Since the start of December 2019, soldiers in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, have been testing the offered System for the new Nordic Combat Uniform System.
“More than 420 soldiers in total started the troop trials”, explains the lead of the NCU User Working Group, Major Magnus Hallberg from the Swedish Land Warfare Centre. The User Working Group represents the Nordic Armed Forces within the project and has been a key hub for the units that participated in the troop-trials.
From the for Nordic countries around 420 soldiers from the different arms and services covering different types of units, area of operations, professional soldiers, conscripts, and genders take part. The participating countries do not cover the same areas but focus on specific areas to secure a broadly coverage of needs.
Each test unit selected to participate in the test are both professional soldiers and conscripts, male and female, from the southern regions in the Nordic countries to the far north. “We need to test the systems where they have to perform once issued to the soldiers, in all the activities and climates a soldier is expected to operate”. Major Hallberg further explains that all test units were given training from each competing tenderer and strict instructions to follow during the test period ending in May 2020. “We need to ensure that all tenderers are treated equal and we need the soldiers brutally honest opinion of the system he or she has used”, Major Hallberg continues. The troop trial is just one part of the complete test but has a significant role the in evaluation of the system. “These female and male soldiers all represent the end user who will use the system once the project delivers. Their opinion and feedback are vital for us to evaluate the systems and ultimately give each tender a score for performance”.
All testing activity is performed to evaluate the offered systems performance according to the joint requirements set by the NCU Project. “These functional requirements are a reflection of our solders needs and each tenderer has delivered a system which they believe cover our needs”, Major Hallberg explains. “The systems need to function for both male and female, during barrack duties to exercises and operations, 24/7, all year”
The Nordic Combat Uniform System consists of three configurations:
- The European which is divided in an intermediate part covering down to -19 Celsius and a cold ad-on covering temperature down to -45 Celsius.
- The desert configuration covering hot/dry.
- The jungle configuration covering hot/wet.
The test also included Climate-chamber testing where the offered systems’ ability to provide comfort and functionality have been tested under steady 5 degrees Celsius and steady rain. The Systems have also been tested with commercial and industrial washing. “These tests will ensure that the Tenderers’ system upholds their features and function also after test”, explains the Lead of Taskforce Test, Project Manager Gaute Espeland. He oversees the complete test plan and procedures planned and conducted by the project. Already at an early stage the NCU Project identified a need to put together a cross functional board of expertise that could plan, monitor, and evaluate the results which ultimately will give each tender a score at the final evaluation.
In March, the Danish soldiers on behalf of the NCU Project travelled to Australia to conduct tests in desert and jungle environment.
“Due to both economical and practical reasons the desert and jungle configurations are tested under more intensive conditions. For these reasons, each configuration is tested 24/7 during a 10 day period under exercise and mission like conditions.” explains Carsten Cederbye, the Project Manager from the Danish Acquisition and Logistic Organization (DALO). An important object for the NCU Project has been to secure that the test would be performed in a place where the relevant temperature and humidity conditions were very likely to be present. Australia was chosen as both conditions (hot/dry and hot/wet) was available within the scheduled test period.
“Camp Rapier at Woomera and Camp Jarra Creek at Tully both offered facilities and environments that you could expect in common mission areas and have thus contributed to the required test results” Cederbye continues. “The test itself could not have taken place without the support of the Australian armed forces for which DALO and the NCU Project are grateful”.
Camp Rapier, is located close to Woomera Village, a town located in the Far North region of South Australia in Australia, approximately 446 kilometers (277 mi) north of Adelaide. Camp Rapier is a secure defense garrison support facility, frequently used by the Australian Army and squadrons of the RAAF's Airfield Defense Guards as a base camp for specialized training and testing activities. Camp Rapier covers an area of approximately 122,000 square kilometers (47,000 sq mi) operated by the Royal Australian Air Force. At the testing range, the average daytime temperature in March is 30.5 degrees Celsius and average 2.6 days of precipitation of averaging to 13.2 mm.
Camp Jarra Creek is located close to Tully, Queensland. Tully has a tropical rainforest climate with an average of 4000 mm precipitation a year. In March, the average downpour is 752.6 mm with an average daytime temperature of 29.9 degrees Celsius. The camp facilitates the The Australian Army's Combat Training Centre – Jungle Training Wing (CTC-JTW). JTW are the Australian Army’s experts in jungle warfare, their primary role is to deliver basic and advanced jungle warfare training to dismounted Combat Team sized organizations. JTW are also heavily engaged in international exercises, often providing training to regional allies as their level of expertise is highly regarded in the international military community
Finally, all testing activities ends with a complete evaluation of the system. “Data gathered from the female and male soldiers who participate in the test will be collected at external research facilities”, Project Manager Espeland elaborates. This is the third test stage that the NCU project completes and it will give the final score for each tenderers system. Next the data will be validated with the help from the external research facility. These research resources have supported the NCU project with creating queries which the soldiers have answered throughout the troop-trail period which now ended in May. “Then it is up to the tenderer to submit their best and final offer and ultimately a tender is chosen for the contract”, he explains further. The Task Force Test is responsible for the performance evaluation of the data collected for the whole test-period. Subsequently a round of negotiation meetings will follow and after that the tenderers will be requested to submit their best and final offer. The end goal is signing the contract with the winning tender in January 2021. Then the project enters a new phase of planning and following up production leading to deliveries late 2021.
“The plan is to push on, despite our trying times affected by COVID-19 and travel-restrictions. Being a joint project, the project organisation has grown custom to working from a far and meeting via videoconference. Each member of the project group has shown amazing resilience and ability to adapt, and we are still on schedule. COVID-19 restrictions may still affect the project plan, but we are working hard to avoid that”, finishes the Lead Nordic Project manager, Commander Tor Inge Thun, from the Norwegian Defence Material Agency (NDMA).