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Army Designing Cooling Vests for Aircrews

Aircrew CoolingThe U.S. Army has worked to develop a better way to keep aircrew members cool after officials found many stopped plugging in their microclimate aircooling systems on board helicopters to avoid getting tangled up in the cabin.

Natick Soldier Systems Center is testing a cooling vest that would sit under the body armor for aircrew members in order to eliminate another tether in the cabin. The cooling system, called the Light-Weight Environmental Control System, would be powered by a conformal battery that would fit onto the body armor.

The vest has a series of tubes that would move cold fluid around the soldier's core to decrease the soldier's body temperature. The system would have a cooling unit that would be 3.5 inches around and offer the vest 120 watts of cooling power.

Army officials said they're especially eager to get these vests to crew chiefs and medics who are moving around the most in the back of helicopter cabins.

The Army has tested the vests on five subjects in simulated desert and jungle conditions. Officials have seen a noticable drop in heart rate and temperature when wearing the cooling vests.

The vests also proved reliable during the tests pumping cool fluid throughout the vests for the duration of the simulated missions.

"We really haven't had any issues with (the LWECS)," said Brad Laprise, a mechanical engineer with the Warfighter Directorate, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, who looked at the fluid temperature before and after it passed through the system, and monitored flow rate. "By and large, they've been very reliable."

"Physiologically, we're seeing that their body core temperatures are lower, their heart rates are lower," Cadaratte said. "So far, what I'm seeing looks really good. I think we can show that the cooling portion of this does what we're asking of it."

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