New $2,500 Thermal Covers Designed To Prevent Flash
Engineers at Oklahoma's Tinkler AFB are designing a product to
protect Boeing B-52 Stratofortress aircrews from a nuclear attack's
Designed by the 540th Aircraft Sustainment Squadron's B-52
Communications Navigation and Weapons Flight, prototypes for the
"thermal curtains" will be ready sometime in December. Final
versions of the curtains are scheduled to be completed by October
According to flight chief William Plasters, the design is
elegant in its simplicity. "The new design is simple, quick to
install, and can be removed easily to perform maintenance, or when
not required," he said.
Resembling automobile windshield sunshades, the thermal curtains
are about 1/10th of an inch thick, 40 to 50 inches long, by 30
inches tall, depending on the size of its respective window. Each
curtain is made up of three material layers -- a reflective layer,
a stiffener and a rubberized vinyl cloth.
When the B-52 is not releasing a nuclear bomb or in close
proximity to a detonating nuclear bomb, the curtains are not needed
and each curtain can be removed and stored in its storage bag. When
packed, the bag could weigh up to 30 pounds.
A set consists of seven shades and will cost about $2,500 per
set. Benefits coincide with Air Force responsibilities.
"The nuclear mission is becoming more and more important and
this is one of the things that completes the mission, while keeping
an aircrew safe should [an aircrew] have to do a mission with
nuclear weapons," said Matt Yost, structural engineer for the
If there is no imminent danger, Yost said the curtains should
only be used for training purposes, which occurs twice a year. But,
he adds, aircrews and maintenance personnel are actually using the
curtains daily in warm weather, as sunshades... causing the
curtains to wear sooner than expected.
To prevent the new curtains from early deterioration, officials
suggest aircrews use fabric sunshades to keep the cockpit cool and
only use the thermal curtains when necessary. Fabric sunshades cost
less than $300 per set and one set covers 13 windows. Prototypes of
these sunshades will be sent in December to the active squadrons