Army field tests new wool-based fabric for potential use in uniforms

U.S. Army researchers recently field-tested uniforms made from a newly developed wool-based fabric that they hope will make uniforms naturally flame resistant (FR) while also creating and supporting U.S. manufacturing jobs.

"We have a lightweight fabric that is inherently flame resistant; no topical treatments are added to provide FR," Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center Textile Technologist Carole 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 fabric is 50 percent wool, 42 percent Nomex, 5 percent Kevlar and 3 percent P140 antistatic fiber. It was tested at this year’s Exercise Combined Resolve VII in Germany, where soldiers from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, tested three variations on the fabric for seven days each.

"Wool is 100 percent biodegradable, (and) it's easy to dye and absorbs moisture," Winterhalter, who is also the federal government's chief technology officer for the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Manufacturing Innovation Institute, said. "The Army has spent quite a bit of time and money to reintroduce a manufacturing process in this country called Super Wash that allows us to shrink-resist treat the wool. It's been very successful.”

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