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Application of a Low-Cost, Flame-Resistant Treatment to the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform that Provides Durable, Flame-Resistant Properties



OBJECTIVE: Develop a low-cost and durable flame-resistant (FR) treatment for the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU). 

DESCRIPTION: In response to the need to provide flame protection, the Marine Corps developed flame-resistant (FR) combat uniforms, utilizing materials with inherently FR fibers (e.g., FR rayon and meta and para-aramids). Although these FR materials provide FR protection, they are significantly more expensive and less durable, compared to the non-FR combat/duty uniform, the MCCUU, where this material is a 50/50 blend of nylon and cotton (NYCO). The durability issues have impacted the cost to the Marine Corps since these FR uniforms must be replaced more frequently increasing procurement and logistical costs. Current FR fabrics are produced with either inherently FR fibers or by applying flame retardant chemicals to non-FR fabrics, specifically cotton fabrics. Fabrics produced with inherently FR fibers are significantly more expensive, less durable, and are typically less comfortable, especially in hot and humid weather. Treating fabrics with FR chemicals also has drawbacks as the treatment adds weight and decreases strength, leading to lower comfort and durability. While the addition of non-FR fibers (e.g., nylon) increases fabric durability, only fabrics with a high cotton blend percentage can be successfully FR treated. Since FR treatments are designed to bond to cotton fibers, only a low percentage of non-FR fibers can be blended before FR performance deteriorates; typically, FR-treated cotton fabrics contain no more than 12% non-FR fibers. NYCO fiber blend is 50% non-FR (i.e., nylon) and 50% cotton. Advances in technologies may enable the development of affordable and durable FR material by treating the current MCCUU garments or the MCCUU fabric (NYCO). Proposed material concepts should meet all MCCUU requirements, referenced in the MCCUU Product Description, and also meet the vertical flame requirement listed in below. The treatment should have a stable shelf life as MCCUU’s are occasionally stored in unconditioned warehouses for years. It should also not negatively impact fabric color, print clarity, spectral reflectance (current and potential future (beyond near infrared) requirements), hand, and air permeability or other treatments (e.g., permethrin) applied during manufacturing. Preference will be given to technologies that exceed objectives and also meet all MCCUU requirements. The targeted cost increase for this technology should be less than 5% of the current MCCUU (objective) and less than 10% of the current MCCUU (threshold) cost. The current MCCUU cost is approximately $80 per set (blouse and trouser). Preference will be given to technologies that can be applied to the MCCUU, although, the Marine Corps may consider other technical options (e.g., treating NYCO fabrics). Applying FR treatment to the MCCUU would enable treatment of existing MCCUU’s. Test Method: ASTM D 6413 Characteristic: Vertical Flame – initial Wales and courses after flame, Threshold = 2.0 seconds (max) Objective = 2.0 seconds (max) Characteristic: Char Length, Threshold = 6 Inches (max) Objective = 5 Inches (max) Characteristic: Melt/Drip Threshold = None Objective = None Test Method: ASTM D 6413, AATCC135 (Washing and Drying Conditions: Washing Machine Cycle: (1) Normal/Cotton Sturdy, Washing Temperature: Warm 30 ± 4.2°C (86 ± 7.5°F), and Drying Procedure: (A) Tumble, i. Normal) Characteristic: Vertical Flame – after home laundering w/d cycles Threshold = 50 Cycles Objective = 100 Cycles Wales and courses after flame, Threshold = 2.0 seconds (max) Objective = 2.0 seconds (max) Characteristic: Char Length, Threshold = 6 Inches (max) Objective = 5 Inches (max) Characteristic: Melt/Drip Threshold = None Objective = None If the added cost to incorporate this technology is minimal, the Marine Corps could potentially eliminate a uniform variant and issue one uniform: an FR MCCUU, instead of two uniforms: an FR and non-FR uniform (i.e., MCCUU). With approximately 180,000 active duty Marines and additional Reserve Marines, the market size is significant, since Marines need to constantly replace their worn MCCUU’s. 

PHASE I: Demonstrate the feasibility of applying the FR treatment to the MCCUU. Develop concepts and evaluate their technical feasibility. Conduct physical property evaluations of the materials to demonstrate FR and non-FR performance. Provide at least three MCCUU sets (blouses and trousers) or an equivalent amount of fabric to the Marine Corps for Marine Corps testing and evaluation. 

PHASE II: Optimize the material properties based on Marine Corps evaluation results and feedback in Phase I, and scale-up the production process to reduce manufacturing costs. Provide at least 10 MCCUU sets to the Marine Corps for evaluation based on the performance criteria in the description section; wash cycle testing, field trials, abrasion testing. 

PHASE III: Demonstrate the suitability of the material in a clothing design and field evaluation. Integrate the material into relevant items for system level testing, evaluation, and demonstration. Provide at least 100 MCCUU sets to the Marine Corps for evaluation. In addition to the military market, a durable and affordable FR material would have applications to clothing worn in the first responder community, oil and gas industry (well drilling, servicing, production-related operations), and electrical/utility industry. 


1: ASTM D 6413, Standard Test Method for Flame Resistance of Textiles (Vertical Test)

2:  NFPA 701, D1.1, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films

3:  UL 723, Standard for Test for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials

4:  Industry experts Flame Retardant Chemicals – A Global Market Overview, Report Code: CP012 October 2011.

5:  Rebouillat, S. High Performance Fibers, Woodhead Publishing, Cambridge, U.K., pp23-61 (2001).

6:  Schutz, H. G., Cardello, A. V., Winterhalter, C. Textile Research Journal, 75: 223-232 (2005).

7:  Requirements for Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform (MCCUU), MIL-PRF-MCCUU REV E, 1 JULY 2016, 76 pages (uploaded to SITIS 11/29/2017)

KEYWORDS: Nylon; Cotton; NYCO; MARPAT; MCCUU; Fiber; Fire; Flame-retardant 


John Bauer 

(703) 432-5676 

Joe Augustine 

(703) 432-5700 

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