India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is developing a range of protective clothing that includes jackets, vests, shoe insoles and heated gloves for pilots.

“Though the majority of our soldiers and pilots are acclimatized to hostile terrains in the frontier areas and battle zones, it is pivotal to protect them from head to foot,” says a senior scientist with DRDO’s Bengaluru-based Defense Bio-Engineering and Electro-medical Laboratory (Debel).

“In some cases the soldiers will be under severe physiological stress, which can limit their performance in combat missions,” the scientist says. “The normal physiological responses to cold weather are shivering and diversion of blood away from the extremities leading the surface skin to sink inward. Frostbite and hypothermia are also common while operating at high-altitude regions of Leh, Ladakh, Kargil, Dras, Mushkoh, Batalik, Chorbatla and Siachen.”

The battery-operated thermal gloves have been designed for Indian air force pilots operating at very high altitudes. The gloves provide protection up to -30C and heat up automatically when the temperature drops below 20C. “The glove with heating element has been developed keeping in mind the physiological requirements for effective operation of the hand without compromising on dexterity and tactile sensitivity. It has been accepted for induction after undergoing extensive trials,” the scientist says.

In the shoe insole, mild heat is produced to keep the feet warm in extremely cold conditions. “Limbs of personnel deployed in high altitudes and extreme cold weather regions need more protection as they are highly susceptible to vasoconstriction of blood vessels leading to reduction of the blood flow and with it the supply of heat to these parts,” the scientist says. The insoles feature “perforations all over the surface at regular intervals to facilitate feet breathing and . . . this also facilitates the flow of heat generated by the heating tape,” the scientist says. 

Debel also has developed a jacket using the same concept as that used in gloves, featuring heating tapes, a temperature controller and lightweight rechargeable batteries. The jacket’s functional layers each contribute to physical, mechanical, thermal resistance, heat and moisture vapor transmission properties.

Debel plans to transfer the technology to Indian industry, which will produce the systems. Although the scientist would not comment specifically on cost, he did note that none of the articles are extraordinarily expensive. said: “These are all not expensive products.”