ASI Helps Army Develop Flame Resistant Uniforms
December 2, 2016

The American Sheep Industry Association participated with U.S. Army researchers to develop a wool-based fabric blend, aiming to improve combat uniforms. The fabric consists of 50 percent wool, 42 percent Nomex, 5 percent Kevlar and 3 percent P140 antistatic fiber.

One goal of textile research and development underway is to create a flame-resistant combat uniform made wholly from domestic materials, said Carole Winterhalter, a textile technologist with the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. This research may provide an opportunity to meet this objective.

"We have a lightweight fabric that is inherently flame resistant. No topical treatments are added to provide the resistance," Winterhalter said. "We are introducing a very environmentally friendly and sustainable fiber to the combat uniform system. We don't have other wool-based fabrics in the system right now. This is a brand new material."

The developed prototype uniforms were worn by 100 soldiers for trial with each of the three uniforms being worn for about seven days in a field environment for a total of 21 days. Each uniform was made from the same wool-based blend. One was "garment treated" with permethrin (an insecticide), another was "fabric treated" with permethrin and the third was untreated.

After completing the survey, feedback was taken from the soldiers regarding the uniform's comfort, durability, laundering and shrinkage, insect resistance and overall performance. Initial results showed that a majority of the soldiers liked the fabric as it was light in weight and breathable. However, the analysis of the survey is yet to be completed, said an official U.S. Army website.

ASI participated with Natick in the development of fire resistant fabrics and, under a separate contract, helped to identify the best washable wool applications for military use.