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Better survival vests coming to Navy, Marine aircrews

Apr. 8, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
The Navy's redesigned aircrew vest, in a new color and with better protection, will be distributed fleetwide by 2016
The Navy's redesigned aircrew vest, in a new color and with better protection, will be distributed fleetwide by 2016 (Navy)
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Aircrews will soon be outfitted with safer aircrew vests.

The new vest boasts more coverage of vital organs, a snugger fit and a better color, Dan Ratcliff, the aircrew systems program manager for Naval Air Systems Command, explained in a presentation Tuesday at the Sea-Air-Space expo outside Washington, D.C.

“When we started the operations in the desert, we were all wearing sage green,” Ratcliff said, referring to the forest green color of the legacy aircrew vests. “Sage green works great in the jungle, but if you put it in the desert, it’s not so good.”

With the purchase of tan flight suits came tan flight gear, which didn’t always work, he said, and couldn’t adapt to wooded or jungle environments.

So NAVAIR came up with “coyote brown,” a hue that camouflages in forests and deserts.

The fielding has started with Marine fliers at Medium Tiltrotor Squadrons 261, 264, 266 and 635, as well as Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269. The new vests are on track to go fleet-wide by 2016.

The vest worn over the flight suit is designed to fit a multitude of body shapes, Ratcliff said, while reducing the fatigue that comes from moving around in a roomy vest. For added comfort, the armored back plate can be removed while seated.

The hard armor in the vest is the same Small Arms Protective Insert ceramic plates used by the Army and Marine Corps, and the soft armor is custom-made, he added.

The vest comes in seated and mobile aircrew models. For mobile aircrew, an 80-inch tether allows crew members to move around in flight, but comes with a quick-disconnection release for emergencies.

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