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Russian mariners feel cold in new uniform. Guess why?

Text: Central Navy Portal, Timur Gainutdinov
Photo: Central Navy Portal, Timur Gainutdinov

Your own comfort comes first and let others get lost

An old saying

Russian press and RuNet are full of reports about soldiers and sailors fallen sick after introduction of new military uniform. Let us speak plain – rumors are righteous, morbidity amid personnel wearing Yudashkin-designed clothing is really higher than among those who still have old-style uniform (at least at Pacific Fleet). However – as it strikes me – the couturier himself bears no relation to the matter.
…Once I had a medical examination in Vladivostok military health centre. Standing in line, I spotted marines dressed in harsh-green "pixeled" field clothing with rank straps in the "wrong place". I gave my health record to a doctor, and while he was interpreting my pre-civil state into medical language I watched the seamen getting undressed. Under Yudashkin's semisynthetic jackets there was common naval striped fleece underwear. Guess what was under trousers? Bingo, same kind of common old-fashioned underpants…

The concept of a "new uniform" is by no means new. It is based on ECWCS (Extended Cold Weather Clothing System) adopted by the U.S. in 1985. At that time Americans thoroughly prepared for a war on the USSR, so the system was designed with regard for our climate. Accusations of "dull copying of western samples" are groundless – if the thing is really good, don't be so tragic about lifting it.

But ECWCS does constitute a system, and that's a different matter. In other words, it's bad idea to use only one "layer" of new clothing. Transition from natural components to synthetic fabric implies comprehensive use of various layers. User manual of new American uniform was a bunch of standard sheets with endless tables and definitions explaining which outfit items should we used for various weather and forms of activity. For instance, a serviceman was supposed to wear layers 1, 2, 3, and 5 for vigorous activities in the windy and frosty weather (typical conditions for winter in the Russia's Far East). Namely, a soldier should have had anti-sweat thermal underwear, fleece jacket, parka and trousers made of membrane fabric (not to mention of proper balaclava, boots, and socks).

So what do we have? Wishing to show the face of "reformed" armed forces, some Pacific Fleet units took part in the Vostok 2010 large-scale maneuvers being re-dressed into "new" field uniform. But the rest things… Results of googling the issue leave no room for doubt – Valentin Yudashkin did design other elements of "Russian ECWCS". Fleece underwear and thermal underwear are clearly seen on some photographs.

But very soon chairborne folks started groaning about impracticable price of the new clothing. What do they want though – ECWCS costs a pretty penny for Americans, too. There were rumors that defense ministry had given up on "Yudashkin's collection" either partially or completely. Put it differently, money wasn't run to thermal underwear, and soldiers had to spend winter in synthetic jackets put over cotton underwear. However, the old-fashioned uniform was not designed by fools either! It was also a system! And warm old-style underwear was supposed to be worn with normal greatcoats and pea-jackets, but not "smart and breathing" synthetic fragments of foreign clothing system.

Yudashkin-style uniform. liveinternet.ru

May be my experience in the military health center was just a solitary incident? Unfortunately, not. To validate my conclusions, I talked with officers engaged in the inquiry into grown morbidity in Pacific Fleet. All answers were the same – new uniform was always put over old-style underwear. And clothing depot clerks did not even hear about any kind of fleece under-jackets or thermal underwear…

There's no point to blame the known Russian couturier for mistakes of military logisticians. He did the very best he could and named an adequate price. The price turned out to be exorbitant, but desire to display a "new army" was strong. Too strong though. Results are apparent.