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Quality Fabric Of The Month

Saving Our Troops

TenCate Protective Fabrics' Defender™ M with Lenzing FR® for military combat uniforms will help save lives while keeping soldiers comfortable.

Janet Bealer Rodie, Associate Editor

U S Army and Marine Corps troops soon will be outfitted with new combat uniforms that offer flame-resistant (FR) and thermal protection from sudden intense heat caused by improvised explosive devices and other exposure to flame. Union City, Ga.-based TenCate Protective Fabrics is supplying the woven fabric, TenCate™ Defender™ M, in a blend comprising predominantly Lenzing FR® cellulosic fiber from Austria-based Lenzing AG, reinforced with para-aramid and nylon. The fabric — which in testing has reduced second- and third-degree burns by nearly 30 percent compared with a modacrylic blend and by nearly 45 percent compared with a heavier FR cotton/nylon blend — will replace the nylon/cotton uniform fabric used currently.

“Nylon/cotton is like a candle fuse, exacerbating burn injuries to its wearer,” said Guido Vliegen, vice president, global marketing, strategy and integration, TenCate, as he discussed current combat environments. “Flame risk is much bigger now than it has been to the regular soldier. The injured, some with lethal burn injuries, are being taken off the battlefield much faster these days, so their survival chances are much higher than before.”

The uniform system includes a jacket, pants, T-shirt, underwear and balaclava. TenCate blends the yarn that it weaves into fabric for the outer garments, which retain the traditional uniform’s comfort levels while adding FR protection. The quality of the fabric’s camouflage pattern, printed using the company’s patented technology, is enhanced because of Lenzing FR’s ability to absorb dyestuffs.


TenCate™ Defender™ M fabric offers combat soldiers enhanced FR protection owing to the Lenzing FR®/para-aramid blend, as well as inherent moisture management and breathability.

Oliver Spöcker, Lenzing Fibres Division’s international sales and marketing manager, Lenzing FR, said the fiber is a high-tenacity, inherently flame-resistant cellulosic based on Lenzing Modal®. “That high tenacity, required for such demanding applications, is the major difference between Lenzing FR and other viscose FR products,” he said.

The FR compound is an eco-friendly, phosphorus-based product from a Swiss pharmaceutical company. “Lenzing incorporates the compound into the fiber, making it inherently FR,” Spöcker said. “It cannot be removed by laundering or abrasion.”

The fiber also offers thermal insulation properties, as well as inherent moisture management and breathability that typically must be added to aramids by a finish that can wear off. These properties protect against heat stress and heat stroke. Further, when blended with aramids, Lenzing FR can increase a fabric’s thermal protection performance (TPP), and its TPP values increase after laundering, according to Darko Medved, president of Toronto-based Ivodex Enterprises Inc., Lenzing’s North American distributor.

While Defender M will protect the soldier first from the flames of an explosive situation, that improved TPP just might buy the few seconds he needs to get out quickly before the heat affects his skin.

TenCate and Lenzing are cooperating exclusively on the Defender M program and plan to offer it globally for military combat uniform applications.

For more information about Defender™ M, contact Guido Vliegen (770) 969-1000, Ext. 277, (800) 241-8630; g.vliegen@tencate.com. For more information about Lenzing FR®, contact Oliver Spöcker (43) 7672-701-3505; o.spoecker@lenzing.com; or Darko Medved (416) 695-3922; d.medved@ivodex.com.

September/October 2007