diggerworks - has abandoned methods where quantity was king and price was paramount, and streamlined the link between feedback and production.

With a long history of crook boots, overweight body armour, inferior clothing and dodgy packs and pouches, the organisation had plenty to work on and in three short years it has made some big strides.

According to a recent progress report Diggerworks was established to ensure that "the individual components of the soldier combat system were most appropriate given current knowledge, current technology, the soldiers mission, and budgetary trade-offs.''

The report highlighted a long list of problems such as the 2010 purchase of 17,000 sets of inappropriate body armour and it includes solutions and positive projects to further enhance digger safety and comfort.

These include:
* Soldier Combat Ensemble
* Blast gauge system to measure the impact of explosions
* Pelvic protection system
* Ballistic helmets
* Individual water purification systems
* Gunshot detection system to identify the source of enemy fire
* Lightweight ballistic plate
* Improved pistol holster
* Vehicle lumbar support
* Cold weather ensemble
* Medic packs

Work on the soldier combat ensemble includes separate designs for mentoring troops and special forces operators and body armour designed specifically for female troops.

Diggerworks has trialled gunshot detection systems in Afghanistan including one attached to the weapon and two to the body of the soldier.

"These are lightweight items designed to detect and localise the source of incoming high velocity rounds,'' the report says.


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