Lance M. Bacon, Navy Times
14 September 2015
Sailors began testing two new types of fleet uniforms in September that offer comfort along with fire protection.
One is an improved version of the flame-resistant variant coveralls now worn in the fleet, along with a new flame-resistant fleece jacket. The other type looks like a Navy blue flight suit: a flame-resistant fabric that sports a flight suit design.
Sailors at three commands are to begin what's expected to be a year-long wear test of uniforms that will replace the uncomfortable flame-resistant coveralls, which were fast-tracked to the fleet in 2012 amid concerns about fire risk. Fleet Forces Command on Sept. 10 issued the first 165 sets to sailors aboard the destroyer Carney, which left Mayport, Florida on Sept. 4 in a homeport switch to Rota, Spain. At least 235 more sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge and the attack submarine Newport News will be outfitted prior to deployments this fall.
The prototypes feature a tri-blend of flame-resistant fibers designed to give increased comfort and durability, said Amy Brayshaw, research and development team leader with the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility in Natick, Massachusetts. While they provide the same level of flame resistance, the improved flame-resistant variant uniforms, called the IFRV, also protect against arc flash.
Each participant will receive four uniforms: two coveralls and two flight suits. The one-piece coverall version looks exactly like the current FRV, and the other looks like a dark blue flight suit – complete with many pockets and Velcro closures on the waist, wrists, and ankles.
Because it makes little sense to cover a flame-resistant coverall with a jacket that could quickly burn or even melt, wear testers will also don a dark blue version of the Army’s flame-resistant fleece jacket to see if it can withstand shipboard life. Officials said they plan to eventually test a flame-resistant sweater, something akin to the olive “sub sweater” that is a favorite among bubbleheads.
Sailors will turn in the prototypes at the end of their float. Officials will analyze appearance, durability, staining, and odor and make recommendations by September 2016. A subsequent wear test typically follows to test recommended changes. Contracts must then be drawn and vendors selected to build the inventory. Most uniform changes take between three and four years from concept to roll out.
Navy Times will publish an in-depth look at the new uniforms being tested for the issue on newsstands Monday, Sept. 21.