January 2, 2006 The human body is a remarkable thing, as is evidenced by its ability to adapt to less than ideal conditions. The temperature in the cockpit of a Formula 1 racing car sometimes reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit, with the driver required to drive consistently within the 99th percentile of perfection for up to 90 minutes under this overwhelming heat stress whilst racing wheel-to-wheel, experiencing enormous G-forces and constantly processing large amounts of additional information. Now consider the equivalent stresses experienced by combat soldiers in Iraq. HMMWV crews in IRAQ are experiencing temperatures as much as 10 degrees more than this, for up to 12 hours at a time, while people are trying to kill them. The problem has been exacerbated in recent times by additional armour fitted to the HMMWV and has resulted in the rapid development of personal cooling kits.
Each HMMWV cooling kit consists of four water-filled vests known as, Air Warrior Microclimatic Cooling Garments (MCGs). The vests fit over a soldier’s normal body armor and are connected via hoses to a vehicles’ on-board air conditioning system.
Approximately 500 newly developed personnel cooling kits have been distributed to HMMWV vehicle crews in Iraq and Kuwait by the U.S. Army. The cooling kits are liquid-filled vests worn by vehicle crews designed to alleviate heat stress brought on by intense climatic conditions and the armouring of tactical vehicles in theatre. The fungicide-treated water is chilled and circulated through the garment. A rapid-release system allows soldiers to quickly disengage the hoses for emergency egress. The vest can continue to be worn outside the vehicle.
Soldier feedback has shown that the kits provide vehicle crews with sufficient cooling power to increase mission duration, and reduce the risks of heat-related medical problems. “Since we have had the vests they have become increasingly popular with the platoon,” said 1st Lt. David J. Dixon Jr.
“They argue over who gets to wear them. They wanted me to ask for more.” The HMMWV cooling kits can be expanded to fit other military and commercial vehicles and are also being applied to ambulances in theater to treat soldiers needing medical emergency treatment for heat stress/stroke. Further operational assessments of the cooling kits are being made to gather soldier performance evaluations.
“As a ground system integration leader, TARDEC has leveraged NSC’s existing liquid-filled vest technology to incorporate it into armored vehicles working in desert conditions,” said Paul Mehney, communications officer for TARDEC. “This is a direct response to feedback from soldiers in the field.” For the outstanding collaboration shown between organizations, this program was awarded the 2005 Research and Development Laboratory Collaborative Team of the Year by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition Logistics and Technology.
They were created by the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center (TARDEC), in coordination with the Natick Soldier Center (NSC) and Foster-Miller. Part of the Army Materiel Command’s Research, Development and Engineering Command, TARDEC is the nation’s laboratory for advanced military automotive technology. TARDEC’s mission is to research, develop, engineer, leverage and integrate advanced technology into ground systems and support equipment. TARDEC’s 1,100 associates develop and maintain vehicles for all US Armed Forces, numerous federal agencies and over 60 foreign countries. TARDEC continually pushes the state-of-the-art in technology areas of survivability, mobility, intelligent systems and maneuver support and sustainment, making sure that it fields robust equipment that meets the performance needs of the soldier.