KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Airmen are being cautioned about rushing to buy the new Airman Battle Uniforms from online merchants.

Even though Web sites are hawking the availability of the new uniforms, Air Force officials say they are not the authorized uniforms provided by the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia. Those are expected to be available in Army and Air Force Exchanges this October.

“These uniforms are not certified by the Air Force and may not meet Air Force specifications for quality and safety,” a recent Air Force press release states. “By purchasing knockoff uniforms, airmen risk obtaining low-quality garments that may not wear as long as the garments obtained from certified manufacturers and vendors.”

No commercial vendor has Air Force certification for the manufacture and sale of the new uniforms, which become mandatory wear by 2011, the release stated.

Also, changes are still in the works for the design of the new uniforms, such as modifying the running shorts and using a lighter weight fabric for the short-sleeve T-shirt.

Air Force officials say they don’t want airmen to fall into the trap soldiers found themselves in when they bought knockoffs of their new Army Combat Uniforms. When their unauthorized uniforms fell apart they could not return them for refunds.

“Our folks deserve to know what they are, or are not buying,” said Maj. Randall Smith of the Air Force Uniform and Recognition Branch. “Airmen, especially those who are deploying, don’t need hassles, and when you buy something uncertain you run the risk of having your uniform fall apart at a very inconvenient time.”

One major hazard is the knockoff uniforms may not have the built-in noninfrared quality that makes them undetectable by night-vision equipment.

“We’re getting great reviews about the uniform and we’re thrilled that folks want to get it right now,” Smith said, according to the release. “We ask airmen to hold on. It’s coming, and it’s worth the wait.”

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