Chris Muir's Day By Day

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What's Camoflaged Blue and Screams a Lot?

A sailor in the issue Navy Working Uniform (NWU) that is on fire:

The Navy working uniform will melt when exposed to flames, a new report has found, potentially putting sailors at risk.

The digital blue NWUs — which are not rated as a flame-resistant uniform — are made of a 50/50 nylon-cotton blend that “will burn robustly until completely consumed,” according to the results of a mid-October test conducted by Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility in Natick, Mass.

But not only that: Its nylon material “melts and drips as it burns,” according to the Oct. 15 report, which was obtained by Navy Times. “If this sticky molten material came in contact with skin it would contribute to increased burn injury…”

Sailors have been told by Navy leadership it’s OK to respond to fires in NWUs. Meanwhile, the testers concluded the uniform “is not recommended” in cases “where there is potential for a flame or thermal threat.”

Researchers tested the blue NWU uniform in mid-October as part of a larger electrical safety review. In the Natick test, testers hung 3-by-12-inch strips of NWU material alongside strips of flame-resistant Army and Marine uniforms, exposed them to flame for 12 seconds and observed the results.

The Army and Marine combat uniforms tested were made of flame-resistant materials. They didn’t burn after the flame was removed, experienced no melting and were only charred from 3 to 4 inches.

The NWUs ignited. The entire strip burned. Plastic fibers melted.

“All material samples totally consumed by robustly burning flames,” the observers noted in their report, noting that the uniform burned for longer than 60 seconds after the flame was removed.


When I came through Navy boot camp in 1980, we were told horror stories of what could happen if you were wearing polyester uniforms and were caught in live steam from either a ship's engines or a flight deck catapult. Your uniform would literally melt onto your body, making treatment impossible. Thus the reason for the traditional Navy dungarees we wore: blue chambray shirt, denim trousers, white cotton t-shirt, black wool socks: all fire-retardant. Same with the dress blue jumper uniform, which was wool, and the white summer uniforms, which were a cotton/poly blend. Then we were introduced to our new white jumpers, made of "Certified Navy Twill," which was...100% polyester. WTF? Ours not to question why, ours just to do or die...

Here's a pic of the uniform in question from the article:

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