The US Navy has recently started to equip all its F/A-18 Hornet and E/A-18G Growler pilots with the Garmin Fenix 3 sports-watch.
According to military.com, this is because there has been an increase in cockpit “physiological episodes.” Apparently, some flight crews have suffered from near-Hypoxia as a result of poorly designed oxygen systems and altimeters that are hard to see due to their size and location.
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Although now superseded with Garmin 5, Garmin 3 is still a beast of a watch. It has a sizeable 300mAh lithium-ion battery that keeps going for 6 weeks in watch mode, and 20 hours when in GPS mode.
In addition to heart rate tracking from the wrist (for the HR version), the multi-sport watch provides advanced running metrics and outdoor navigation. Furthermore, the Garmin Connect software is top notch, whether you are utilising the smartphone app or the even more comprehensive web dashboard.
But more importantly for the US Navy, Garmin 3 comes equipped with real-time ABC sensors. The built-in altimeter provides elevation data, while the barometer can be used to predict weather changes by showing short-term trends in air pressure. The 3-axis electronic compass keeps your bearing whether you’re moving or not.
The goal is to use the altimeter function to warn a pilot when the cabin altitude reaches a certain level. This would remind them to put on their supplemental oxygen or decrease the plane’s altitude to a safe level – hopefully before they become dizzy, start acting euphorically or even lose consciousness due to oxygen starvation!
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.”
The Navy is looking to equip the entire squadron by August.
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