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Cowboy4

Modern USAF Regulation A2, a couple of questions

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Hello,

 

I have a couple of questions; perhaps some of you can help me. I’ve spent some time researching the new A2 models, since the reintroduction of this jacket by the USAF in 1988.

 

Most of my ”research” was on-line and I’ve put together more than 300 digital pictures of jackets by different Government suppliers, patterns, details, pockets, labels, etc. I even bought a couple, see below. I only considered A2 jackets that were officially issued by the USAF as regulation (only jacket with national stock numbers NSN 8415-01-258-6xxx and NSN 8415-01-283-6xxx); did not consider private purchases and/or modifications.

 

In my understanding, since its first re-introduction to date, there have been only 4 suppliers

 

- Cooper Sportswear Mfg. Co., Inc. (under the Saddlery label)

- Branded Garments Inc. Orchard M/C Inc.

- Avirex Ltd.

- Cockpit USA, Inc.

 

Avirex and Cockpit are in reality the same firm, as Avirex changed its name in Cockpit USA in 2006. According to what I found, the 4 suppliers were awarded contracts in the years as follows

 

Cooper Sportswear Mfg. Co., Inc. (under the Saddlery label)

1988 DLA 100 88 C0420

1992 DLA 100 92-M-0061

1995 SPO 100-95-C-4030

1996 SPO 100-96-D-4020

 

Branded Garments Inc. Orchard M/C Inc.

1992 DLA 100-92-C-0346A

 

Avirex Ltd.

1998 SPO 100-98-C-5018

1999 SPO 100-99-D-4009-xxxx

 

Cockpit USA, Inc.

2007 SPM1C1-07-D-1540 xxxx

 

Finally my questions:

 

All over the net it is reported that the first contract (in 1987 or 1988) was awarded to Avirex, but I have found no trace of this jacket. I believe the first issued jackets were Saddlery’s in 1988. Do you have any information and/or pics of regulation Avirex jackets from 1987 or 1988 ?

 

Are you aware of additional year contracts to the ones listed above ?

 

Thank you in advance.

 

post-110537-0-51808200-1362325438.jpg


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planecrazyent.com sells a U.S. military issue A-2 jacket. Also, uswings.com sells to the

U.S. military. Maybe these companies can help.

 

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Thank you for the reply.

I am familiar with US Wings, did not know the other one and I did checked it out.

These two firms might be Government suppliers (not sure) but, to the best of my information, do not have (or ever had) contracts to supply A-2 jackets to the USAF.

 

US Wings purchased Cooper Sportswear Mfg. Co., Inc. when the original owner retired, but it was after the government supply contract had expired.

 

I am including examples of the labels from the 4 suppliers I believe were/are the only official suppliers. The last 3 digits of the SNS number refer to the size of the jacket.

 

A 1988 Cooper/Saddlery and a 1992 Branded Garments

post-110537-0-52297800-1362613883.jpg

 

A 1999 Avirex and a 2007 Cockpit

post-110537-0-54466500-1362613885.jpg


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Your list of makers is correct and are the only vendors contracted to produce the USAF issue jackets.

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FtrPLt thank you for the reply.

 

Can you confirm that the first contract was awarded to Cooper/Saddlery and not to Avirex ?


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For what its worth, the Cockpit ones are crap quality. A friend of mine who is a pilot in the Air Force gave me his for free because he hated it so much. The leather does not feel like good quality like the Orchard jackets which I also have. His unit actually got reissued new Avirex ones I believe a year or 2 ago. Did Avirex really become Cockpit? Maybe they got some new old stock ones. I wish this post was up a few days ago when I was visiting him, I would have checked his newer jacket. All I know for sure is it was better quality than the Cockpit one he gave me.

Here is the Cockpit I have:

20130320_205351_zps12d4ab3d.jpg


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Cowboy4: Yes, the first of the reissued A-2s were all Saddlery jackets. Comparatively speaking, the earlier jackets are a much lighter shade of brown. My nephew is a USAF pilot and has one of the Cockpit-brand jackets. Very spongy leather. It's also very loosely cut compared to my 1988-contract. I'm sure he'll treasure it a years from now (much as I do my jacket) but it's a PoS quality-wise.

 

mohawkALSE: The Avirex brand (owned by Jeff Clyman) was sold somewhere around 2005. "Cockpit USA" was launched by Mr. Clyman a short time later.

 

As a side note: Depending on jacket size, you can still find some of the older jackets available for issue at some bases. CT ANG had a rack of try-on jackets in the ALSE shop as recently as 5 years ago and there were still a few Saddlery jackets present.

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I've owned four different "modern" USAF A2s (all subsequently sold/traded) Three were used Saddlery brand with all of the velcro panels in place, and one was an unissued Cooper...also with the velcro panels in place. Apart from their labels, there was nothing to distinguish between them. All were made of the same weight of dark brown goatskin leather with the same detail features...absolute standardization.


"We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!"

 

Winston Churchill

" Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans."

John Winston Lennon

 

 

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While outwardly almost identical, the external finish between the Saddlery and Cooper jackets was different. The ALSE techs told us there was some type of fire retardent on the USAF-spec jackets. Of course our standard response was to ask why? When these were first issued, they weren't authorized for flight use.

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My nephew is a USAF pilot and has one of the Cockpit-brand jackets. Very spongy leather. It's also very loosely cut compared to my 1988-contract. I'm sure he'll treasure it a years from now (much as I do my jacket) but it's a PoS quality-wise.

 

As a side note: Depending on jacket size, you can still find some of the older jackets available for issue at some bases. CT ANG had a rack of try-on jackets in the ALSE shop as recently as 5 years ago and there were still a few Saddlery jackets present.

 

Thumbs up to your thoughts that the newer Cockpit jackets are a PoS as well haha. I'm still glad my friend gave me it as I didn't pay a dime for it unless you want to consider the taxes we all pay, and when I wear it out, if something ever happened to it or I lost it I wouldn't be sad like I would if it was a nicer quality jacket. For the record I don't wear it out with the AMC patch on.

 

Were you in the CT ANG? 5 yrs ago they still had A-10s, I wonder what their shop looks like for ALSE stuff now having C-21s.


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ALSE shop probably has replacement champagne glasses in case they break one inflight!

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ALSE shop probably has replacement champagne glasses in case they break one inflight!

 

Shark Ops, Yankee 23 is two zero out Code 2 broken champagne glass


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Yankee 23, Shark Ops. Contact Sammy 22 on Guard for immediate top off of champagne tanks. Vector 045 for intercept. Buster.

 

Shark Ops, Yankee 23. Negative. Ground abort. Wine spilled on cabin floor and carpet is stained. Code 3 :D

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In the early 90's I was at a party at the Tennessee Air National Guard Air Base at Memphis and I noticed a pilot that had just gotten off duty wearing a great looking A-2. I love A-2's and have studying them in depth. I had ordered samples of leather from every major and not so major manufacturers of the A-2. I did not like the Cooper product. Leather thickness varied from one place to another on the jacket and in some spots it was so thin I could have ripped it with one hand. This guy had a good looking jacket so I went to him and asked who the maker was. True to a real military guy.....he didn't have a clue who made it. He took it off and it was an early Avirex. The jacket was beautiful and of great quality. The only jackets I had seen that were issue up to that time were Coopers. I would have paid him good money for it but he couldn't sell. I have seen subsequent copies of the Avirex but none as nice as that one was. It was simply a beautiful jacket and well made. The Coopers had more room in the shoulders and therefore looked like you were wearing a zoot (sp.) suit. I hated em.

I bought a Branded Products from a retired AF buddy and it was a well made and good fitting A-2. I like it a lot.

Ronnie


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Ronnie, your comment is most interesting. In my research, to date, I have not found regulation Avirex A2s with labels dating before 1998. Other forum members have also stated that Cooper/Saddlery came before Avirex. I wonder if the jacket you saw is the "missing" link, the reason I started this topic. Do you happen to remember if the jacket was USAF regulation (complete with the two velcros); what do you mean by "early" Avirex ? Thank you in advance.


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I'd very much like to see an Avirex-produced, 1988 (or earlier) USAF contract jacket. To date, I've not seen one. To be fair, I'm very far from expert but have heard the "Avirex was first" rumour for many years. Ample evidence shows Cooper Sportswear as the awardee for the 1988 contract. The following quote is from the Air Force Association website and is a snippet from an old article which details how the A-2 was brought back.

 

Major Driggers received from the Air Force Museum an A-2 jacket made in 1936. He found two manufacturers (Avirex and Willis & Geiger) that were still making them because of public demand. When the contract notice was issued, ten other manufacturers sent in bids. The contract was won by the Cooper Sportswear Manufacturing Co. of Newark, N. J., which opted to make the jackets out of goatskin instead of horsehide. The manufacturer had to obtain goatskin from Nigeria, Tasmania, and Pakistan because no source in the US was large enough.

 

Here is the entire article to put the above paragraph into perspective.

Although the A-2 was not issued after the Korean War, it remained a symbol of USAAF’s war years in the minds of those who served. It was revived in the 1980s when Project Warrior was established to remind blue-suiters about the fighting heritage of the Air Force and as a retention incentive.

 

One Project Warrior initiative came from Col. James S. “Stu” Mosbey, then assigned to 9th Air Force headquarters at Shaw AFB, S. C. A friend showed him an A-2 jacket his father had worn during World War II as a P-51 Mustang pilot. On its back was a painting of a Mustang named Tokyo Express. To Mosbey, the jacket expressed a sense of union, common interests and responsibilities, and the experiences of thousands of World War II pilots and crew members.

 

Colonel Mosbey wondered, “Why did the Air Force ever give up the A-2? It’s a beautiful jacket that we all ought to be able to wear.”

 

Mosbey approached a number of his fighter pilot friends. If permission were granted, he asked, would they like to buy and wear the A-2? The answer was a thundering “Yes!” Colonel Mosbey and others visited the Air Force Museum, chipped in $20 each, and bought an A-2 in the gift shop. As a group, they presented the jacket to Lt. Gen. William L. Kirk, commander of 9th Air Force, and made their pitch to be allowed to purchase the jacket with their own money and wear it as a symbol of Air Force heritage and esprit de corps among fighter pilots.

 

General Kirk agreed to the idea and took it “upstairs” to Gen. Robert D. Russ, commander of Tactical Air Command. General Russ authorized Mosbey and a team of pilots to visit other TAC bases with 600 questionnaires for pilots, hoping to gauge their enthusiasm. Ninety-five percent said they would wear the A-2. General Russ approved the jacket revival but thought it should be an item of government issue.

 

The Obvious Choice

 

Col. Schumbert C. “Hoss” Jones, a former Thunderbird pilot assigned to TAC headquarters, was appointed project officer. He studied the regulations and researched the procurement sources. He found there were about a dozen kinds of flight jackets available, including Navy types, but “it always came back to the famous A-2” as the desired choice.

 

“ Although it was intended originally only for TAC pilots,” according to Colonel Jones, “the jacket idea quickly blossomed into an Air Force–wide project as other commands became involved.” Gen. John T. Chain, Jr., commander of Strategic Air Command, “was very much in favor of his pilots also wearing the A-2,” said Colonel Jones. “Other major commanders wanted their combat-ready pilots to be included.”

 

As a result, the revival of the A-2 jacket took on a special status as a visible symbol of the modern Air Force pilot. According to one internal paper, the rationale given as the idea climbed upward in command channels was that combat-ready aircrews were “not adequately recognized and that reinstatement of the distinctive aviators’ jacket would be a significant help.” The Air Force estimated that the initial expense to outfit the operational forces would be less than $5 million.

 

Briefings were prepared as the idea gained momentum. A new regulation in 1987 permitting the wearing of A-2 flight jackets would commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Air Force. The jackets would acknowledge outwardly the “fly and fight” mission of the Air Force and recognize “first-line” active-duty, Guard, and Reserve men and women. Jackets would be issued on a one-time basis only to combat-ready flyers (officers and enlisted) assigned to front-line units.

 

The defense budget included a line item for the jackets, but some on Capitol Hill thought the idea frivolous and too expensive. Nevertheless, although a number of Air Force programs sustained deep cuts, the jackets stayed in the budget after hard lobbying by those in and out of uniform who believed in their value.

 

Maj. Mitch Driggers, a navigator in charge of the clothing division in the Pentagon, was assigned to get the jackets back into the Air Force flight clothing inventory. As quoted in Hell Bent for Leather by Derek Nelson and Dave Parsons, a book about the A-2 and Navy G-1 jackets, Major Driggers did not find the job easy.

 

“ The deeper I dug, I found out that there were no patterns,” he said. “In the old days, a series of drawings [was] done, and then they figured out the general dimensions.”

 

Faraway Sources

 

Major Driggers received from the Air Force Museum an A-2 jacket made in 1936. He found two manufacturers (Avirex and Willis & Geiger) that were still making them because of public demand. When the contract notice was issued, ten other manufacturers sent in bids. The contract was won by the Cooper Sportswear Manufacturing Co. of Newark, N. J., which opted to make the jackets out of goatskin instead of horsehide. The manufacturer had to obtain goatskin from Nigeria, Tasmania, and Pakistan because no source in the US was large enough.

 

The Air Force chose December 31, 1987, as the deadline for awarding a contract. Specifications were issued, and the procurement process began. The initial contract was for 53,000 seal-brown goatskin “traditional” USAAF A-2 jackets, to be delivered at a rate of 5,000 jackets per month. They would be worn with a leather name tag embossed with name, rank, wings, and “USAF” in silver on brown leather and would bear a major command patch. The first jackets were delivered in May 1988.

 

According to the current regulation, the jackets will be issued only to officers or enlisted personnel who are in mission-ready, emergency-mission-ready, mission capable, or mission-support billets assigned at or below wing level who met the criteria on or after September 18, 1987, the Air Force’s fortieth birthday. “Once a member is issued the jacket,” according to the regulation, “he or she may continue to wear it after being reassigned from the duties [that] originally qualified him or her for the issue.” It can be worn “with the flight suit, service uniform, or pullover sweater” but not with civilian clothes. After he or she retires, the wearer may keep the jacket.

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FrtPlt, thank you once again for your input and for the great article.

I am now definitely convinced that there were no regulation A-2 Avirex before 1998.

I am attaching for reference the labels from an Avirex contract 1998 and from a contract 1999. The two jackets (and labels) are quite different; the latter incorporates the alleged improvements of the "redesign".

I am also attaching a brief table summarizing my observations.

 

post-110537-0-55520500-1364176846.jpg

 

post-110537-0-69914500-1364176870.jpg


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The only thing I can possibly theorize would be that Avirex and Willis & Geiger might have been consulted for possible patterns?

 

On your initial post, you list a 1992 Saddlery contract. Has anyone ever seen one? I'm wondering if it was a cancelled contract since Branded seems to be the producer for that year?

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I am attaching the labels for Cooper/Saddlery jackets from 1988, 1992, 1995 and 1996.

The Cooper/Saddlery jackets from 1988 seem to be by far the most common.

I am also attaching a 1996 unusual label, I have found only one.

Please note that I only own two jackets, they are both Saddlery from 1988; most of my "research" was done online studying "other people" pictures.

 

post-110537-0-03638700-1364252866.jpg

 

post-110537-0-04264800-1364252867.jpg

 

post-110537-0-23365600-1364252902.jpg

 

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Probably really useless trivia but if you look at what I think are the very earliest Saddlery jackets, you'll find the size is marked on the lower right of the Saddlery label -- just to the right of where it says 'made in USA'. Working theory, anyway.

 

saddlerysizeweb.jpg

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I've noticed that; and it comes in two versions: size inside circle and size with no circle.

I buy your theory.

 

... enough for labels, my wife thinks I am losing it.

 

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I never noticed the circle before. Good catch. You can also see small changes in the Saddlery logo. The "R" has a bigger loop on some of the early labels. :wacko:

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Cowboy sorry about the delay in getting back to you but I forgot that I posted here. Without a doubt this AF pilot had on an Avirex A2. If memory serves me right the label was black. The quality far exceeded the Cooper product. In fact I went and ordered an Avirex jacket and wore it until I outgrew it or until my Eastman came in.

It was my understanding that when the Airforce was looking at bringing the A2 back they ordered or requested that companies send some samples. Sort of like when the military was looking for a small recon vehicle ( jeep). Several companies submitted samples.

The pilot that had the jacket didn't know shiznit about the jacket and could not have cared less. He did like the jacket and was proud of it. Also I believe the patches were sewn on. Not attached with Velcro.

I wish I could give you more info but that's about it.

Ronnie


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