Cotance Newsletter February 2024

Leather – a Strategic Material in Military Clothing

On February 24, 2024, the World celebrated a very sorrowful anniversary – two years since the onset of the Russo-Ukrainian war. While you may have heard about the delivery of Taurus missiles, F16 jets, and Patriot systems to Ukraine, the significance of leather as a crucial material for the military sector is likely something you haven’t heard much about.

First and foremost, leather is crucial in manufacturing military boots. Why? Because only leather ensures that soldiers don’t have to worry about their feet getting cold in winter, sweating in summer, or becoming wet during heavy rains. These boots are almost entirely made from high-performance leather, usually heavy cattle hides, and their production follows demanding standards and meticulous quality controls to fulfill the stringent requirements set for military use. Only leather can make soldier’s boots breathable, durable, waterproof, ensuring the maximum wearing comfort day in day out.

Leather is also utilised for aviators’ and military officers’ jackets, handgun holsters, gloves, belts, and various military equipment components, as well as in prosthetics and other technical applications.

For this newsletter, we engaged in numerous conversations with Ukrainian leather industry operators, but for their safety, we won’t disclose their identities. 

Director of the Ukrainian Industrial Company specialising in footwear for special and military purposes:I can’t say with certainty whether leather occupies a large share in military procurement, but there are definitively goods where you can’t do without it. For winter boots, leather is key, as it has better physical properties than any other material. Another example can be leather seats for land-based military and medical-related vehicles. Leather substitutes have proven ineffective in extreme conditions, such as explosions or shelling, where they become toxic and melt. Therefore, leather is irreplaceable on
the battlefield

COTANCE had also the opportunity to interview a Sergeant Major, the chief of administration from the Khmelnytskyi district division, and a Senior Soldier of the King Danylo 24th separate mechanised brigade, 46th separate battalion fighting now in the Bakhmut direction.

When asked to identify military products made from leather, they all emphasized boots, whether winter or summer, which are exclusively made from leather, followed by handgun holsters. They both noted: ”Leather is simply practical, it doesn’t need much care, it withstands extreme conditions, and is long-lasting”. ”In the 90s, as a soldier, I had more leather items, but a number of them have been replaced by other materials. Yet, when it comes to boots, nothing compares to leather”, – says Sergeant Major.

According to Ukrlegprom:
By 2022, 339 enterprises and 30.5 thousand people (23% of the total number of people employed in the light industry TCLF) were employed in the production of leather and footwear in Ukraine. 

Commenting on the current situation, the Managing Director of one of the largest tanneries in Ukraine says: “There are not so many Ukrainian leather producers left, but there are over 1,000 workers in the sector making a significant contribution to Ukraine’s effort to win in the war with Russia. We supply the leather for the production of military footwear, clothing and special products”.

Following the previous statements, the Managing Director adds:  “Yet, we have problems with the shortage of raw materials, chemicals and especially technologies for leather production. Difficulties with staff over the past 2 years are another challenge for leather production. Many people simply went abroad in 2022, and replacing them is a real problem, because training and preparing a specialist at any stage of leather production takes more than a month, or years, as in the case of production process technologists. But we continue to work despite this and contribute to our Victory”.

Our sources from the Ukrainian footwear sector regret that the blockade of the borders has a significant impact on logistics, which consequently impacts adversely on domestic production processes.

War is a tragedy. Yet, amidst all the suffering, leather emerges as a key material, ensuring protection and comfort to soldiers and serving as a reliable ”comrade”; that does not fail at critical battlefield moments. Indeed, the current war makes us rediscover leather as a strategically important material for domestic defense capabilities. 

This newsletter also serves to remind us of the significant support Ukraine continuously needs from all of us at all fronts, including in the area of leather availability.

At a time when Europe is reflecting on the crucial need for military sovereignty, it would not be out of place to give some thought to an EU-wide approach ensuring self-sufficiency in the supply of leather for Europe’s armed forces.

Edited by

In cooperation with;

If you want to go further:
Ukrlegprom | Web
United24 | Web
Humanitarian Aid | Website 

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