FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The Army has delivered on its promise to begin providing our Arctic Warriors with state-of-the-art cold weather clothing that excels in the most extreme of cold weather environments. Project Manager Soldier Survivability began fielding the Cold Temperature and Artic Protection Systems, or CTAPS, to the 11th Airborne Division at Fort Wainwright and Anchorage on February 13, 2023.
The rapid fielding of the system — from concept to delivery — took only six months and will provide Soldiers an increased level of protection over legacy cold weather clothing. Soldier feedback on CTAPS will inform the Army’s next generation Cold Weather Clothing System requirement for protection in extreme cold weather operating environments, with a more modular, adaptable, and packable system.
Project Manager Soldier Survivability, in conjunction with the DEVCOM Natick Soldier Center, worked tirelessly to fulfill the June 2022 Army-directed requirement to outfit Soldiers in Alaska in support of winter field training exercises, inform the Army long-term requirement for arctic clothing and provide the 11th Airborne Division with this improved interim capability.
James Murdock — a project officer with Product Manager, Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment — noted that Soldiers stationed in Alaska using the legacy Extended Cold Weather Clothing System, or ECWCS, indicated that ECWCS does not meet the unique extreme cold weather experienced in Alaska,
“We test a lot of gear, and we knew we had developed a unique system with CTAPS, when we showed up to a post a year and half after our initial tests and saw Soldiers still wearing it,” said Murdock.
CTAPS consists of five layers that the Soldier can adapt to many different cold weather environments.
- The base layer (L1) is a full long sleeve top and bottom next-to-skin layer that provides moisture management to keep sweat and water off the s=Soldier’s body.
- The Lightweight Insulated Layer (L3) provides thermal insulation and has vented armpits for increased range of motion, moisture management and cooling during movement, designed to be worn on mild cool days underneath the outer shell layers.
- The Softshell Uniform (L5) is the primary outer garment to be worn in place of the Army Combat Uniform in cold environments.
- The Cold-Wet Weather Uniform (L6) is a breathable hard-shell top and bottom rain layer designed for prolonged rain and cold/wet conditions.
- The Extreme Cold Weather Parka/Trousers (L7) is the outer most layer to provide maximum thermal insulation, and is designed for static missions, like standing guard in extreme cold weather.
CTAPS can be worn in any combination of layers depending on the mission requirements and needs of the individual Soldier. It is made in the Operational Camouflage Pattern and has 15 different sizes, ranging from extra small and short to extra-extra-large and extra-long. “We have been finding that most Soldiers actually wear a size down from what they were wearing in the ECWCS system” said Murdock on the large range of CTAPS sizes during the fielding at Fort Wainwright.
In January 2022, Product Manager, Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment conducted a human factors evaluation of the CTAPS with 18 select Soldiers from the 70th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 11th Airborne Division at the Cold Regions Test Center at Fort Greely to give a first look at how Soldiers will realistically use CTAPS in the field. The test consisted of five days of medium to long foot movements and obstacle courses. The Soldiers had the chance to provide real time feedback to the designers and engineers on each layer and collect data on how the garments perform.
The Program Executive Office Soldier Sergeant Major, Sgt. Maj. Daniel Rose, had the opportunity to speak with small unit leaders receiving CTAPS to express the importance of their role in ensuring Soldiers are equipped and trained with the best gear possible.
“This is a system to help you fight in the arctic and you will be asked for your feedback to ensure we develop this to become an even better system,” said Rose.
The team working to develop CTAPS has worked within extremely tight time constraints to deliver the system and equip up to two brigade combat teams within the 11th Airborne Division before their large-scale cold weather training exercise in March 2023.
Within three days of receiving the directed requirement PEO Soldier, DEVCOM and arctic subject matter experts with the Vermont National Guard met and conducted a complete design review and finalized the initial design for production. Within 10 days of awarding the contract to two prime contractors, they were able to provide pre-production samples of the government designed CTAPS. All the components of CTAPS have their own unique supply chains, from the weaving and printing of material to unique snaps, button, zippers and insulation and the actual cutting and sewing of each layer of the system.
James Murdock emphasized this accomplishment, “The sheer number of people that have come together to make this happen has been nothing short of amazing. Each vendor has really prioritized this effort despite other work they were doing, to get CTAPS in Soldiers’ hands as fast as possible. Even with the textile industry still struggling from COVID-19, labor shortages and supply chain issues they were able to accomplish the fastest time from awarding the contracts to first soldier equipped that I know of on any previous program. We will have people on the ground in Alaska for up to four months to support every soldier receiving this premier system.”
Currently vendors are producing between 250-400 sets of CTAPS per day and 300-500 Soldiers are being issued CTAPS every day.