Standard-issue Navy uniforms are highly flammable, report shows

The U.S. Navy’s standard-issue blue camouflage uniforms are highly flammable, according to a recent Navy test, and will melt onto the skin when burning. But that’s not news to Navy brass.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Navy officials released findings of a test in December indicating that its working uniforms are not designated flame-resistant and will burn “robustly until completely consumed” when subjected to flame – unlike the Army and the Marine Corps.

"We knew when we designed this uniform that it wasn't flame-resistant," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Navy's top spokesman. "When we were making the uniform, sailors wanted a uniform that was comfortable, that didn't require maintenance and would stand up under a lot of washing, and one of the ways to get that is a nylon-cotton blend.”

Kirby said there was no requirement for a fire-resistant uniform in a working environment.

The Type I NWU -- as the uniform is known -- is half cotton and half nylon. The nylon component "is a thermoplastic fiber that melts and drips as it burns," according to the report.

"If this sticky molten material came in contact with skin, it would contribute to increased burn injury,” the report continues.

The uniform was never meant to be flame-retardant and there is fire gear throughout any ship in case sailors are exposed to flames. Only sailors with specific jobs such as airman, engineer or firefighter and those in combat are required to have fire-resistant clothing, Navy admirals said.

Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, Chief of Naval Personnel and president of the Navy's Uniform Board, announced in a message to commanders last month that working groups have been established to review the fleet's uniform needs and to consider whether these uniforms do the job.

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