Air Force Wants a Wearable Performance Tracker to Prevent Neck and Back Pain


The service aims to reduce delays due to injury and disability costs.

The Air Force revealed intentions to purchase a wrist-worn gadget that captures data about wearers’ health—and provides individual and team analyses from that data—to address neck and back strains felt by fighter aircrew abroad.

Officials released a request for information Friday, inviting feedback on the department’s plans to buy and deploy an “Aircrew Performance Tracker.”

“The U.S. Air Force, 48th Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom is looking to purchase a wearable device to track our aircrew’s performance both in and out of the jet and make them more lethal,” according to the statement of work that accompanies the RFI. “This device and its data needs to be tailorable to each aircrew and monitored by our squadron leadership as well as our squadron health care providers.” 

Specifically, the wing aims to acquire a physiological tactical wearable device, capable of non-stop data collection “at the highest frequency available to measure” the heart rate, nervous system and sleep tracking of the wearers. The Air Force notes that the tool must be outfitted with data-tracking capabilities and applications that gauge individual’s “performance, strain, recovery, and sleep” and also provide a means for top officials and physicians to address those functions across teams. Officials also require the security of all biometric data collected in the effort and emphasize that the device must not incorporate Wi-Fi or GPS tracking. The ideal to-be-used device would be “rugged, water resistant, and have an adjustable strap,” the statement notes, but it would not include any screen distractions.  

The chosen wearable and corresponding program would likely be implemented across the RAF Lakenheath-based 48th Operations Group Aircrew, which includes five squadrons of F-15 aircraft and staff that conduct fighter and rescue operations that span the world. 

“This contract will help optimize our human weapon system behind that airpower,” the statement said. Officials also added that “this presents an approach to the prevention of neck and back injuries that result in increased training costs, result in lost productivity, increase disability costs, result in a [decreased] quality of life, and result in the premature departure from the Air Force for some fighter aircrew.”

Potential vendors are invited to weigh in on the Air Force’s plans by July 27. The department is particularly interested in comments on its intention and insight into whether four weeks is enough time to provide a proposal for the potential requirement. 

The Air Force’s RFI also comes a week after the Navy unveiled its own considerations to implement employee-tracking wearables for a completely different purpose—to monitor the potential spread of COVID-19.