Garmin’s Fenix 3 fitness watch has just been drafted by US Navy top brass to help keep their combat pilots safe.

The last thing you’d expect when strapping yourself into a multi-million dollar fighter jet is that it wants to kill you… not the enemy. However, ongoing “intractable problems” with the life support systems on board the US Navy’s F18 Hornet, EA-18 G Growler and T45 Goshawk aircraft – causing aircrew to become oxygen-deprived – hints that this could very well be the case.

In the meantime, while uniformed boffins desperately scrabble to find an engineering solution, top naval brass has decided to issue all affected flying crews with a Garmin Fenix 3. Their logic being: As this consumer fitness watch can accurately measure air pressure and altitude, it should alert aircrews to any hypoxia-related issues should they occur – allowing them to take appropriate action and land before the situation becomes critical.

What the actual problem is with the aircraft has everyone guessing, but all involved agree: Having pilots become dizzy, start acting euphorically, or even lose consciousness due to oxygen starvation while flying combat missions, is a really bad idea. To date, a team of Navy investigators has assessed 382 cases and has determined that 130 incidents involved some form of oxygen contamination, and 114 involved a failure of the jet’s system that maintains cabin pressure.

According to Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Rear Admiral Michael Moran, determining the cause of these incidents, dubbed “physiological episodes” by the Navy, has been complicated by the fact that “symptoms related to depressurization, tissue hypoxia and contaminant intoxication overlap.”

By all accounts, the recent move to strap on Garmin Fenix 3 watches for combat missions was first initiated by Hornet pilots deployed aboard the aircraft carrier George H. W. Bush while fighting ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. Just to put why they did it into perspective, two of their fellow pilots have experienced hypoxia-related symptoms since May. Both were treated using a recompression chamber that’s deployed aboard the carrier for this very reason. Needless to say, the idea of wearing an “extra layer of safety” took off and in no time everyone onboard wanted a Fenix 3, with the Navy giving pilots the official go ahead shortly after.

Captain James McCall, commander of Carrier Air Wing 8 deployed on the carrier says: “I can’t speak to the Navy enterprise, their intention to do that for all type-model-series, but I know our guys wear them and like the capability they provide.”

Now all we need is some Smart Alec fighter jock to post the mother of all Strava segments. – (c) 2017 NavWorld

About The Author

Sean Woods

Originally a photographer for the Star newspaper in the bad old days, Sean Woods turned to writing after the first democratic elections in '94. The career shift paid serious dividends, culminating in him becoming associate editor for Popular Mechanics magazine with a number of technology writing awards under his belt. His interests include anything to do with boats, motorcycles and all those fancy tech gadgets that help the modern world go around.

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