Page 46 - Australian Defence Magazine September 2018
P. 46

“The issue kit is just that much better, plus soldiers aren’t heading off on overseas deployments in the big numbers that once occurred.”
Diggerworks has been working to support the soldier system ecosystem for some time now.
Soldiers vented on their own websites, leading to stories in the media. Senior Army commanders were grilled in Senate estimates hearings.
One interesting consequence was the escalation in sales of non-issue military equipment. Various retailers did extreme- ly well selling everything from high end backpacks and cold weather gear to socks and boots and the many small items in- tended service in the field more agreeable.
Colleagues of your correspondent vari- ously term this the fashionista and Gu- cci syndromes, where soldiers routinely spent thousands on equipment, often in- spired by a desire to look something like Special Forces.
Everywhere, the private sector rose to meet the unmet needs of troops deploy- ing into Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to outfit the soaring numbers of private security contractors and civilians heading into the warzone.
Kit sold in Australia was generally of good quality – if it wasn’t, the word would quickly get around. Some from overseas was criminally deficient, such as body armour sold on the cheap to third world workers heading into Iraq with plates made not of ceramic materials but chipboard.
Australian compa- nies selling military equipment still exist but business is nothing like it used to be. The issue
kit is just that much better, plus soldiers aren’t heading off on overseas deployments in the big numbers that once occurred.
This isn’t the F-35, submarine or Future Frigate end of the procurement spectrum but sums are still substantial and it was deeply personal to the soldiers stuck with what they saw as crap equipment.
And occasionally the issues became visible to a bemused public, as occurred with Chinese-made dress shoes which started shedding their soles during An- zac Day parades a few years back, liter- ally melting on the parade ground in some cases.
This didn’t enhance community confi- dence that soldiers in Iraq and Afghani- stan were getting the best available equip- ment. Dress uniform shoes are now made by RM Williams in Australia.
The Army came up with an innova- tive means of solving its other boot problem. Any soldier not happy with the issue Australian-made Redback combat boot could buy from a list of approved mostly foreign-made boots and be reimbursed up to the cost of the issue boots.
Body armour was a big issue for sol- diers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The
issue Modular Combat Body Armour System (MCBAS) provided a high level of protection but at 11 kilograms hindered the mobility and movement of soldiers already staggering under combat loads up to 50 kilograms in desert heat.
Its replacement, the Tiered Body Ar- mour System (TBAS) weighs around five kilograms and is configurable for different loads and missions.
Australian Defence Apparel in Victo- ria now produces the system though De- fence initially bought 2,000 sets from the US to outfit deployed forces. It’s now on its fifth iteration.
Diggerworks, which oversaw these very significant improvements isn’t resting on its laurels. The organisation based at Vic- toria Barrack in Melbourne with a staff of 30-40 people but up to 60 as needed, is now seeking to ensure that equipment acquired through the various tranches of project Land 125 Phase 4 further en- hances capability and remains ahead of emerging threats.
Then there’s the mission to ensure the soldiers can integrate properly with all the new platforms under Land 400 and aspects even under the various phases of Land 121. Pardon the pun but it is always at the seams where the friction happens; both programs deliver to their individual spec but are not always integrated at the user level.
46 | September 2018 |

   44   45   46   47   48