British fashion designers help develop future of combat clothing

Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory are continuing to work with a range of industry partners to develop the Army’s Future Soldier Vision, showcasing the personal equipment that soldiers could be using by the mid-2020s.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) works to apply cutting-edge science and technology (S&T) to keep the UK Armed Forces and British people protected from harm.

The British Army’s Future Soldier Vision (FSV) is part of the Ministry of Defence’s plan to ensure that British soldiers have high-quality equipment utilising the latest technologies, as part of an integrated system. FSV gives companies an aim point – an example of an integrated soldier system that balances military need with technology that delivers distributed power to data, scalable and integrated protection, augmented surveillance and target acquisition, and a range of functional fabrics incorporated into the clothing.

Partners include the Royal College of Art (RCA) who provided professional designers, who – when they weren’t working in London on high-end jewellery – spent months working on the clothing to ensure prototypes were fitted to the body, were easy to run in and comfortable to wear.

Discussing the project, Head of Programme for Textiles and Reader in Smart Textiles at the RCA, Anne Toomey, said: “The RCA was pleased to have this opportunity to demonstrate how our innovative design approaches can enhance value and impact across sectors through optimising existing materials performance and fabrication.

“As the RCA grows its research activities to embrace new materials and fabrication technologies, we will be able to further extend this reach upstream. We plan to become the world’s first STEAM institution, operating a design-led approach to future innovation with materials through the development of our new Materials Science Research Centre.”

As well as the design of advanced combat clothing, which includes new materials like four-way stretch fabric and silent hook and loop pockets, new body armour will be lighter, and a new high-tech helmet will have state-of-the-art built-in communication systems.

Contributors to FSV so far include SEA; Revision Military; Source Tactical; Qioptiq; Morgan Advanced Materials; Intelligent Textiles; CamelBak; Leatherman (through Whitby and Co); and 3M.

Dstl has also worked with a number of small and non-traditional suppliers like the RCA to develop options for improved soldier system components.


Following a successful presentation as part of Future Soldier Vision 2 (FSV2), RCA supplied a number of sets of prototype combat clothing, which were assessed at Warminster to inform the future clothing requirement.

Future Soldier Vision is designed around a ‘fight lighter’ concept, with soldiers carrying a combat load of 25kg as opposed to weights currently carried of up to 58kg or more. The equipment will be fully integrated and adaptable, allowing troops to use kit variations necessary for a particular operation.

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