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Blog Topic: The G-suit in World War 2

January 29, 2015

WW2 g-suit

WW2 g-suit. USAAF photo.

I was reading about P-51 Mustangs the other day in the book P-51 Mustang vs Fw 190.1 The book mentions that in late 1944 pilots started wearing g-suits. I had always associated the phenomena with the jet age, so it surprised me that the g-suit was used during World War 2.

These suits were worn to counteract g-forces that could cause pilots to black out during flight. The tight suit covered the lower abdomen and extended down the legs below the calves. When a pilot accelerated at a very fast speed, pressure from these suits prevented the blood from pooling in the lower portions. Initially, the pilots resisted wearing the uncomfortable suits. However, statistics showed that pilots wearing them were more successful.2

This acceleration of an aircraft typically happened when in a dive, or pulling out of a dive. Without compensating for the g-force, a pilot could black out from lack of blood supply to his brain. The tight fitting g-suit constricted the lower portions of the body, preventing the blood from flowing rapidly downward through the blood vessels, away from the brain.

The article in Wikipedia on the g-suit,3 says the British made g-suits for British, American, and Canadian pilots during World War 2 that used water-filled bladders. The Americans rejected this suit and developed their own that used compressed air.

I was also surprised to read that by using a g-straining maneuver (contracting the abs) along with certain breathing techniques, you could also further constrict the blood vessels, to augment the effects of the g-suit.

~ Jon

Reference and further reading
1Martin Bowman, P-51 Mustang vs Fw 190 – Europe 1943-45. New York: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2007, p.14.


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