Will a Russian soldier wear a uniform made from domestic fabrics?
Against the backdrop of ongoing disputes about whether the Superjet will fly with domestically produced engines and how to replace the power plants previously supplied by Ukraine for military ships, the problem of the development and production in Russia of modern fabrics necessary for sewing not only field fabrics, but also the everyday uniform of military personnel.
The topic of import substitution is one of the most popular not only among politicians, heads of the national defense industry at various levels, the media, but also among experts with specialists of varying degrees of awareness. Undoubtedly, over the past two years, our defense industry has achieved certain results, sometimes very noticeable, in such areas as engine building, manufacturing of components for precision optics, and many others. There have been certain advances in mechanical engineering, and domestic high-precision machine tools are emerging.
But in other areas, the problem of replacing foreign components continues to be very acute, which gives rise to some experts to assert that the import substitution program is not being implemented.
The suit is ours, the fabric is foreign
It is no secret that in recent years a large number of modern high-tech materials have appeared in the world, making it possible to make the form not only more convenient and comfortable, but also quite versatile.
"After the Gore-Tex company launched a wide production of its membrane in the 80s, which the leading countries of the world immediately began to use for the manufacture of windproof clothing sets for their armed forces, natural fabrics and materials gave way to synthetic materials," says an employee of one of the Russian firms engaged in the manufacture of various items of clothing for security officials.
Until recently, in providing uniforms, our army was significantly inferior to foreign ones. The trendsetter here is traditionally the United States, which developed and implemented in the mid-2000s two sets - PCU and ECWCS. Each consists of seven layers, the combination of which, depending on external conditions, allows servicemen to always be dressed for the weather.
The basis of a seven-layer set is the so-called fifth layer. The jacket and trousers are made of softshell fabric, which blocks the wind well, but at the same time quickly removes sweat and dries up. No less important is the seventh layer, colloquially referred to as "teplik". This is a warmed jacket and pants that are worn on halts so as not to freeze. Also, the "hothouse" is worn when the temperature drops below minus 25 degrees. But the main requirement for the seventh layer is to be very warm and remove moisture, but at the same time take up little space, weigh the minimum and roll up into a bundle that can be easily removed into a backpack.
Similar multilayer systems were developed in many countries of the world, in Russia this topic was dealt with at least ten years ago. Currently, a set called VKPO - an all-season set of field uniforms (previously called VKBO - an all-season set of basic uniforms), manufactured by BTK-group, is accepted for supply to the RF Armed Forces. Soon, the troops will receive specialized multi-layer sets of field uniforms for extremely low temperatures, for warfare in the mountains and a number of other types of special uniforms.
For a long time, the VKPO-VKBO set was criticized for the fact that almost all of its elements were sewn from foreign fabrics and equipped with imported fittings.
Prohibition with exception
It is clear that the range of fabrics and materials used in sewing an all-season set of field (basic) uniforms includes several dozen items. At the same time, it makes sense to isolate from the list the most important components, without which VKPO will not meet the requirements set by the customer.
Military personnel interviewed by the Military Industrial Courier, as well as specialists involved in the development and sewing of field uniforms, identified three key components: the already mentioned windproof softshell, membrane fabric and synthetic insulation.
It is noteworthy that if membrane fabrics and softshell companies - manufacturers of field uniforms from different countries are chosen mostly arbitrarily, since there are enough offers in this segment on the world market, then in terms of insulation, everyone is unanimous: today the standard is the products of Primaloft, in particular the series Silver and Gold.
“Primaloft Silver is most commonly used by manufacturers of insulated seventh layer. Through the use of a special technology, two types of fibers with different melting points are brought to a temperature where a certain part of them sticks together. It turns out a material with unique properties, thanks to which finished products not only perfectly protect from the cold, but also remove moisture, and most importantly, which is very important for use in the army, for a long time without losing their properties, they can be in a compressed state,”explains technologist of one of the industrial production, familiar with the situation.
According to VPK, last year BTK-group applied to the Ministry of Industry and Trade for permission to purchase a certain amount of imported materials and components for the production of clothing.
On the one hand, such purchases are impeded by government decree No. 791 of August 11, 2014 "On the establishment of a ban on the admission of light industry goods originating from foreign countries." But the document contains an essential clause that it is possible to purchase foreign products if there is no production of these goods on the territory of the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
The BTK list includes several items of softshell fabric, and the volume of purchases is measured in tens and hundreds of thousands of running meters. Suppliers according to the list were such well-known manufacturers as the Swiss company Schoeller Textile AG and the American Miliken & Company.
Also, the manufacturer VKPO-VKBO planned to purchase several types of synthetic insulation from Primaloft. As in the case of softshell, the amount of imported products, depending on the series, varied from tens to hundreds of thousands of running meters.
BTK-group did not bypass membranes either, planning to purchase several hundred thousand running meters of fabric with PTFE membrane from the already mentioned Swiss company Schoeller Textil AG. At present, "MIC" is not known for certain what decision was made by the leadership of the Ministry of Industry and Trade and whether the purchase of these materials and components was approved.
It turns out that out of the three critical components of VKPO-VKBO named by the newspaper's interlocutors, all three manufacturing firms are forced to import.
In addition, according to the "VPK", the opportunity to purchase foreign materials, which is provided by Resolution No. 791, was used when ordering uniforms and other law enforcement agencies.
We can, but not all
Based on the wording in the document developed by the government and signed by its head Dmitry Medvedev, we can conclude that, unfortunately, materials and components that are critical for the production of field uniforms for Russian servicemen are not produced in our country. But such reasoning is somewhat erroneous.
“The windproof softshell fabric is based on polyamide-6, 6. Yes, at present in Russia there is no mass production of fabrics based on it, alas,” admits Svetlana Lopandina, General Director of the Central Research Institute of the Garment Industry.
But the problem is not the backwardness of the Russian sewing industry.
“Earlier, Russian manufacturers have successfully mastered the manufacture of fabrics based on polyamide-6. Components for polyamide-6, 6 are imported from abroad, plus we need to build production and purchase equipment. These are quite serious financial investments. Domestic firms are ready to accept them only if they are provided with stable orders that allow them to recoup their investments,”Lopandina explains.
It is known that BTK-group has already begun work on the production of fabrics based on polyamide-6, 6 in Russia. Earlier, the company managed to master the production of knitted fabrics, similar to the well-known products of Polartek. Currently, Russian material is used to make several layers in the VKPO set.
“Although we jokingly call the third layer“the fur of an outlandish animal”and the fabric does not look the same as the American counterparts from PCU, it is still a domestic product and, most importantly, it is given free of charge. Moreover, in terms of its properties, it is not bad,”an officer of one of the special-purpose brigades shares his impressions.
However, it would be a mistake to blame Russian manufacturers for not producing all the necessary types of fabrics. In the United States, the production of such materials - from the development of oil-based components to the creation of the canvas itself - is far from completely localized on the territory of the country. The same Primaloft company buys materials from which the fibers of the famous insulation are later made in Europe and East Asia.
“Now Russian manufacturers produce insulation no worse than Primaloft. In particular, at the end of last year, the Termopol company presented us for testing its new line of heaters, in some ways even superior to their American counterparts,”says Svetlana Lopandina.
However, for now, some domestic manufacturers and developers of field uniforms are still quite skeptical about Russian heaters, preferring to manufacture products using proven imports. But sources of "MIC" in the law enforcement agencies and the Russian Ministry of Defense noted that the price of products with American insulation after the fall in the ruble exchange rate became unjustifiably high.
What is really a serious problem in Russia is the production of membrane tissue. Leading manufacturers such as Gore-Tex and a number of others do not supply the membrane itself to the Russian market, but ready-made so-called bags, in which the membrane is located between two other types of fabrics. It is still difficult to compete with such products. At the same time, according to Svetlana Lopandina, Tchaikovsky Textile is already mastering the production of its own membrane bags, although the most important component - the membrane still has to be purchased abroad.
The patient is rather alive
It must be admitted that the production of modern fabrics for special clothing and uniforms is a fairly science-intensive area that requires significant costs for the development and development of the production of new materials. Moreover, almost completely localizing the entire production cycle, alas, is still beyond the power of even the United States, let alone European countries.
At the same time, despite the criticism, Russian manufacturers do not look as lagging as they seem at first glance. But so far the lack of mass orders still remains a limiting factor in some areas.