Back in 2020, when India had a face-off with China in Galwan, it forced the country to buy some extreme cold weather clothing system (ECWCS) from the US for its troops. But now,  defence enterprise Troop Comfort Ltd (TCL) has stitched up its own version of multi-layered suits that can insulate soldiers from sub-zero temperatures. The hardy clothing can be deployed at the world’s highest hostile battlefield of Siachen glaciers.

Tried and tested

TCL offered 21 samples of the seven layered ECWCS suits to Army’s Northern Command for trials last October. This was after an autonomous lab - the ‘Wool Research Association Textile Testing Lab (WRATTL)’ in Thane, cleared the suits for quality, senior officials of the government defence company told BL.

Army’s Northern Command, however, is said to have asked the TCL to be ready for another round of trials in the coming winter to test the ECWCS in extreme live weather environment as the suits, according to the Forces, need improvement for withstanding insulation and breathability beyond minus 20 degree. The average temperature dips from -10 degrees to beyond -50 degrees in Siachen where soldiers man base camps that are 12,000 feet above sea level, with the Bana Top post from where an eye is kept on Pakistan scaling 20,000 feet.

The WRATT lab, which was also given a sample of extreme weather clothing supplied by the US to the Indian Army for comparison with TCL-manufactured suits, found it as good as the ones imported from Washington, TCL officials claimed. While the upper of the suit is seven-layered, the lower is only five layers. The different layers of insulation come as attachments in the ECWCS and are put on as per weather conditions like temperature and wind velocity which adds chill factor, they emphasised.

Army officials, who have done high altitude postings, explained that soldiers’ metabolism increases and their body generates heat as they move from, for instance, 12,000 feet to 20,000 feet and form a liquid film between the skin and the clothing. So the ECWCS has to have two important parameters, of right insulation and breathability, for warmth, they stressed. The heat loss leads to casualty of soldiers due to ‘hypothermia’, commented Army officials .

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had done an emergency purchase of 30,000 ECWCS from the US Army to equip Indian Army personnel with adequate extreme winter clothing post-Galwan stand-off in May of 2020, that led to casualty from both the sides.

With MoD putting the import of ECWCS under negative list to push Atmanirbharthaa in the defence sector, TCL sources said, the Centre will be able to save ₹200 to ₹300 crore annually otherwise paid to foreign vendors. Each suit, manufactured at a Shahjahanpur factory of the TCL, costs somewhere between ₹25,000 to ₹30,000, besides which boots and other accessories are priced separately.

The fiscal health of TCL is also showing signs of improvement since the MoD converted former ordinance factory boards into corporates for better performance. Its sales from operations for FY 2022-23 was Rs 1001.57 crore, as against Rs 575.71 crore in FY 2021-22 (from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022).