Maternity flights suits are not the only changes coming to Air Force uniforms. Current flight suit standards are made to be safe without being too heavy – which is perfect in a comfortable climate with mild temperature ranges. But so often mild temperatures are far different than what aircrews face. In fact, they end up being weighed down with bulky clothing layers for added warmth.
Cold Weather Flight Suits
The Air Force is looking to change that with cold-weather flight suits by finding ways for flight crews to reduce the bulk clothing layers airmen often add just to keep warm. One of the companies working to help find a solution for this new flight suit is OROS, a Portland-based cold-weather apparel company, who was recently selected to receive an award from the Air Force as part of their Small Business Innovation Research initiative.
OROS began when its co-founder Michael Markesbery had a big idea to use the aerogel technology NASA uses to insulate spacecraft and use it to protect humans against extreme environments on Earth. Using the technology, they have created, OROS’s SOLARCOR. Their job is to bring the technology of their SOLARCOR to the development of new long-range flight suits. The goal is to create a flight suit that both neutralizes the external elements and maintains a consistent core temperature in all conditions.
“Our team couldn’t be more thrilled to be taking on this project,” says Jeff Nash, CTO and VP of Product at OROS. “Everything we do at OROS is about taking the most advanced insulation technology and evolving and tailoring it for application in real-life situations. Putting our research to use for individuals whose pursuits require them to push their physical limits is essentially why we do what we do, so we’re incredibly enthused about this work with the US Air Force.”
Battery Powered Uniforms
In addition to this technology, the Air Force is also looking into an electrically heated powered flight suits that would cover not only their body but their hands and feet as well. The focus is on helicopter crews specifically in the Northern regions that face extreme cold, but it could also extend to air crews overseas. Air Force Material Command spokesman Brian Brackens said, “The flight suits would be powered by the helicopter, if necessary, or by a battery.”
And while heated flight suits could be a game changer for those in cold climates, the Air Force has been working to modernize its uniforms over the past few years. Other recommended changes are for upgraded eye protection to protect aircrews from lasers while they also look for standard issue ammo pouches and a backpack hydration system for security forces. This grows with the continual trend of making uniform improvement for the warfighter at home and overseas.
Air Force Tailors Uniforms for Women
Earlier this year, the Air Force began working toward new designs in body armor specifically focused for women. In the past, female pilots have voiced complaints about flight suit sizing. They often would find the sizes offered too big or too small, requiring them to tailor uniforms to fit their body. In 2019, the Air Force began to address this issue by authorizing the use of two piece flight suits. It made it easier for women to use the bathroom and improved overall comfort according to officials.
Uniform updates and changes especially when focused on changes for women continue to be a theme for the Air Force, as the Air Force works to not only modernized the uniforms for all airmen but for the changing force that includes more women.