Demand for flame retardant uniforms being part of the challenge
Four Nordic states launched a joint $500 million procurement programme to acquire a common Nordic Combat Uniform (NCU) system in 2016 with the premise that each nation will sign their own contracts with a chosen supplier by the end of 2018. NORDEFCO is aiming to have a new NCU fully tested and operational within the four Nordic armed forces during the second half of 2021.
This NCU marks the first time that the armed forces of Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway have united behind a joint procurement project, which is being led by Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO), the central pan-Nordic organisation for military cooperation.
A core benchmark in the contract is that the NCU meet a rigid extreme-climate standard, including an optimum level of performance for uniforms customised for Arctic and warm weather conditions.
With Norway being the lead Nordic nation for this programme, cost and value were primary factors driving collaboration in the NCU joint contract. The NCU tender covers all branches of the military and will supply all-service combat uniforms for male and female personnel. It has been put out for tender in a competition that Nordic government officials expect will attract a high level of international interest. The contract does not cover acquisition of uniforms with ballistic protection or specialist combat uniform systems.
A large stumbling block is the inability to conform on a common camouflage pattern.
At the W.L. Gore & Associates Press event in Bonn, Germany this week, the company is exhibiting Carinthia’s Army Cold Weather Outfit incorporating Gore WINDSTOPPER and PYRAD garments, which MONS believes is being competed in the NCU tender.
Flame retardant (FR) combat uniforms comprise a field jacket and trousers and are designed to be worn over a base layer or a combat shirt. These garments utilise FR GORE PYRAD Fabric Technology, which protects the soldier from flash fire in combat situations. In both field and laboratory tests, the GORE PYRAD combat uniform has proven to be significantly more durable than a conventional FR or a non-FR field uniform within a similar weight class, the company says at the event. Special Operations Forces (SOF) in Italy, France and Germany use GORE PYRAD Fabric Technology.
The demand for FR uniforms is a challenge that needs to be taken seriously. Generally speaking, the materials of choice have traditionally been different cotton/polyester blends, and are currently being heavily marketed by these companies. Although some of these blends do exhibit non-melt characteristics, they offer only limited heat and flame protection. This is a serious concern, especially when you consider the possible consequences of incidents involving exposure to flash fire conditions.
The newer generation of inherently FR fabrics that is now available to the military sector is not yet being used extensively in the combat uniforms of the European Armed Forces. Despite offering improved heat and flame protection, this new generation does not always live up to expectations regarding durability.
Gore has developed a unique technology that enables fabrics made of traditionally non-FR textiles to be used in situations that require heat and flame protection: GORE PYRAD Fabric Technology is used in combat uniforms and constitutes an integral part of the textile composite. As soon as it comes into contact with heat and flames, the self extinguishing composite forms an insulating charred layer. The GORE PYRAD fabric technology delivers burn protection in combination with excellent mechanical strength and the benefits of non-FR textiles.