Progressing: The idea of a Nordic Combat uniform
Progressing: The idea of a Nordic Combat uniform

The Nordic countries plan to buy a joint combat uniform. The joint procurement aims to ensure the soldiers a coherent uniform system that works in all conditions and guarantees the Nordic countries value for money.

By Anders V. Fridberg

Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland have through NORDEFCO launched a project for a new joint Nordic combat uniform.

The Nordic countries have discussed the possibility for buying uniforms together for several years.  But the project took off in early 2016 when NORDEFCO set up a project team with representatives from the authorities in each country responsible for uniforms.

- We operate in more or less similar climatic conditions.   Norway, Sweden and Finland has a greater need for arctic clothing than Denmark, and some countries have special wishes regarding use of the uniforms in jungle conditions. But generally our needs are quite similar.  The wish for a common solution derives from users and technicians, says head of the uniform project, major Ivar B. Selvig from Norway.

- Buying uniforms together provides us with several benefits.  If we do it well, we can get better quality for the same price.  Or even better quality at a cheaper price.  By acting together we can attract larger players on the uniform marked. They often offer other solutions than smaller companies.  This also enhances the possibility of an increase in the operational effect, which is the main project goal, explains Brigadier General Peter Kølby Pedersen from the Danish Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organisation. He is Chairman of the corporation arear in NORDEFCO dealing with materials.  

Focus on the operational effect
The four countries agree that the focus for the uniform purchase has to be at the operational effect.  This  means that the countries define how the uniforms are being used, how they should protect the soldiers and under what weather conditions they are to be used. And further that the countries at an early stage will not set demands for the placement of pockets, or whether there should be buttons or zippers. The companies interested should give their take on such details, Major Ivar B. Selvig goes on.

This approach reflects a growing recognition that uniform purchasers may not be the best to specify exactly how the uniforms are to be made because the manufacturers possess the latest knowledge in the area.

But the system approach also means that the procurement authorities can place more responsibility on the manufacturers.

- This way we obtain a system where it’s the supplier that carries the responsibility, perhaps producing for stock or even making updates, says Peter Kølby Pedersen.

Not the same camouflage pattern
A joint procurement of combat uniforms does not mean that soldiers from the four Nordic countries are going to look identical during missions in international hotspots.  The purchase does not include protective equipment, support systems and boots.  And the countries will probably not have the same camouflage pattern on the uniforms but maintain the different patterns that currently exist.

- The camouflage pattern is an important issue.  The countries have chosen their different patterns following depth analysis, photography of terrain in their countries and so on.  Besides that it is also a tradition that we can be recognized by our various uniforms.  It would be a major step if we were to be recognized only by the flag on our shoulder, says Peter Kølby Pedersen.

Great commercial interest
The purchase of the uniform system has not begun yet. But the countries have held their first meeting with interested companies to adjust expectations for the further process.  This happened at a two-day conference in Copenhagen in June.  There is an immediate interest for supplying uniforms to the Nordic.  28 companies or groups of companies were represented at the meeting in Copenhagen.

A long way to go yet
A number of legal and technical details still need to be solved before the joint purchase of uniforms becomes a reality.  Therefore, those involved can´t say when the soldiers are to wear a new common combat uniform.  But Peter Kølby Pedersen is optimistic that it will become a reality.  Then it will be the first procurement project that includes all four countries in NORDEFCO.

- This project has been initiated by the uniform sections in Denmark and Norway.  They have seen the potential of this cooperation.  When it became clear that we believed that we could turn this into a success, the interest increased in Sweden and Finland. It makes me believe that we can take the project all the way, the brigadier general says.

The Nordic Combat Uniform System Technical Arrangement was signed at a ceremony at the Nordic Defence Seminar 2016 in Helsinki May 10th.
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