The demand for military clothing, body armour and other military equipment has risen sharply, a recent report says, as a result of the need to protect soldiers in conflicts arising from the so-called war on terror - especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And this has greatly benefited a number of fibre, textile and clothing manufacturers in the Western world, according to the report on 'Developments in military clothing,' published in Performance Apparel Markets by Textiles Intelligence.

The ever present threat of terrorism has raised concerns about the vulnerability of military forces in general, and troops in war zones in particular.

Governments around the world have sharpened their focus on military preparedness - including how best to clothe and equip their countries' soldiers.

They have invested heavily in the development of military uniforms which improve a soldier's performance and comfort and offer the potential to save lives during combat.

As a result, developments in military clothing are being made today at a faster pace than at any time in history.

New battledress concepts which harness nanotechnology and other advanced technologies have been devised with a view to helping the performance of soldiers on the battlefield by improving their ballistic protection, reducing the weight they carry, optimising their camouflage and amplifying their physical strength.

Military clothing is an integral part of a soldier's fighting kit.

It plays a key role in protecting soldiers during combat, and must therefore perform several functions in the most rugged of wearing conditions. At the same time, it must remain durable.

Developments in military clothing have been driven mainly by changes in the ways in which wars are fought.

Because modern warfare is more likely to take place in congested urban streets than on battlefields, today's military clothing has an appearance and performance characteristics which contrast sharply with those of uniforms worn by soldiers fighting in the trenches during the First World War.

Scientists have developed digital camouflage which adapts to the soldier's environment.

Other developments have been spurred by the need for greater comfort and protection.

M5 is a lightweight fibre with a three-dimensional honeycomb structure which gives the material a unique combination of properties.

Shear thickening fluid (STF) is a material containing nanoparticles which hardens instantly upon sudden impact. STF can be sprayed on to Kevlar in very thin coats in order to create liquid body armour and provide complete protection - rather than just covering vital organs.

Scientists have developed dynamic armour which can change from being flexible to stiff when a ballistic threat is detected.

Research is also under way to develop fabrics which can generate power from body movements by making them from fibres coated with zinc oxide nanowires.

Fibres have been developed which can stimulate muscles and give soldiers greater strength for physical actions, such as lifting or jumping.

Other possibilities include an exoskeleton which uses robotics to support a soldier's legs - thus enabling him to march faster over long distances, lift heavier objects, jump greater heights and carry more protection and weapons.

Several nations in the industrialised world have already implemented soldier modernisation programmes which aim to turn the common soldier into a powerful, fully integrated weapons platform.

Meanwhile, the US Army is working on its Future Force Warrior (FFW) programme and Objective Force Warrior (OFW) programme.

Some of the technological breakthroughs achieved in military clothing are far-reaching. However, it may take years before they can be translated into wearable products.