Air Force ABU Regulations

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Air Force ABU Regulations 

(FAQ and information from the Air Force Personnel Center Dress and Appearance website on ABU requlations)
                                              Propper® Men’s Air Force ABU Coat

The top button of the Air Force ABU coat will not be fastened; however, all other buttons will be secured at all times

ABU coat consist of rank insignia, digitized tiger stripe printed Air Force service and name tag tape and solid colored occupational badge(s)

OFFICERS:  wear either subdued solid colored cloth or subdued metal pin-on grade insignia 

ENLISTED:  4-inch sleeve chevron

ABU cloth badges will be worn

If authorized, subdued chaplain, aeronautical and space badges are mandatory and will always be worn in the highest position

Subdued Security Forces, Fire Protection, and Office of Special Investigations duty shields are authorized for wear on the left pocket of the ABU

No other patches are authorized on the ABU (this includes the Command Insignia)

The bottom of the ABU coat will rest at the hips

Pockets will be secured and items stowed in pockets will not be visible except pens stowed in the pen pocket

Commanders may authorize sleeves to be rolled up on the ABU coat; however, the cuffs will remain visible and the sleeve will rest at, or within 1 inch of, the forearm when the arm is bent at a 90-degree angle 

The ABU coat may be removed in immediate work area as determined appropriate by local leadership

When ABU coat is removed, t-shirt will be worn 

A desert sand t-shirt will be worn under the ABU coat and tucked into the trousers

Tucking the ABU trousers into the boots is optional.  When tucked in or bloused, the trouser must be evenly bloused (gathered in and draped over loosely) over the combat boot and must present a bloused appearance

A tan one piece nylon web belt will be worn with ABU trousers

ABU Boots will be suede, either sage green or tan

Excess boot lace will wrap around the top of the boot and tucked in

Individuals may sew down pockets but no local policy will be established to make it mandatory

Q: Can we wear the green ABU boot with all Air Force utility uniforms? If so, when can we wear them and when can we wear the ABU?

A: Yes, you can wear the green ABU boot with all Air Force utility uniforms now. This includes the ABU, BDU, DCU, OD green flight suits and desert tan flight suits. The official authority, via 8106 message, is out and a copy is located below in the "Important Documents" section. Current approved "Safe-to-Fly" model is Belleville 690. A temperate (cold weather) "Safe-to-Fly" boot, Belleville Model 670, is in development with an early 2008 projected availability. Additional models of the sage Green "Safe-to-Fly" boots are in development.

Q:  Why does it appear that there are shade differences with some sets of ABUs?

A:  Some ABUs issued or purchased through AAFES, do appear to have some shade variances, but they are all within the shade tolerance specifications set by the Air Force. This is a normal development process that happens when a new uniform with a new textile is used. We anticipate that this will work itself out as the vendors formalize the process and produce more uniforms. The different shades variances are authorized.

Q: When is the mandatory wear date for the ABU?

A:  The mandatory wear date for the ABU 1 Nov 2011.

Q: Will we wear patches on the ABU?

A:  No patches or unit emblems will be worn on the ABU. However, mandatory badges such as aeronautical and chaplain as well as mandatory duty shields for force protection and fire protection are required. No other duty badges will be authorized or worn. Occupational badges are optional.

Q: Will we still be able to wear baseball hats?

A:  Organizational baseball hats are not authorized with the ABU. The one current exception is that RED HORSE squadrons may continue to wear organizational caps. Only the ABU print hat and currently authorized berets will still be allowed.

Q: Can I wear sister services badges on the ABU?

A:  The US Army parachute Riggers badge is now currently allowed on all authorized uniform combinations. Furthermore, The U.S. Army Black Air Assault badge is authorized on the BDU.

Q: Will other Air Force-issued items change to match the pattern and/or color of the ABU?

A:  Yes, some items such as hat, socks and T-shirts will be introduced concurrently with the ABU.

Q: Why wasn't Velcro® used for the attachments to the ABU?

A:  The research and development branch of the Air Force Clothing Office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, looked into using Velcro®, since it appears to be easier and less expensive for our Airmen. However, research indicates otherwise and the majority of Airmen in the test did not want Velcro®.

Q: Can I mix and match patterns with my ABUs, such as wear any of my overgarments with the ABU until I get a new ABU jacket?

A:  Mix and match patterns with the ABU are authorized if certain criteria are met. Reference the COLD-WEATHER OUTERGARMENTS WITH THE AIRMAN BATTLE UNIFORM (ABU) Message (Jan 08). The expected life expectancy of the typical ABU is only 12 months. That doesn't seem very durable for a uniform that is designed to be used in combat environments.

Q: Will the enlisted clothing allowance be updated annually to allow Airmen to purchase four sets every year?

A:  The life expectancy is based on the current BDU for the enlisted clothing allowance. Tests indicate that, with proper care and laundering, there will be a much longer life than one year. Once there is sufficient data to support that, the life expectancy will be adjusted.

Q: Does the ABU require dry cleaning or pressing?

A:  The ABU is literally a wash and wear item. In fact, starching and hot pressing of ABUs is prohibited. Also, one should not dry clean the ABU. Dry cleaning, starching and hot pressing will deteriorate the fiber in the uniform and shorten the wear life.

Q: What are the wash and care requirements for the ABU?

A:  In order to maximize service life and maintain optimum performance, ABUs should be washed in warm water with detergent containing no bleach. Tumble dry at low heat. The use of starch, sizing and any process that involves dry-cleaning or steam press will adversely affect the treatments and durability of the uniform and is not authorized.

Q: How could starch damage the uniform?

A:  Starching uniforms makes the uniform material more brittle and subsequently reduces the wear life, thus it is prohibited. The permanent press and near Infrared features of the uniform will be damaged by starching, commercial pressing and additives in the washing process. The permanent press feature will allow Airmen to look sharp and wear the ABU without incurring the costs of commercial dry cleaning or pressing.

Q: Why did you borrow the pattern from the Army and Marines?

A:  The Air Force created its own pattern with the inspiration from the Vietnam-era tiger stripe. The Air Force did use colors based on the Army's new ACU with the addition of slate blue.

Q: Why doesn't the Air Force just adopt the Army's ACU? Isn't it wasteful for the Air Force to develop, produce and distribute a new uniform in today's constrained fiscal environment?

A:  The goal for the ABU was to develop a distinctive Air Force uniform that is better fitting and easier and less expensive to maintain. These goals were developed in response to input from Airmen across the force. The Air Force Clothing Office created a matrix of all the suggestions and complaints sent to the Air Force Uniform Board for several years. The current BDU received the most complaints and suggestions. Because the BDU is an Army owned uniform, the Air Force could not make changes to it. When the Army decided it would discontinue the current BDU and DCU, it did not have any designs to share with the Air Force either. This provided a unique opportunity for the Air Force to take input from Airmen and develop a uniform that can meet the specific needs of the Air Force while retaining the flexibility to adapt to changes as they occur over time.

Q: Who is the contractor making the ABU?

A:  The Defense Supply Center of Philadelphia is procuring uniforms through its normal supply chain. AAFES will then purchase their stock of the uniforms from DSCP. The length of the trousers on the new ABU appears to be about 12 inches too long.

Q: Was this a manufacturing error or is there another reason?

A:  The trouser length was set after extensive fit and wear testing to allow blousing for someone whose legs were long, but their lower torso length was short. In the past, this person would have to buy a "long" trouser to get the needed length in the leg, but the trouser crotch would hang uncomfortably low on them.

Q: Is the commanders insignia authorized with the ABU?

A:  No, currently the commanders insignia is not authorized.

Q: The September 2007 wear message states that the only authorized hat with the ABU is the ABU patrol cap, except in the AOR where boonies/floppy hats are authorized. Are there any exceptions?

A:  Yes, the majority of "distinctive uniform" authorizations such as berets currently in AFI 36-2903 , Table 3.1 - 3.7 will transfer to the ABU. Check with your unit if you are not sure. Any changes to these policies will be posted on the Web site and communicated through the impacted organizations. Exceptions to policy must be coordinated through MAJCOM/A1s to AF/A1 for consideration.

Q: Can my unit or I purchase uniforms from venders other than the AAFES Military Clothing Sales Store?

A:  Units may not use appropriated funds of any kind, to include credit card, micro-purchase, Form 9s, etc., to purchase uniforms from non-certified commercial sources. There are presently no certified vendors. This is driven primarily by contracting regulations, which require all clothing and textiles purchased with government funds be manufactured entirely in the United States. Individuals can spend their personal funds anywhere they want, the same restriction does not apply to individual purchases of uniforms; however, if personal funds are used, the individual is at risk that item will not meet uniform requirements. Uniforms purchased through outside sources cannot be returned to AAFES for any reason.

Q: Can I wear the solid green cold weather parka with the white fur collar with the ABU?

A:  Yes, it is authorized for wear with the ABU, in colder climates where it is issued. What color socks and boots can I wear with the BDU, ABU and flight suit?

  • BDUs with black boots wear black socks
  • BDUs with green boots wear either green or black socks
  • ABUs with green boots wear green socks
  • ABUs with tan boots wear black, tan or green socks
  • Flight suit with black boots wear black socks
  • Flight suit with green boots wear green or black socks
Q: Can I sew my pockets down on the ABU?

A:  Alterations are allowed to improve fit, but must not change the intended appearance of the uniform. Although this modification would not change the appearance, keep in mind the pockets might be necessary while deployed or during particular duties.

Q: What are the wear requirements for the maternity ABU?

A:  Placement of accouterments will be the same as the BDU; however, the accouterments authorized to be worn with the ABU will come from ABU messages. Athletic shoes are worn only when medical authority recommends and commander approves. The waiver is only temporary. Athletic shoes must be conservative in color such as white, black, dark blue or gray. Pant legs may be worn unbloused, however, blousing strings will not be visible.

Q: Can I roll up the sleeves on my ABU?

A:  The same rule for rolling up sleeves on the BDU/DCU apply to the ABU. ABU Sleeves may be rolled up IAW Table 2.2 of AFI 36-2903.

Q: Can I remove the zipper pulls on the APECS?

A:  Yes, the zipper pull can be removed from the APECS if it presents a safety concern, however, the modification must not change the intended appearance of the APECS. Reference AFI 36-2903; Table 1.2, Note 1.

Q: Do I have to be concerned with optical brighteners?

A:  It has been determined that the optical brighteners found in commonly used detergents will not substantially impact the serviceability of the ABU. The Air Fore News Agency article released regarding ABU optical brighteners covers this more extensively: (

Q: If I perform duties in the AOR with another service, am I required to wear the ABU?

A:  Wear of the ABU for Airmen deployed to the AOR will be determined by the local commander.

Q: What outergarments am I authorized to wear with the ABU?

A:  APECS, IRS, Cold weather parka (where authorized), Blue all Weather Coat, Gen II sage green fleeceare authorized wear with the ABU.

Airmen should refer to the Air Force Personnel Center Dress and Appearance website  for more information.

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  • 11/3/2010 12:52 PM Madalyne Bender wrote:
    What are the specifics for maternity ABU wear? Do you have to tuck in your t-shirt? If your regular top still fits and your pants do not, can you wear a regular top and maternity trousers? Why did they make maternity uniforms without pen pockets?
    Reply to this
  • 4/25/2011 8:07 AM SSgt larry lucas wrote:
    I know the sage II green fleece is auth to wear outside the ABU top. with color shirt/fleece jacket is auth over the ABU tan shirt. i.e green, tan brown ect..
    Reply to this
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