Flight suits are an essential part of any army or airforce pilot’s outfit. They are designed from flame-retardant material but also possess other properties like fade and stain resistance. Why these properties? Well, flight suits are instrumental to protecting pilots against fire and g-forces when exercising their duty. Think of them as the ultimate protection. You’ve probably seen the Nomex CWU 27/p flight suit the US Army and Airforce pilot wears. But did you know there are many types of Military flight suits?
In the line of duty, pilots do not have the luxuries of commercial flight like pressurized cabins, so their suits are designed with survivability in mind. The survivability features include a lining to ensure livability in extreme conditions like the cold of high altitudes. Flight suit technology has come a long way. For perspective, the Sidcot design first created in Australia in 1917 was the first flight suit to have an inner lining. It allowed for flexibility and a full range of motion compared to the suits that came before it. It was also the first suit that allowed operations in high altitudes and frigid temperatures and proved a lifesaver for pilots of the time.
Further down the line and the flight suit “poopsie” was incented to prevent hypothermia, and in the 1940s, the G-loc suit was designed to prevent hypoxia (oxygen deprivation to the brain that could cause loss of consciousness). Fast forward to date, and let’s look at the suits available to pilots in modern armies.
US and Swiss Armies
The Libelle Suit Libellee is currently under development by the Swiss Army and American company TPS. This suit is designed to perform better than the current anti-gravity suits that require pneumatic actuation in high G situations. High G-forces are dangerous because they may deprive the brain of oxygen and cause a pilot to pass out in flight. The Libelle Suit promises to be a revolution in aviation. That’s because it’s based on the liquidity concept and reduces the need for an onboard regulation system. It also reduces the need for positive pressure breathing and minimizes the effort pilots need to communicate under high g forces.
The CWU 27/P Nomex Flight Suit has been the standard issue for the US navy, airforce, and army pilots. Their flame, chemical, and radiation-resistant properties are well documented.
The English Royal Air Force (RAF)
The Royal Air Force (RAF) uses the MK16A flight suit. It’s broadly similar to the CWU 27/p flight suit currently used in the US. For instance, it’s made of fire-resistant Nomex material. Plus, it possesses the chemical spill resistance of the CWU 27/p military flight suits. They also have radiation resistance which makes them resistant to infra-red radiation. This makes them invisible to night vision devices.
The German Air Forces
The German air Force uses flight suits are made by Marquardt and Schulz, and they come in different iterations. It’s hard to pin down a single design as these flight suits are regularly revised, upgraded, and modified; hence it’s hard to pin down a single design. That said, they also incorporate the Nomex fire retardant material to protect their pilots and flight crews.
French Army Light Aviation (ALAT)
The French Army Light Aviation (ALAT) regiments have some low-weight flight suits, mostly short-sleeved and light in color. They incorporate all the most important properties, such as Nomex material and G-loc properties, to protect their pilots under any circumstance.
Japanese Self Defense Forces
During WWII, Japanese Self Defense Forces previously used flight suits lined with rabbit fur to protect them against the cold. These were naturally heavy and cumbersome, but they have developed modern and lighter flight suits incorporating fire retardant materials to the standard of other flight suits.
With the modern culture of sharing technologies, you can expect allies to share and sell breakthroughs like the Libelle suit. Military flight suits are close to space suits, racing suits, and firemen suits and possess advanced technologies for their specific use cases. They are incredibly important for the safety of pilots, and we can’t wait to see how the industry develops them.