The U.S. Army is exploring hemp and jute as raw materials for camouflage uniforms used by its snipers.
The Army earlier this month put out a request for information (RFI) on the two natural fibers for potential use in the Improved Ghillie System (IGS), “a new and improved . . . system developed to meet the concealment needs of the sniper community.”
A total of 400,000 yards of naturally colored jute or hemp yarn is being sought by the Army’s Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment division. The RFI defined the material as “approximately a 48 lb. Jute Count, 3 ply.”
Research has shown that the complex three-dimensional structure of hemp fibers results in a moisture-absorption rate three times that of cotton, and kills bacteria that come into contact with woven fabric within one hour. Material made from hemp is also fast-drying, can shield more than 95 percent of ultraviolet rays, is non-fading up to 370° C (698 F°) and does not burn at 1000° (1,832 F°) or below.
China’s People’s Liberation Army started making uniforms and socks from hemp fiber as far back as 2010.
Under the U.S.Army’s supplier guidelines, finished hemp yarn can be imported from other countries or spun domestically; jute fabric must be spun in the U.S. but raw materials may be imported.
The material cannot present a health hazard to soldiers, must be compatible with prolonged, direct skin contact, and cannot add significant weight to the uniforms, the Army said.
The Army’s RFI is issued for information gathering and planning purposes only, does not constitute formal bidding, “and will not directly lead to any contract awards,” the Army said. Responses to the RFI are due by July 27.