Defense and the textile industry

For all of IFAI’s history, solutions to the United States’ defense needs have provided opportunities for manufacturing and innovation that have driven—and continue to drive—the specialty fabrics industry.

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First developed and manufactured in 1939 by DuPont®, nylon was fabricated entirely of petrochemicals—the first truly manufactured fiber. During WWII, nylon was used to replace silk in parachutes, and was also used in tires, tents, ropes and other military items. Now, nylon plays a significant part in the specialty fabrics industry—from tents to awnings and beyond.

Figure 7

In 2010, Q-Net™, from QinetiQ North America, worked in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop a lightweight rocket-propelled grenade solution (RPG) based on nets rather than traditional armor. The lightweight net fibrous material can be installed on a wide range of tactical and lightly armored vehicles, and because it is 50 to 60 percent lighter than metallic armor systems, it saves fuel and reduces the likelihood of vehicle roll-over and wear and tear from excessive weight.

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Figure 9

After the U.S. Navy tracked a Japanese submarine to the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif. in 1942, Col. John F. Ohmer, a pioneer in camouflage and commander of the March Field Camouflage Training Center, was assigned the task of implementing “passive defense measures” for all vital installations along the Pacific coast. “Camouflage California” was a cooperative effort—of set designers from MGM, 20th Century Fox, Disney, Paramount and Universal—to hide more than 34 air bases using fake foliage and structural cover constructed of wire, burlap, canvas and camouflage netting. Though the camouflaging worked well enough to fool pilots, it was never put to the test against the Japanese.

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During WWII, each American field hospital was staffed by 223 assorted personnel. Not only was the staff housed in tents, but the hospital itself operated under canvas.

Jessica Bies is a freelance writer based in St. Peter, Minn.
Sigrid Tornquist is a freelance author and editor based in St. Paul, Minn. She is also the associate editor of InTents magazine, a publication of the Industrial Fabrics Association International.