NATICK — From body armor to meals ready-to-eat (MRE), Natick Army Labs has long sought innovative ways to support the troops.
With the lab’s upcoming tactical brassiere, that support has taken on a more literal meaning.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center — also known as DEVCOM Soldier Center — is in the process of developing combat-ready sports bras for female soldiers, with four prototypes in development.
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In 2022, women made up about 15.5% of the Army’s active duty service members, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
However, there are currently no bras optimized for use by female soldiers in the field, according to a DEVCOM tactical brassiere info sheet.
There are flame-resistant bras issued to aviator and combat vehicle crews, but the sizes are limited and the bras are unsuitable for high-impact activities. Meanwhile, DEVCOM noted, off-the-shelf bras may not offer the durability, protection or support a soldier needs in combat.
The center received about 18,000 survey responses from soldiers around the world, gauging sports bra preferences, needs and wearing habits. The four resulting prototypes are compatible with body armor and offer flame-resistant protection, and were also rated highly for coverage and support, according to DEVCOM.
The prototypes include pullover and zippered styles, some designed with padded or structured cups, and another intended to compress breasts to limit movement. One concept even includes an inner dog tag pocket.
The Soldier Center’s Design Pattern Prototype Team is expected to present an initial evaluation to the Army Uniform Board in the fall, according to Military Times.
The project is significant in terms of DEVCOM “applying the specialized knowledge of military research and development into an end item that would benefit our female warfighters,” according to Annette LaFleur, DEVCOM Soldier Center team leader for the design, pattern and prototype team.
“Any time our center and the Army can contribute to improving soldiers’ clothing or equipment and allow them to better perform and focus on their mission, it is a win,” she said in a statement to the Daily News.
This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: Natick's DEVCOM makes the Army's first tactical bra for soldiers