Fabrics of innumerable types play an important part in all facets of the military. Several manufacturers in South Africa now form a South African Technical Textile Cluster, which aims to become recognised as a global supplier of standard-setting quality. Both Stepahead and Gelvenor Textiles (Stand 12-C40) are members of the cluster.
Gelvenor Textiles was the first African manufacturer of aeronautical fabrics, and pioneered a water-based coating for parachutes. Besides producing South Africa’s first fire-retardant (FR) fabric, the company holds the title of Africa’s largest weaver of aramid fabrics for protective ballistic protection.
Gelvenor’s Para-Aramid yarns can be treated to be water repellent for soft ballistics or PVB coated for hard ballistics. Its innovative fabrics made from Kevlar and Twaron provide the ultimate protection against threats ranging from spikes and blades through to ballistic and fragmentation protection.
With a proven track record, the company’s fabrics have been used worldwide for more than 25 years.
It offers a range of military canopies, including cargo, deceleration/ extraction and flare parachutes, manufactured to parachute industry association (PIA-C-7020 T1 and 44378 T2) standards, with reserves at 38g PIA-C-44378 TI/T4/T5 and mains at 45g zero porosity.
“We also have an extensive range of inherently flame-retardant fabrics for firefighters, police and armed forces,” said Dicky Coetzee, Gelvenor chief executive. “The fibres and yarns are engineered to be flame-retardant for the lifespan of the garment,” he explained.
Stepahead, well-known for its military headwear, has just launched a market-leading fire-retardant flight suit. Working hand in glove with Gelvenor Textiles, Stepahead now produces the FR flight suits in its manufacturing facility in Pretoria.
Made from Protal, advanced inherent FR materials, the suits can be manufactured to a customer’s colour preference, even in Hi-Vis yellow.
Protal is a patent-protected technical fibre blend that is strictly controlled. Gelvenor secured the rights from Waxman Fibres to produce the fabric, which is lightweight yet strong, breathable and comfortable to handle and wear. “From our early beginnings in 2004, we made quality our top priority,” said managing director Maureen Simo s.
Stepahead employs specialist gold thread embroiderers to handmake military headgear, rank badges and other accoutrements for armed forces in the Middle East, the Indian Ocean Islands and Southern Africa.