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Fight the freeze: US land forces modernise gear for Arctic warfare

US Marines hike as a part of Marine Rotational Force-Europe in Setermoen, Norway, in February 2023. (US Marine Corps)

The Pentagon wants military personnel ready to brave the Arctic, one of the most unforgiving environments in the world. To survive, US ground forces have to upgrade many pieces of equipment, down to the clothes on a servicemember's back.

Since 2016, for example, the US Army has been developing new material technology to clothe soldiers on Arctic missions, said James Murdock, a textile technologist and project manager at US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. The work accelerated in 2022 after Chief of Staff of the Army General James McConville saw a mannequin clothed in cold weather layers during a tour of the Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center.

After seeing the developmental work on the Cold Temperature and Arctic Protection System (CTAPS), Gen McConville directed that the systems be produced in large quantities – at one point, 300–500 systems were being issued to soldiers per day – for testing in just a few months.

A focus on the Arctic has been a mainstay of Gen McConville's four-year term that will end in August 2023.

In 2021 he released the army's first Arctic strategy and suggested in March 2022 that the service consider a Multi-Domain Task Force in Alaska. Under his leadership, the service reactivated the 11th Airborne Division in Alaska and held a competition to replace its Small Unit Support Vehicle (SUSV) with a Cold Weather All-Terrain Vehicle (CATV).

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