Monday, January 19, 2009

[ Technical Textiles - Tech textile industry needs platform to capture defence business.]

New Delhi (PTI): The domestic technical textile industry needs to create a platform for stronger industry- defence exchanges and partnership to capture a major part in the country's outlay of about Rs 2,000 crore on clothing and fabric needs of its armed forces and security personnel.

According to a study by industry association FICCI, India spends a large amount of money on purchasing uniforms for the 1.5-million-strong armed forces and an equal number of paramilitary and security forces.

But the USD 8-billion Indian technical textile industry is losing the business as most of the security-related orders are being carted away by foreign companies, the study said.

"A large number of the armed forces and security personnel are required to be equipped with protective and special clothing that are called 'technical textiles'. This requirement is functional in nature and offer a large market for Indian technical textiles manufacturers," the study said.

Technical textiles are also used by defence and para- military forces for their parachutes, bullet proof jackets, geo-textiles for border roads, tents and mosquito nets.

Emphasising stronger industry-defence exchanges and partnership to develop large domestic manufacturing base, the study said strong relationship was imperative, as small- and medium-sized manufacturers found it difficult to penetrate the defence market due to irregular nature of such contracts.

To promote innovation in the technical textile field, it said the Defence Ministry should speed up testing processes and trial procedures for enabling quicker approvals for the Indian products.

"There is a need to develop and support regular industry fora to exchange information related to current and future defence requirements, and the industry should be engaged even at the stage of development of technical specifications by the defence forces," the study suggested.

Besides, the Defence Ministry should implement the lowest bidder concept "with caution" in order to encourage domestic manufacturing quality and innovation in technical textiles.

"Many companies say that they do not receive contracts from the defence forces because of the lowest bidder oncept, even if their products are of better quality, durable and suitable for the personnel," the study said.

Urging that indigenous manufacturing capability in the technical textiles area is important for the nation, the study said that domestic market would ensure reliable and regular supply of defence requirements during exigencies.

However, the study said the current characteristics of technical textiles for Indian armed forces were not adequate and needed to be upgraded to global standards.

There are a number of features being adopted by defence forces the world over that are not found in Indian context such as self-detoxification, sweat management, and integration of hi-tech sensors and actuators, it noted.

"A 21st Century battle suit embedded with nano technology can stop bullets, detect chemical and biological agents, monitor wounded soldier's vital signs, administer basic first aid and also communicate with the headquarters," it said.

The fabric used by the defence forces should be multi- risk protective against heat, flame, electric arc, static electricity, projectiles, wind, water and liquid chemicals. Simultaneously, the fabric need to be comfortable, light weight, breathable and durable," it noted.

During an interaction with DRDO, the country's premier defense research agency, the FICCI study team observed that textile material of a few items such as tents, combat helmets and bullet resistance vest armour (BRVA) required by the defense forces needed to be improved and upgraded.

Tents were currently susceptible to mildew formation and ultra-violet degradation, and hence these required chemical finishes to counter the conditions. The Combat Helmets needed to meet high-powered ballistics and the BRVA needed to cost less without compromising on quality.


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