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View Full Version : Sailors test flight suit for all hands, new coveralls



Rusty Jones
09-24-2015, 04:38 PM
http://www.navytimes.com/story/military/2015/09/20/ifrv-flame-resistant-coverall-flight-suit-fleet-navy/72271398/


Two new types of flame-resistant uniforms are being tested by fleet sailors — and one prototype significantly boosts the cool factor.

http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/f5165edfa19bcf273643df7b3770f5690bca06dd/r=x404&c=534x401/http/cdn.tegna-tv.com/-mm-/e3e5039fca757a7adbd71f73fc2037341d68e1d2/c=114-0-1887-1333/local/-/media/2015/09/14/GGM/MilitaryTimes/635778442212938363-NAV-IFRV-coveralls08.jpg

It is a dark blue flight suit designed to be worn by deckplate sailors that officials hope fits better and lasts longer than the current flame-resistant variant of coveralls. The flight suit includes all of the pockets, torso zipper, and Velcro closures on the waist, wrists, and ankles that pilots and aircrews have come to know and love.

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing how that shapes up," said Machinist Mate 1st Class (SW) Jonathan Griffith, one of the sailors participating in the wear test. "Because I don't have a centralized office, I usually carry a lot of items in my pockets — tools, papers, books — as I walk around throughout the day. Pockets would be a huge help."

If sailors like Griffith like the flight suit, then it's possible that fleet bosses will OK this for all sailors in coming years as part of a push to improve upon the FRV coverall that was fast-tracked to the fleet two years ago. Fleet Forces Command, which is leading the wear test of these organizational clothing items, is also having sailors try out an improved flame-resistant coverall as another option and a flame-resistant fleece to go over it or the flight suit. Organizational clothing is issued by a sailors' command, rather than issued at boot camp and maintained with a sailor's seabag allowance.

The new flame-resistant material is built to hold up — not only in a fire, but through the everyday rigors of shipboard life. The improved FRV prototypes use a tri-blend of flame-resistant fibers. They provide the same level of flame resistance as the FRV coverall now worn, but also protect against arc flash, an especially dangerous hazard when high voltage flashes through the air.

The new fabric is expected to be more durable than the current FRV, said Amy Brayshaw, research and development team leader with the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility in Natick, Massachusetts. Industry data suggests the fabrics are up to three times more durable than the treated cotton currently used, but "those might not have been tested in a shipboard environment. That's why we are doing this wear test, to quantify that."

Any improvement in durability is good news for sailors who have bemoaned the FRV coverall's lackluster lifespan since it was introduced in the fall of 2013. From staining and fading to rumples, rips and tears, it simply doesn't hold up.

Sailors, tired of rolling up their FRV sleeves and trouser legs, were happy with the flight suit's more slimmer fit at a fitting session in mid-September. Others liked the way the flight suit hugs the body without being restrictive. They said this fit would be a big benefit when maneuvering in tight spaces.

At the fitting, women tended to prefer the flight suit, which comes in designated men's and women's size. The FRV coverall is unisex and many women say it's not a good fit.

The sailors will also test an improved version of the current FRV coverall, which officials hope will be more comfortable and better fitting.

The goal is to have sailors select the best fleet uniform that balances fire protection with comfort. In addition to adopting the flight suit or coverall design, there's also a possibility officials will opt for a new uniform that combines them. That could be something like a loose-fitting coverall with the secured zipper pockets of a flight suit, for example.

Officials acknowledged that the end result could be this type of hybrid of the two prototypes.

The same rules that govern rank and insignia for the FRV are in play during the wear test. Sailors are allowed to use metal collar devices or they can, at their own expense, sew on rank insignia — a popular option, especially at sea. But wear test participants immediately noted that the flight suit's smaller, curved collar does not lend itself to rank insignia. Don't count on it being moved to the shoulders, that is officer country.

Insignia could be centered on the chest, but would then have to contend with the flight suit's torso zipper. Another option would be to show the sailor's rank on the Velcro-backed nametag.

Because it makes little sense to cover a flame-resistant coverall with a jacket won't stand up to fire, participants will also test a dark blue version of the Army's flame-resistant fleece jacket. The jacket was popular with sailors, but the flight suit is the attention-getter, especially for engineers and topsiders used to only seeing aircrews in those duds. In addition to its sleek, form-fitting look, sailors were enamored by its many secured pockets.

At the try-on, most said they were eager to try something new. CMDCM (SW) Jonathan Lonsdale, the top enlisted sailor aboard the destroyer Carney, said he stops sailors with torn or faded FRV coveralls "almost on a daily basis" and tells them to get a new uniform from supply.

"That gets frustrating," said Lonsdale. "I'm hoping the new IFRVs address that so we don't have those same issues."

Griffith agreed.

"As soon as I started wearing the current FRVs they started ripping," he said. "Any time I would catch them on something in the engineering plant, they would rip. The durability is unsatisfactory."

'Pretty comfortable'

Griffith is one of 165 sailors aboard Carney that will put the prototypes to the test. His ship is headed to its new homeport in Rota, Spain, and is scheduled to go on patrol in the Mediterranean and possibly Black Sea in November. But not everyone on the ship gets the new duds. The weapons department was swinging ammo at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown when the IFRV was issued Sept. 10. Lonsdale admitted he is already dealing with some envy, as the crew is "pretty fired up" about the wear test.

At least 235 additional sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge and attack submarine Newport News will be outfitted prior to deployments scheduled for this fall. FFC wanted to test a variety of ship types, deployments, and mission areas, officials said.

Each participant will receive four uniforms: two coveralls and two flight suits. Both uniforms use the same Velcro-backed leather or embroidered name tag above the left breast pocket, or embroidered unit-specific nametags similar to those worn on green Nomex flight jackets. Sailors and petty officers will wear a black web belt with the coverall, while chiefs and officers wear the khaki web belt. Everyone will wear the same covers, footwear, and undershirts currently authorized with the FRV.

The prototypes require the same laundry and care as the FRV. The IFRV maintained flame resistance through 50 shipboard launderings, Brayshaw said, but must be cleaned separate from non-flame resistant garments. Chlorine bleach and starch are not allowed.

The fleece jacket is authorized for daily wear on board ship while underway, though officials warn that paint, oils, and the like may compromise its flame-resistant performance. The jacket must be zippered at least three-quarters of the way when worn. Rank is placed on the center chest rank tab; the rank tab worn on the Navy working uniform parka may be used. Skippers have the discretion to authorize wear of the fleece jacket in port for appropriate shipboard activities such as in port steaming, fast cruise, drills, and evolutions, or ashore in environments that place an excessive amount of wear on working uniforms.

"The fleece is synonymous with the IFRV, so wherever we are allowing the sailors to wear the IFRV, we are going to allow them to wear the fleece," Lonsdale said.

Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 2nd Class (SW) Evan Peterson thinks the fleece will be a good addition.

"The jacket is pretty comfortable, and down in the [central control station] it gets a little chilly," he said. Indeed, many ship compartments are rather brisk because computer systems must to be kept cool, and his ship could end up operating in the North Atlantic.

Officials said they plan to eventually test a flame-resistant sweater, something akin to the olive-colored "sub sweater" that is a favorite among bubbleheads.

Wear test participants will provide evaluations at the midpoint and conclusion of their deployments. They will turn in the prototypes at the end of their float. Officials will do a final analysis of appearance, durability, staining, and odor and make recommendations by the end of fiscal '16. A subsequent wear test typically follows to test recommended changes. Contracts must then be drawn and vendors selected to build the inventory. All these steps ensure that most uniform design changes typically take between three and four years from concept to roll out.

Improvements in durability, serviceability, comfort, and appearance could equate to fewer uniforms in your seabag. Whatever version of the improved flame-resistant uniform the fleet picks, it will likely cost more; the treated cotton in current FRV coveralls is the least expensive of all flame-resistant materials. While better quality could mitigate higher costs in the long run, the longer wear life could mean sailors will be issued three IFRVs instead of the four FRVs they currently receive, Brayshaw said.
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Rusty Jones
09-24-2015, 04:40 PM
Now this is something that I think is crazy. The NWU has only been around for six years, and I've gotta tell you - I was ecstatic as hell when I got my first sets, after nine years of looking like a prison inmate in the old utilities. With the NWU, I finally got to look like I was in the military. On the one hand, with the Navy considering issuing flight suits to all Sailors, I can say that I'm glad I'm Air Force (Reserve) and no longer there for that shit.

But after giving it more thought... the flight suit envy that seems to exist among a few in the Air Force... those who wish they could wear flight suits without being aircrew... I don't think it's common among most Airmen, but that percentage IS out there. Since the possibility is there that everyone in the Navy "gets" to wear them, could this stir shit up in the Air Force?

We'll see...

Mjölnir
09-24-2015, 05:04 PM
I hear a lot of people who don't like the NWU material or that the pockets etc. get caught on things in passageways. Having worn NWUs, flight suits, wash khakis and coveralls it seems that those are issues with all the uniforms we have gone through in the last 12 years.

My big SMH thing with NWUs is the lack of flame retardant material ... not really a high point for Task Force Uniform.

BT BT

Welcome back Rusty Jones ... kind of missed you.

Mjölnir
09-24-2015, 05:04 PM
I hear a lot of people who don't like the NWU material or that the pockets etc. get caught on things in passageways. Having worn NWUs, flight suits, wash khakis and coveralls it seems that those are issues with all the uniforms we have gone through in the last 12 years.

My big SMH thing with NWUs is the lack of flame retardant material ... not really a high point for Task Force Uniform.

BT BT

Welcome back Rusty Jones ... kind of missed you.

UncaRastus
09-24-2015, 07:48 PM
From what I saw in the article from the Navy Times, females want the flight suit more than the men, because the other uniform doesn't quite fit on them.

MikeKerriii
09-24-2015, 08:38 PM
Now this is something that I think is crazy. The NWU has only been around for six years, and I've gotta tell you - I was ecstatic as hell when I got my first sets, after nine years of looking like a prison inmate in the old utilities. With the NWU, I finally got to look like I was in the military. On the one hand, with the Navy considering issuing flight suits to all Sailors, I can say that I'm glad I'm Air Force (Reserve) and no longer there for that shit.

But after giving it more thought... the flight suit envy that seems to exist among a few in the Air Force... those who wish they could wear flight suits without being aircrew... I don't think it's common among most Airmen, but that percentage IS out there. Since the possibility is there that everyone in the Navy "gets" to wear them, could this stir shit up in the Air Force?

We'll see...

I think wearing no flame resistant clothing on a warship is a really dumb thing to do, Buit that also applies to anyone in any kind of vehicle anywhere that might see combat.