Five female pilots and an aircrew member are testing modified versions of the Advanced Technology Anti-Gravity Suit (ATAGS), in an effort to develop ones that better conforms to women’s body sizes and torsos. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and AFWERX (the service’s technology accelerator program) have been conducting the tests at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
The intent is to modify the existing ATAGS, which has been in use since 2001, to allow for adjustments for different body proportions.
“In the past, some pilots with a shorter torso have had issues with ATAGS that were too large riding up and causing bruising on the rib cages, while pilots who are hard to fit have had one size that fits through the legs, but needed a smaller size waist,” said Charles Cruze, an engineer who is working on the project.
The adjusted suits can be altered accordingly to provide a more accurate fit.
The tests entailed having the participants fly a series of high- and low-gravity maneuvers. They flew two-seat F-15D aircraft. One pilot wore the standard ATAGS while the other wore the modified version, as a safety precaution.
The pilots and crew member also were asked to provide their opinion about how the suits functioned during normal wear – while standing, sitting, climbing in and out of the planes and walking.
“I definitely noticed improvement with the new updates and the darted waist in particular,” said Capt. Brittany Trimble, an instructor pilot. “I honestly didn’t expect to notice much of a difference because I’d never noticed significant issues with the ATAGS before, but I was pleasantly surprised that these upgrades increased the ATAGS functionality significantly under G.”
The modified ATAGS could be available service-wide within one to two years.