Different camo, fit for women: what Belgium's military's new uniform looks like

Different camo, fit for women: what Belgium's military's new uniform looks like
Credit: Belga

From the end of 2022, some 25,000 Belgian military personnel will receive a new uniform with a different camouflage pattern, and – for the first time – also a model for women.

Since the mid-1990s, Belgian soldiers have been wearing the typical green and brown uniform with the "Woodland" camouflage pattern. From November, however, this will change, and the military will be donning a new uniform.

The entire operational equipment, clothing and accessories, will be renewed: wool-based underclothing, rainwear, bulletproof vest, and in the longer term also a helmet and backpack.

'"When designing the new uniform, extra consideration was given to morphology. There is now a very wide range of sizes, for both men and women," Defence Minister Ludivine Dedeonder told VRT. "It is important that women feel good in the uniform."

The new pattern is protected by an (American) patent for the first time, meaning that the pattern may not be copied without permission. The new design offers more comfort and protection and, for the first time, there will also be an adapted cut for women – who make up about 10% of all Belgian soldiers.

"Finally, there are now sizes with shorter sleeves and wider hips. Really tailored to a woman's body. It used to be a bit of a hassle," said Zoë, one of the women on the test team. "And it actually looks quite nice. It radiates professionalism."

The uniform consists of new lightweight protective fabrics, and various high-tech options have been incorporated. One uniform, for example, has a "badge" that lights up through an infrared viewer. This way, Belgians can easily distinguish themselves at night, without being immediately visible to others. The flashing badge can be detached, and replaced by a regular non-visible badge.

Additionally, the companies opted for a sustainable solution in the uniform: chemical finishes and membranes are avoided wherever possible. There is also an agreement to collect the current clothing in use, process it in an ecological way and give it a second life.

The operational clothing consists of different layers (multi-layer), with all pieces being complementary and integrated. This way, optimal and adapted protection can be guaranteed for both women and men. This new equipment also introduces the new Multicam® camouflage pattern.

The contract was won by a consortium of two Belgian companies, Sioen and Seyntex (which both produce different parts of the uniform) and one American company, Crye Precision, which holds the patent on the camouflage colour. For the next 15 years, the consortium will fill the soldiers' wardrobes. The total budget is €410 million.

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