The CWU 36/P and 45/P NOMEX Jackets

Under President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. armed forces saw a major increase in funding as he looked to strengthen our defense capabilities. This led to the Department of Defense spending almost two billion dollars on clothing and textiles. At the same time, development of more technologically advanced fabrics helped make military uniforms safer and more durable. Developed by DuPont in the 1960s, Nomex fabric was first used by the military in the 1970s. Its light weight and fire-resistant properties made it an ideal fabric for protecting air crews from cockpit fires.

Both the summer weight CWU-36/P and cold weather CWU-45/P were introduced in 1972 as replacements for the nylon MA-1 and L-2B flight jackets that had been in use since the 1950s. The jackets were made of fire-resistant Nomex fabric and components, making them much safer than the nylon jackets, which melted when exposed to high temperatures. The CWU jackets’ major features included a rounded collar and two oversized cargo pockets. The two jackets were identical in design except for a heavy interlining in the 45/P for additional warmth. They are still used by the military today.

Alpha Industries quickly became the leading producer of these new flight jackets and was awarded contracts to produce both the CWU-36/P, a lightweight jacket, along with the CWU- 45/P, a heavier jacket. The jacket gained commercial popularity after the movie 'Top Gun' starring Tom Cruise was released in 1986. In response, Alpha began making nylon versions of the CWU-36/P and CWU-45/P for the fashion market beginning in the late 1980s. A leather version of the CWU-45/P was introduced by Alpha in the mid-1990s.

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