A first look at the Navy's new flame resistant variant — or FRV — coveralls, which will retain the pattern of utility coveralls but use the FR fabric of repair locker coveralls. (Navy)
New coveralls with added fire protection are nearly on their way.
These Navy blue coveralls feature the same fabric as damage control coveralls: 100 percent cotton treated with flame resistant coating.
The new uniforms — known as a flame resistant variant coverall, or FRV — will be a darker hue than the uniform they’re replacing, utility coveralls, made of a 65/35 percent polyester-cotton blend that is also susceptible to melting in a fire.
“What we’ve done is combined the fabric of the repair locker coverall with the pattern of the polyester-cotton utility coverall,” said Capt. Bruce Brosch, a member the shipboard uniform panel tasked with examining fire risks at sea. “We used that approach to give us a known pattern with a known fit, if you will. A proven design with a proven flame-resistant fabric.”
“If you were to place it side by side with the utility coveralls, the FRV will be slightly darker,” said Brosch, who explained that the new all-cotton fabric lacks the shine from the polyester fibers in the utility coveralls (it is these synthetic fibers that will melt at high heat, transforming into a sticky, molten glop).
Navy testers are putting the new garment through the paces — how it stands up to tearing, repeated washing and being lit on fire. If it passes the tests, then it will head straight into manufacturing to get them out to the fleet ASAP. Officials hope to start issuing pairs to the fleet in January or February.
Each pair costs $52.04, nearly double the price of utility coveralls. No need to get out your wallet: The uniforms will be purchased by the Navy as organizational clothing, similar to items like rough-weather “mustang” jackets or flight deck jerseys issued by commands.
Brosch estimates that the new coveralls will cost $12 million, including $40,000 in testing now underway at the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility in Natick, Mass.
Fleet bosses plan to order 230,000 uniforms, enough to keep the fleet stocked for a year. That’s enough to provide two pairs to every fleet sailor assigned to aircraft carriers, big-deck gators and other amphibs, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, minesweepers, coastal patrol ships and Military Sealift Command-run logistics ships.
That leaves out a considerable swath of the fleet, most of whom have flame-resistant alternatives. Aviation squadrons will continue to wear flight suits, an issued uniform that is flame resistant, and flight-deck sailors may soon wear flame-resistant pants and long-sleeve jerseys, which are currently undergoing testing.
Submariners, however, are stuck with what they’ve got: Utility coveralls. That’s until the Navy designs an all-purpose coverall later on, a process that could take years.