The Navy is testing a prototype submarine steam suit that could provide sailors with an additional level of protection. Once perfected, the new suit would be donned within about two minutes — less than twice as quickly as it takes to put on the suit now in use.

Two sailors — Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Nathan Lindner and Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Cameron Sebastian — demonstrated the differences between the two suits in a recent test. Lindner pulled his new one on quickly, while Sebastian squirmed his way into the HAZMAT-style older version. The demonstration took place at Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn.
“It was pretty dramatic seeing the differences between the old and new steam suits — especially how they affect the speed getting into it, as well as mobility,” Sebastian said, in a story published on the Office of Naval Research (ONR) web site.

Lindner and Sebastian, who both served on the Los Angeles-class attack submarine Toledo.
The suits are necessary to provide protection for sailors who must repair any ruptures of pressurized steam lines. The steam that is released could kill or severely injure anyone who comes in contact with it.
“In the unlikely event this piece of damage-control equipment is needed time is of the essence to protect not only the individual, but the entire boat. The new steam suit provides enhanced flexibility, maneuverability and ease of donning during an emergency,” said ONR Command Master Chief Matt Matteson.

Developed jointly by ONR’s TechSolutions office, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), and the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility (NCTRF), the new suit should be ready for use in a couple of years.

It will feature an air tank and hose worn on the exterior of the suit, gel ice packs, and an improved pair of gloves that will make it easier for wearers to hold tools, climb ladders and move around within close confines.