PMA_202_AE_vests1The U.S. Navy is working on an improved survival vest that’s designed to provide more ballistic protection for aviators while making it more comfortable to wear.

The redesigned Aircrew Endurance Survival Vest recently passed initial operating capability, a key milestone in the development of development of the life-saving equipment, the service announced in a Dec. 18 press release. The new vest is scheduled to achieve full operational capability by early 2016.

The upgraded AE survival vest provides improved ballistic-protection, superior load distribution and a new universal color for deployment in a wider variety of terrains, Navy officials said.

“Under the Aircrew Endurance program, the Navy will field a family of products all focused on reducing physical fatigue and stress during longer missions now being conducted by Navy and Marine Corps aircrew,” said Capt. Nora Burghardt, program manager at the Navy’s Aircrew Systems Program Office.

The new AE system resolves deficiencies existing in legacy aircrew survival vests and fields upgraded armor protection. Two configurations of the new AE system are being deployed, one for mobile aircrew and another for those aircrew who remain seated during flight. The AE mobile aircrew vest weighs 29.6 pounds and the AE seated version 19.5 pounds — about 7 pounds lighter than legacy AIRSAVE survival vests.

The new vest provides protection from shrapnel and bullets, the release states. The mobile crewman configuration provides an 80-inch tether connection to the aircraft allowing crew members to move freely about the cabin as they carry out normal duties. It prevents ejection from the aircraft in a crash and incorporates a quick-disconnection release from the aircraft during an emergency egress.

As a survival item, the vest provides locations to carry emergency-signaling devices, radios, medical kit, emergency underwater breathing devices and an inflatable life-preserver. In a rescue situation, the vest provides a harness used for hoisting the aircrew into a rescue helicopter.

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