Kevlar underwear, enhanced night-vision goggles and portable solar panels: the US military is seeing a gear revolution, thanks to the lessons learned during 10 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The M4 rifle remains the basic firearm of the American GI, but the addition of many gizmos now makes the soldier look more like Inspector Gadget than GI Joe: the typical gear kit includes 73 items, from clothes to weapons.
Program Executive Office Soldier, the military unit responsible for inventing and producing army equipment, says some items are designed to better protect soldiers on the ground, while others help them understand the terrain.
Since 2004, every soldier has been issued a bulletproof vest with extra protection panels.
But the increased use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), responsible for more than half the deaths of US soldiers in Afghanistan, has led to the development of new protective gear.
Over the next two months, "tens of thousands" of Kevlar outergarments to protect the pelvic area will be sent to US soldiers in Afghanistan, according to Colonel William Cole, who is part of the PEO Soldier unit.
"It protects soldiers if they step on an anti-personnel IED. It can really mitigate their injuries," he told reporters.
The protective outergarment is worn over the soldier's fatigues.
Soldiers in Afghanistan also will have a Kevlar undergarment, similar to a pair of biker shorts, which helps protect them against infections caused by dirt and stones kicked up in a blast.
"When you keep the wound area clean, you prevent follow-on infections," Cole said.
To combat the frequent traumatic brain injuries suffered by troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq, which doctors say often lead to cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, helmets are being tricked out with sensors.
"When a soldier is caught in an IED event, we will be able to immediately download the data from his helmet to determine what kind of impact the helmet got to help the medical community correlate that to what kind of brain injury he might have," Cole said.
For night-time combat, modern armies have the upper hand over insurgents thanks to night-vision goggles. The new-generation eyewear, which is just reaching the field, will allow troops to more easily detect enemy fighters.