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Testing new liquid filled anti G-suit 
by: Airforce news
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN)The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School here is testing a new concept in aircrew protection: a liquid-filled, full-body anti-gravity suit.

Testing of the Swiss "Libelle" anti-G suit is a collaborative effort by TPS, Air Combat Command's Humans Systems Integration Division and the Air Expeditionary Force Battlelab at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

Using hydrostatic (liquid) force to regulate suit pressure, the Libelle, which means "dragonfly," in Swiss, could prove better than current pneumatic (compressed air) anti-G suits. 

During high-G acceleration forces, much of a pilot's blood is pushed towards the body's lower half. In just seconds, a shift in blood volume away from the brain can cause a blackout.

Capt. Aaron George in the Libelle anti G-suit climb out an T-38 at Edwards AFB. (Airforce Photo)

To fight such potentially deadly occurrences, Air Force fighter aircrews use pneumatic anti-G suits and the anti-G straining maneuver, said Capt. Aaron George, project pilot and team leader. "G-induced loss of consciousness, or GLOC, is rare due to such countermeasures, George said. "However, high-G continues to impact aircrew performance and GLOC has not been eliminated."

That may change in the near future if the Test Pilot School's latest endeavor proves fruitful, said project engineer Capt. Shon Williams. Working with Libelle's developer -- Andreas Reinhard from Life Support Systems AG -- an Air Force team of three test pilots, three test engineers and a physiologist have begun testing the prototype suit here.

Life Support Systems and Reinhard have been developing the Libelle concept for several years via centrifuge and flight testing with Swiss and German air forces. The suit is based on a liquid concept that does not require mechanical regulating systems or on-board compressed air.

"Our goal is to provide total G protection for the pilot with a suit that can hardly be felt," Reinhard said.

The AEF Battlelab learned of the suit through a suggestion by Col. Pete Demitry, director of the ACC Human Systems Integration Division.

In February, a battlelab initiative entitled "Self-regulating Anti-G Ensemble," or SAGE, was begun to demonstrate Libelle technology. The Swiss suit's potential advantages: reduced need for positive-pressure breathing, reduced physical effort, improved ability to communicate under high-G conditions and no requirement for a G-valve.

"One of Libelle's most valuable attributes may be its ability to function independently, eliminating the need for a G-valve or hose connection," said Lt. Col. Don Diesel, AEF Battlelab initiative team leader.

Before beginning testing here, the Libelle team traveled to Holloman AFB, N.M. for a week of training and ground evaluations including egress training, hanging harness and cockpit interoperability checks in the T-38 Talon, as well as altitude chamber testing and multiple centrifuge runs. Because Libelle's function is dramatically different from the current Combat Edge ensemble used by F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircrews, Test Pilot School members underwent extensive training wearing the suit in a Holloman centrifuge.

"The training we received at Holloman was superb," George said. "We headquartered our operations at the base's Physiological Training Flight, which became part of our team ... and essential to our success. We departed Holloman with a wealth of knowledge about how to operate effectively with the suit during flight test."

During the next few weeks, TPS students will flight-test the suit in both the T-38 and F-16 here.

The next stage here for the AEF Battlelab initiative: a more extensive look at the Libelle ensemble this summer under hot environmental conditions. The initiative also will assess the Libelle with regard to projected cost vs. benefit of supply, logistics, maintenance, training and safety.

A final report by the AEF Battlelab on the SAGE concept demonstration is expected in August.

"We plan to complete the concept demonstration by this summer, and based upon our findings, make recommendations on the technology to senior Air Force leaders and the acquisition community," Diesel said.

Source: USAF news


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