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SOCOM Adopts Polartec Alpha as Insulation for PCU Level 3a

This isn’t the first time that we’ve mentioned SOCOM’s Block 2 PCU Level 3a or its use of Polartec’s materials. Polartec has a long history of providing innovative fabric solutions for not only SOCOM’s Protective Combat Uniform program but for all of DoD. What’s more, their manufacturing partner is Patagonia. They too have a long history of supporting SOF and other specialized units going back to the 80s. In 3ID LRS I was issued blue Patagonia polypropylene long underwear and pile jacket and overalls in Germany in the late 80s. Later, Patagonia developed the Military Advanced Regulator System. Now, they are responsible for the design and manufacture of PCU. Below is the press release on this new insulation technology option for USSOCOM.

Polartec and Patagonia Collaborate to Provide Breakthrough Fabric Technology to Every Special Forces Operator
Patagonia PCU L3aJanuary 8, 2013 – (Lawrence, Mass.) – Polartec, the developer, manufacturer, and marketer of Polartec performance fabrics, has worked closely with the U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) to develop Polartec®Alpha, a new synthetic insulation technology that creates the first-ever breathable “puffy” garments for active warmth. The Special Forces are the first adopters of this breakthrough fabric technology and are presently fielding Polartec Alpha jackets designed by Patagonia to all SOF operators.

POL_Alpha_smallUnlike down and existing synthetic insulations, Polartec Alpha provides active warmth that allows air exchange for breathability and comfort in more dynamic situations. It was developed to meet the specific performance requirements of the United States Military Special Operations Forces. The development brief required materials that are warm, wind resistant, highly durable, quick drying and more breathable than any existing insulation products. In field and lab testing, Polartec Alpha received the highest testing results of any Polartec product ever tested by the Special Operations Forces evaluation team. The garment will replace two to three layers, reducing costs, saving weight in the field and improving combat effectiveness.

In close collaboration with Polartec, Patagonia designed and developed the overall garment design for SOF. The company spent months maximizing the details of the design to take full advantage of the performance characteristics of Polartec Alpha. The final product is the SOF Protective Combat Uniform Level 3A Jacket, a standard issue piece fielded to every Special Forces Operator in the service.

“Polartec Alpha is a significant technical achievement that has created an entirely new class of fabric technology,” says David Costello, Polartec’s Military Business Manager. “This fabric innovation has been made possible due to our longstanding relationship with the Special Forces and has come to fruition in a final garment through the creativity and drive of the Patagonia design team. The demanding mission profile of the SOF operators requires absolute performance from every element of the operator’s ensemble. Polartec Alpha meets this test and has tremendous potential as a platform for future development.”

“Patagonia constantly works with suppliers to push the limits of what is possible. We have been pushing these limits with Polartec for several decades now; the result has been many groundbreaking products over the course of those years, culminating into this pinnacle innovation. This technology allows technical product designer/developers an interesting new challenge for the next several years; to ‘dial in’ the perfect CFM (or breathability) of a low loft garment,” says Eric Neuron, Patagonia’s Director of Strategic Product. “Without the demands and feedback from Special Forces Operators, this jacket and technology would not exist. We are very proud to support their needs. ”

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4 Responses to “SOCOM Adopts Polartec Alpha as Insulation for PCU Level 3a”

  1. K. Dominic Cincotti says:

    Ok! I DO remember that blue gear from the mid 1980’s. But, not as a soldier;I was still in high school. I can’t remember whether it was my Dad ( who was formally synching the Phases at JFKSWC&S), Zipper, Gantley (SEAL), or Col. Al Deprospero (great role model)… But one of those guys loaned me that blue jacket (I remember pants that zipped up the leg, too). That was the BEST winter gear I had ever used in my life. I couldn’t figure out at the time how/why this gear worked so well(now I know it was the performance material combinations that were so new and unique).

    Later, when I spent a lot of time in the mountains, years after that, the same gear was STILL performing!! This isn’t an ad, I don’t know the companies personally. But…I still buy those brands, personally! Just my two cents and opinion.

  2. Thomas Murphy says:

    I’ve been a Patagoniac for 30+ years. Yves Chouinard (?) got it started when he couldn’t find the clothes he needed for his mountaineering and other outdoor endeavors. He got the rights to polargard when Malden Mills developed it and sold it as Synchilla, before other makers could use it. Malden had a bad fire, destroyed their facility. Malden knew the value of his employees, he felt they were his family and were the source of the company’s success. He kept them all on the payroll until he was rebuilt and back in operation. Any product that comes out of these two organizations that respect their employees and are customer satisfaction driven has to be a plus for our military!! And this is not an advertisement! Just fact.

  3. Thomas Murphy says:

    In my previous post meant polartec, not polargard.