Jan 2011 – In a RAAF theme for this month, i am displaying a RAAF Life Preserver Unit or LPU as known that was used from early 1960s until early 1980s within the RAAF’s fighter jets and bombers.

LPUs were used to provide a mean of floatation for aircrew who crashed or ejected over the water/ocean. The LPU enabled them to float and survive if needs be until rescued or until they climbed into their life raft.

Photo below is a late 1960s / early 1970s ALSE room at a RAAF base. Note the LPU and many HGU-2A/P flight helmets with ramshorn dual visor covers. The dual visor clear and dark was used to provide extra protection at low level in the daytime.

As seen above the RAAF licensed made a version of the RAF (UK) Frankenstein vest.
Early models were like this yellow and later 1970s/80s were in a green colour fabric for low observation as yellow stood out too easily from distance in air combat.

Here we see front and back of vest. The vest container a rubber type bladder and was able to hold supplies in the pockets for the aircrew/person to use in rescue etc if ejected or crashed.
The back of vest had a zipper to allow technicians to insert/remove the bladder.

The left middle front of vest has a gas cartridge just showing by the dark red handle. This is pulled down to activate the gas bottle to inflate the LPU. Failing this manual inflation can be done.

The vest was designed to fit snuggly to the body and keep the person head above water. The collar is in a horse shoe “U” shaped style.
The vest style means it is a compact tight fitting item and can be hard to find in a large size now days.

The vest came in a variety of sizes and was made in Australia by RFD under license from Frankenstein in the UK. This vest here was made in March 1967.

Unusual to see the vest inflated – here is a rare view showing the horse collar bladder inflated and how it forms a ring to keep the pilot/aircrew member head above the water.

Thanks to Alan from Victoria for these photos.

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