Naval Aircrew Life Preserver Unit Automatic Inflation Device for Ejection Seat Equipped Aircraft

Navy SBIR 23.2 - Topic N232-089
NAVAIR - Naval Air Systems Command
Pre-release 4/19/23   Opens to accept proposals 5/17/23   Closes 6/14/23 12:00pm ET

N232-089 TITLE: Naval Aircrew Life Preserver Unit Automatic Inflation Device for Ejection Seat Equipped Aircraft


OBJECTIVE: Design and develop an innovative and affordable life preserver inflation assembly compatible with the LPU-23D/P and LPU-36A/P product lines that reduces the volume and weight, improves logistical issues of Cartridge Activated Devices (CADs), batteries, and valves, and reduces the pull force for manual inflation.

DESCRIPTION: The current Life Preserver Units (LPU) for Fixed-Wing Ejection Seat Aircraft are equipped with FLU-8B/P automatic inflation assemblies that initiate inflation automatically upon sensing water immersion. The current FLU-8B/P assembly weighs approximately 150 g without batteries or CO2 cylinder. The assembly components include a power source, CAD, water immersion sensor, compressed CO2 cylinder mount, manual inflation capability, bladder connection mount, and CO2 cylinder piercing assemblies.

The FLU-8 and its many variants are capable automatic inflator devices with a remarkable history. The original units were designed in the late 1970s and deployed in the early 1980s. Technology is now several generations ahead of the legacy FLU-8 design, making it a prime candidate for review.

A USN/USMC internal logistical constraint on the MW-14 6V alkaline batteries used to power the FLU-8B/P is that procurement control of the battery resides with Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) instead of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). Currently, the MW-14 is procured from manufacturers in a cyclic nature instead of steady state. This cyclic procurement causes a push-pull effect in the logistics chain where the end user either has too many batteries or not enough. A new commercially available power source would change logistical control and open additional procurement availability to fleet maintainers.

Proposals must describe a capability that would auto-activate LPU inflation when immersed in water. Innovative solutions should:

(a) use Berry Amendment-compliant materials and manufacturing techniques,

(b) retrofit into LPU-23D/P and LPU-36A/P product lines,

(c) reduce size and weight from current FLU-8B/P design,

(d) fully inflate within 30 s,

(e) include both automatic (primary) and manual (secondary) inflation capabilities,

(f) include an omni-directional pull for manual inflation that results in reduced pull force (objective: 15 lbf (6.8 kg) (5 lbf [2.27 kg]),

(g) operate in brine water/freshwater/saltwater,

(h) operate in turbulent or calm water conditions,

(i) operate at a submerged depth of less than or equal to 30 ft (9.14 m),

(j) operate in cold water (32 F [0 C]) in brine/fresh/saltwater,

(k) operate in chlorinated swimming pool water,

(l) operate reliably in cold and hot ambient air -65160 F (-53.89 to 71.11 C),

(m) operate after exposure to temperature extremes from -65160 F (-53.89 to 71.11 C), mold, mildew, flame, and salt fog.

(n) Does not create hazards (injury, Foreign Object Debris (FOD), snag/trip, static discharge) in any mission or survival operations,

(o) operate after exposure to 600-knot windblast,

(p) operate after repeated exposure to altitudes of up to 70,000 ft (21.34 kg) (0.65 psi),

(q) operate after exposure to typical fixed-wing ejection seat aircraft vibration levels (frequency range of 5 Hz-2000 Hz),

(r) provide resistance to environmental contaminants (i.e., sand, petroleum, oil, lubricants, and solar radiation),

(s) not interfere with survival vest or mounted gear, armor/armor release, seat harnesses, helmets or head mounted gear,

(t) not impede water survival or land survival procedures, including raft boarding and hoisting,

(u) not contribute to wearers burn injury hazard,

(v) not give away wearers position in covert day or night operations,

(w) be capable of operating after 15 months in a packed state (360-day inspection cycle plus 90 day shelf life) while exposed to temperature ranges of -65 to 160F (-53.89 to 71.11 C ),

(x) have an obvious visual indication for correct rigging, and

(y) have an obvious visual indication for Built-in Test (BIT).

The logic, data acquisition and flow, algorithm development, and the means to implement/package it with the current fixed-wing ejection seat LPU system will be key portions of the effort and will determine probability of success. It is not required, but highly recommended that performers interact with qualified naval LPU manufacturers as needed.

Note: NAVAIR will provide Phase I awardees with the appropriate guidance required for human research protocols to use while preparing their Phase II initial Proposal. Institutional Review Board (IRB) determination as well as processing, submission, and review of all paperwork required for human subject use can be a lengthy process. As such, no human research will be allowed until Phase II and human testing work will not be authorized until approval has been obtained, typically as an Option to be exercised during Phase II.

PHASE I: Develop, design, and demonstrate the feasibility of a new and innovative automatic inflation device for retrofit and operation in an LPU-23 and LPU-36 series LPU assembly. The proposed solution must demonstrate the potential for auto-activation/inflation for aircrew who have egressed a fixed-wing ejection seat aircraft into the water. Resulting concepts should include the following: dry weight, bulk/profile, required pull force for manual inflation, time for full inflation of the LPU while immersed in a swimming pool, human operated reliability, and maintainer mean time to rig, inspect, and certify "safe-for-flight". Provide experimental work that shows the technology concept will rapidly inflate the LPU in water without user input. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.

Note: Please refer to the statement included in the Description Section above regarding human research protocol for Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop, demonstrate, and validate an automatic inflation device prototype based on the design concept in Phase I. Device operation and capabilities demonstrations can be conducted in a laboratory environment, with the exception of water pool activation inflations. Upon prototype delivery, a Government demonstration will be performed using Navy personnel representing the 5th percentile female and 95th percentile male human subject controlled immersions, in compliance with the requirements provided in Phase I. Provide draft engineering drawings and develop life-cycle costs and supportability estimates.

Note: Please refer to the statement included in the Description Section above regarding human research protocol for Phase II.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Finalize the developed automatic inflation device technology and provide a technical data package including a performance specification, an interface control document, and engineering drawings in accordance with military standards. Develop and assist with required qualification testing and training. Finalize all testing. Document the quality assurance test program in accordance with industry best practices. Transition the technology to the fleet as a retrofit, and new procurements as required.

This SBIR topic may benefit the private sector in recreational inflatable products for which automatic inflation are desirable or required for safety Commercial Air and Sea Safety.


  1. FSC 1377. (2011). Inflation device, automatic, FLU-8B/P and FLU-9B/P (MIL-DTL-32087C). Department of Defense.
  2. NAVAIR. (2020, August). NAVAIR 13-1-6.1-2 Technical manual: Aviation-crew systems: Inflatables survival equipment (Life preservers). Department of Defense.
  3. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers. (n.d.). ASME/ANSI Y14 Standards. ASME. Retrieved June 30, 2022, from

KEYWORDS: Life Preserver Unit (LPU); Auto-Inflation; Water Survival; Emergency Egress; Flotation; Aviation Life Support Systems


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 23.2 SBIR Topics pre-release on April 19, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on May 17, 2023, and closes June 14, 2023 (12:00pm ET).

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