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A portable air conditioning vest is on the horizon

A portable air conditioning vest to cool down soldiers fighting in deserts could soon begin testing with the British Army.

The units designed by a small family firm blast chilled air around the torso and can lower the temperature around the body by as much as 20C, to keep soldiers cool and even save lives at extreme temperatures.

The vest is attached to a high pressure hose and miniaturised air conditioning unit in a vehicle or backpack.

Its designers say advances in cooling technology mean they have for the first time been able to build “fridge vests” small and portable enough to wear.

The ManPAC system has been developed over the past four years to cut heat casualties and allow troops to fight more effectively.

The device’s designers say it could be used by any soldier operating in hot climates, from special forces troops to those in cumbersome protective gear, such as bomb disposal suits.

Miles Cantley, who managed the programme alongside his father Gavin at Stream Defence in Harrow, said: “What we are trying to achieve is that soldiers using ManPAC can think straight, shoot straight and survive in extreme conditions.”Troops in Afghanistan and Iraq had to patrol and fight in temperatures of 50C (122F) and above.  Photo: Christopher Pledger/The Telegraph

During the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq scores of soldiers – including on one occasion a brigadier in Basra – had to be evacuated for heat exhaustion.

ManPAC will be among hundreds of new defence gadgets going on display this month at DSEI, the world’s largest defence and security exhibition being held in London’s docklands.

Gavin Cantley, managing director, said the British Army and several Middle Eastern militaries had expressed interest in testing the product.

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