NATICK, MA – Carole Winterhalter, a longstanding textile technologist at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, or DEVCOM SC, is the winner of the Major General Harold Greene Best Innovation Individual Award during Fiscal Year 2020 for her role in developing the Tactical HEated Apparel Technology, or TacHEAT, which enables actively heated protective clothing for warfighters operating in cold weather environments.
The TacHEAT system will improve lethality and existing mission performance in cold weather environments through improved tactility and dexterity, resulting in extended mission duration.
Under the Small Business Innovative Research, or SBIR, program, DEVCOM Soldier Center partnered with Human Systems Integration, Inc., to develop a new technology that integrates into the combat clothing system by embedding heating elements to prevent hypothermia, and protect hands and feet from frostbite.
Using a combination of novel etextiles and wearable technology, Winterhalter led the development of an electronics-based system that can be powered by a Soldier-worn battery, including the Conformable Wearable Battery (CWB), to heat the resistive heating elements of the Army Combat Shirt, gloves, briefs, and boot liners. The technology platform can be dropped into any clothing system, and the clothing and etextile components are launderable.
Two TacHEAT systems are under development for both mounted and dismounted Warfighters that are scalable and prevent heat loss around the body. The heated glove system is integrated into the Army Combat Shirt and gloves, and features a heater control module with a haptic switch for multiple heat levels, all powered by the CWB.
During FY 2020, the first prototype heated clothing systems were purchased directly by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) for evaluation with pilots and rear crew across their fleet of helicopters. The systems received positive feedback during the evaluation and a follow-on quota for more than 100 systems were requested for the 2021-2022 winter season. Additionally, a Navy Special Operations Command group also purchased 12 TacHEAT systems in 2020, and in 2021, the Air Force purchased ten sets through a Defense Logistics Agency contract with all purchases to date qualifying as SBIR Phase III procurements.
The TacHEAT system is highly desired because it addresses the historic need to protect aircrew members from all branches of the military against exposure to cold weather elements in a manner that allows for continued dexterity of the hands and tactility of the fingers during flight operations and post jump/ejection sequence activities of rotary and fixed wing aircraft.
In an endorsement letter of TacHEAT, Deputy Product Manager Air Warrior James Isaacs stated, “PdM AW expects that advancements of this technology may lead to improvements in lethality for aircrew by providing relief from cold environments where reduced tactility affects mission performance.”
User feedback is continuously being provided to shape and finalize the two-system design (for both mounted and dismounted warfighters) to include modular and configurable power and electronic architectures that are being designed for manufacture under a SBIR Phase II contract. This SBIR Phase II effort is expected to significantly reduce the cost of prototype TacHEAT systems that will be ready to transition to Low Rate Initial Production and manufactured by the domestic military supply base.
Winterhalter received the coveted Major General Harold J. Greene Innovation Award Plaque and a three-star general note signed by the Acting Commanding General of Army Futures Command during a virtual award ceremony held on January 13.
The award caps a distinguished career for Winterhalter, who retires at the end of January 2022 after 37 years of civilian service as an Army scientist. During her career, Winterhalter has received the Commander's Award for Civilian Service twice as well as numerous invention awards. Winterhalter’s work on flame resistant, wool-blended uniforms and high performance fibers define her legacy as an expert textile technologist and will continue to protect and enhance Soldier performance well into the future.
The DEVCOM Soldier Center is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. DEVCOM Soldier Center supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the DEVCOM Soldier Center’s chief areas of focus. The center’s science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. DEVCOM Soldier Center is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach and mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers is also an important part of the mission of DEVCOM Soldier Center. The mentoring of students by Army scientists and engineers benefits the students and their communities. It also increases young people's awareness of potential Army job opportunities and helps provide the Army with potential new talent, helping to fuel innovative ideas that benefit the nation's warfighters and the nation as a whole.
DEVCOM Soldier Center is part of DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.