Manufacturers of military clothing and equipment are facing high amount of pressure to make innovations. This pressure has intensified as armed forces worldwide brace for conflict in the view of the war in Ukraine and as opposition forces make significant advances in the development of new technologies and weaponry.
Particularly, a lot of strides are being made in the development of lethal weapons and surveillance systems which render conventional military clothing and equipment redundant.
Similarly, manufacturers are working on new technologies that promote and provide effective personal protection, especially during combat – which includes next-generation body armour, uniforms capable of concealing thermal signatures and wearable devices that can optimise performance.
For instance, research into the potential applications of nanomaterials for use in the manufacture of uniforms which can conceal thermal signatures has shown potential. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) which includes graphene, in particular, has excellent mechanical and thermal properties that effectively enable them to absorb and dissipate radiation emitted by infrared radar systems. Hence, research is being conducted into textile coatings which contain CNTs as well as graphene.
It is assumed that military personnel wearing uniforms treated with such coatings could display much smaller thermal signatures than military personnel wearing conventional uniforms.
An alternative field of research which is still in its early stages is the potential of metamaterials in the manufacturing of uniforms. Metamaterials are capable of redirecting or bending light and electromagnetic (EM) radiation, effectively rendering objects invisible.
Global demand for such innovations is expected to grow rapidly over the period between 2020 and 2028 as a result of escalating political tensions worldwide and the expansion and modernisation of military forces in several countries.
Despite the ever rising demand for innovation in military clothing and equipment, significant challenges will be presented by scaling the production of new and complex technologies – not least because of the high costs of doing so.
Moreover, there are disparities between, the desired performance of some technologies that used in manufacturing of the military uniforms, and their availability because of budgetary and technological constraints. These disparities will prove considerable.