Expansion of mission and deployment requirements within the French army have resulted in some 20,000 soldiers expected to be issued with new Gore-Tex over-suits manufactured by Grassi.
Soldiers have to function at the highest level in a variety climatic conditions and therefore need reliable protection against water, wind and cold. In recent years, the clothing specifications for many armed forces have changed, however, including those for the Alpine and infantry combat troops of the French army. They have been given new tasks and have been deployed in a wide range of military scenarios, carrying a broad range of equipment. They therefore need weatherproof clothing that offers a high degree of functionality, flexibility and durability. In addition, comfort is crucial, to allow the wearer to perform at the highest level, since the garments are worn for long periods of time and in extreme situations. Thermal comfort is a key factor, in addition to ‘breathability,’ but there are non-thermal comfort factors as well that must be taken into account. Ergonomic comfort, for instance – the fit and weight of the garments – determines whether the wearers are comfortable in their protective clothing and can therefore draw on all their physical and mental resources.
The current weatherproof clothing used by the French army no longer meets these requirements. The authorities therefore decided to procure a new, light, durably waterproof and extremely breathable GORE-TEX rain suit for the army’s 20,000 infantry combat troops, including 8,000 Alpine soldiers. The new military rain suit is manufactured by renowned garment manufacturer Grassi, incorporating W L Gore & Associates’ functional textile technology to provide users with clothing adapted for high Alpine and Mediterranean climates.
The new GORE-TEX rain suit – consisting of a jacket and over-trousers – is based on Gore Micro Grid Backer Technology. It uses a very thin, open mesh and fine-thread, yet highly robust, woven polyamide fabric as the backer of the GORE-TEX three-layer laminate. This backer combines high abrasion resistance with enhanced snag resistance – making the inside of the suit better able to withstand rough surfaces. The backer also slides easily over the garment layers worn underneath, makes the jacket easier to put on and allows the wearer to move more freely and comfortably. The use of this textile technology ensures a lighter load: the new rain suit weighs around 30% less than its predecessor – a lighter weight also means less volume, so the clothing is small and easy to carry.
The GORE-TEX membrane provides durable waterproofing and high breathability. The outer material absorbs a minimal amount of water. To keep heat stress as low as possible, physiologically optimised product technology helps transport heat and moisture away from the body. It also protects from various liquids and common chemicals, such as diesel, oils and lubricants. The membrane is durable even when faced with buckling at very cold temperatures. Wearers of weather protection garments with Gore Micro Grid Backer Technology reap the benefits of improved performance and enhanced wearer comfort.
French soldiers will also benefit from optimised design and improved usability. The garments can be put on and taken off quickly, are easily adapted to individual needs, and allow for good mobility. The jacket can be closed using a waterproof zipper with an underlying flap. Front openings allow access to BDU pockets, which offer space for personal documents or smartphones and at the same time offer good ventilation. The hood can be stowed away in the collar, and the wearer can adjust the sleeves and waistband for tightness. Zippers on both sides facilitate putting on and taking off the over trousers and the three-point suspenders are easily adjustable using a Velcro fastening. The lower section of the trouser legs has been reinforced to avoid abrasion – for example, from the ski boots worn by Alpine troops. Any damaged areas can be repaired by the wearer, using a special GORE-TEX repair kit.
The rain suit thus offers a great deal of functionality, flexibility and comfort. Its long durability also means very low life-cycle costs. Alpine troops have successfully tested the suits in the mountains under cold conditions and with high levels of activity, prior to qualification. The infantry combat troops also tested the suits in operational condition with use of weapons, vehicles, etc.
@CAP: ((French ski troops)) The requirement to carry bulky and often heavy loads places stringent demands on the clothing and equipment that Alpine troops require. (Photo: W L Gore & Associates)