One of the initiative’s goals was to make it easier for female jet pilots in particular to urinate on long missions, officials noted. It is especially challenging for female pilots to relieve themselves in-flight because flight suits were designed with male pilots in mind. Women have therefore had to resort to wearing diapers in-flight or participating in “tactical dehydration” by not drinking any fluids before or during flights. However, that can cause headaches and other health issues.
"They're flying long missions overseas," Cmdr. Eddie Park, director of diversity and inclusion at Naval Air Forces, told the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services earlier this month, according to Military.com. "Who wants to hold their pee for four hours?"
The US Air Force therefore began investing last year in the Advanced Mission Extender Device (AMDXmax) to help pilots relieve themselves more comfortably during flights. The device was originally devised by Omni Medical Systems about a decade ago and consists of a pump that drains urine into a bag.
“The system uses special underwear equipped with a hose linked to a pump the size of a paperback book that drains urine into a collection bag. The men's model uses a pouch; the women's has something that resembles a sanitary napkin,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette said of the device in a 2008 article. More than 600 US Air Force pilots began using the device starting in late 2018, according to Military.com.
Cmdr. Ron Flanders, a spokesperson for the Naval Air Forces, also confirmed that the Navy hopes to provide the AMDXmax system to all pilots who ask for them, as well as two-piece flight suits that will make it easier for helicopter pilots in particular, who don’t have much time or privacy, to relieve themselves mid-flight.
The Navy’s Aviation Medical Safety Officer has received about $1 million from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Enterprise Safety and Management System for the initiative. Around $800,000 of that funding has gone to purchase about 160 of the AMDXmax systems, which cost approximately $5,000 each. The other $200,000 has gone toward the two-piece flight suits. The Navy hopes to receive about $2 million more to spend on the initiative.
“There are gender-specific designs for this product, and we are in the process of procuring both designs," Flanders said in a statement obtained by Military.com. "Some aircrew have already been outfitted with this item, therefore, we didn't buy for those that have the device. Others do not want to fly with this device and have chosen other types of urinary collection devices."