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Navy releases video of NWU flame test

Dec. 27, 2012 - 01:34PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 27, 2012 - 01:34PM  |  
NWU Flame Test
NWU Flame Test: Flammability comparison between the Marine Corps' FROG Combat Uniform and the Navy's Working Uniform
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An image taken from a video the Navy released shows the Navy working uniform will burn rapidly and melt when exposed to flame. ()

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12/26: Navy stands by NWUs despite report (PRIME)
12/21: NWU under fire: Report raises concern (PRIME)

The Navy released a video Thursday of an October test that found the Navy working uniform will burn rapidly and melt when exposed to flame.

Navy testers reported the blue-and-gray NWU, made of 50/50 nylon-cotton blend fabric, will "burn robustly until completely consumed" and that the nylon fibers will melt and drip off, according to the report from the Oct. 15 test by the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility in Natick, Mass.

This dripping of super-hot threads potentially puts sailors at risk, the report makes clear: "If this sticky molten material came in contact with skin, it would contribute to increased burn injury."

The grainy video shows the NWU fabric ablaze, but the dark image makes it hard to spot the observed melting.

News of the test has outraged many sailors, upset that the service would approve such uniforms as fire is one of gravest threats crews face. But officials said these test results weren't surprising and NWUs were never rated as flame-resistant, the industry-standard term for fabric that self-extinguishes and doesn't melt.

Navy leadership says they're taking the Natick test seriously. After news of the test">broke Dec. 12, Fleet Forces Command launched a panel to review all fleet uniforms for fire safety, including utility coveralls, a polyester-cotton blend uniform that textile chemists say will also burn and melt when exposed to flame.

The video released Thursday which had been requested a week earlier by Navy Times shows the Oct. 15 flame-resistance test, which compared the blue-and-gray NWUs with other services' combat uniforms. Strips of each fabric were hung and exposed to flame for 12 seconds. Testers then measured the results.

The video first shows the flame-resistant organizational gear used by the Marine Corps. It behaved as rated the fire went out immediately once the flame was removed and the fabric didn't melt.

The NWU is the second fabric tested. It's exposed to flame at the 19-second mark in the video. Twelve seconds later, the external flame is removed; the fabric is already engulfed in flames.

"All material samples totally consumed by robustly burning flames," according to the report, which also observed melting and dripping and that the entire fabric sample was charred.

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