Travel back to 1959. Knoxville, Tennessee. The United States Department of Defense recruits Alpha to revamp its military jacket. Why? Because as the jet age takes flight to greater heights and ground troops encounter trickier terrain, the technological needs and real-life demands of our soldiers change. Simply put, but not simply achieved, Alpha re-engineers outdated designs. As better fabrics are developed and tested, Alpha makes better jackets for our soldiers-better designed, better produced, and more reliable. Alpha garments are ranked as warmer, more comfortable, and designed to meet any climatic challenge or test of time.
Today, Alpha Industries is not only a global enterprise, manufacturing and selling its products throughout the world, but also the premier supplier of jackets for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Army, and Marine Corps. Alpha sets the standard as a leader in cutting-edge outerwear design. From flight decks to civilian sidewalks, Alpha stands on the frontlines of quality and fashion, as a testament to innovation, creativity and manufacturing know-how. The honest truth is that Alpha is tried, and tested, and proven. And that's where you come in. Now it's your turn to try it out.
Alpha. Tried. Tested. Proven
The Alpha Story
Over 40 Million Served
Alpha's history as a manufacturer for the U.S. Military is a long and successful one. For over 40 years, the United States Department of Defense has relied on Alpha Industries for outerwear to protect Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel. Since first opening our factory in 1959, Alpha has continuously manufactured the M-65 Field Coat, fabricating more of these coats than any other company. And, since the mid-1960's, we've manufactured virtually every MA-1 Flight Jacket used by U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy pilots.
All told, Alpha Industries has produced over 40 million pieces of military outerwear to perform under the most severe conditions imaginable.
3-Bars Make The Difference
Long before anyone even knew the name Alpha, our three bars had earned quite a reputation among purchasers of surplus military apparel. In surplus stores throughout the country, customers sought out the jackets with the three bars on the military specifications tag.
There's an interesting story behind this; when Alpha Industries received a military contract and that contract was fulfilled, "surplus" materials were always left over. In order to use these materials and keep our factories operating, we continued to make jackets following the strict military specifications. These jackets would be sold to surplus stores. But, for internal purposes, we needed to develop a way to separate these jackets from the ones that were actually going to be shipped to the military.
On jackets going to the military the label contained a single black bar separating the identification of the type of jacket and its specifications. We developed a replacement label to be used for surplus jackets. The only difference between this and the actual military label was that we put three black bars between these two pieces of information. And this label was the only difference between these surplus jackets and those that were actually to be worn by the military. Other contractors also manufactured surplus coats, but they changed to lower grade materials using lighter fabric, thinner insulation, less durable zippers and fasteners. And they didn't change the internal labels; their garments still had the single black bar. Over time, customers at surplus stores began to notice that the jackets with the three bars were the best. And no wonder; because, after all, these were the exact same jackets that American pilots and ground crews were wearing at bases around the world. In fact, if you look closely at the Alpha logo, you'll see that we integrated these three bars into the mark that has come to symbolize our company and its products.
Known Around The World
From the streets of virtually every city in the U.S., to the streets of Europe and Japan, the Alpha name is known. In fact, at one time a single store in Japan had a waiting list of over 900 people hoping to get an Alpha jacket. Alpha continues to produce the same quality garments be began making back in 1959, only now, we adjust and modify our products to meet your demands. Alpha continues to be the most sought after Authentic military brand in Europe and abroad.
Don't Settle For Less Than An Original
If imitation is the highest form of flattery, Alpha jackets get high praise--we've consistently find poor quality copies around the world. So, you need to know how to recognize the original, Authentic Alpha.
Here are the telltale signs to look for:
The first, and easiest to find, is the authentic Alpha three-bar logo.
There is a tab version of our logo on the sleeve of every flight jackets.
Look in the pocket, there is a larger logo patch in there as well.
Look at the black-and-white military specification tag. In between the identification of the type of jacket it is and the actual specifications, there will be three solid black bars.
Check the feel of the fabric. Alpha jackets have a heavier, better-quality fabric than most others.
Finally, check the brass zipper, it will have the word ALPHA and our logo on it.
Remember, there is only one Authentic Alpha.
Alpha CWU-45/P History
By the 70's, commercial advances in fire retardant materials had developed a new range of fabrics for flight jackets and suites. These changes ushered in a new series of revisions to the entire flight equipment ensembles worn by aviators. This lead to the development of the universally popular CWU-45/P flight jacket (and its similar cousin, the lighter weight CWU-36/P), which traces it's origin back to the 1973 specification for an improved cold weather outfit that included a detachable hood and trousers in addition to the jacket itself. This specification was a Military Standard (MIL-STD) that called for the use of the latest Aromatic Polyamide fabrics that were treated with a fire retardant substance. The previous series of jackets, notable the MA-1, used nylon as a fabric, which was discovered to have a potential to melt onto the wearer's ski when subjected to flames encountered during an aircraft fire. The new jacket was procured under MIL-J-83388A and termed the CWU-17/P. Without a close inspection, it is virtually indistinguishable from the CWU-36/P, a slightly improved version of the CWU-17/P.
The initial contract was in 1973, and produced the most popular contemporary flight jacket since the leather flight jackets from World War II. The more stylish cut was enhanced by the practical deep side pockets with Velcro secured flaps, which inhibit the loss of any contents that potentially could be sucked up by a jet engine and cause Foreign-Object-Damage (FOD). The tops of the pockets were cut at a rakish 40 degrees, which further inhibited loss of contents, but was also conducive to allowing aviators to put their hands in their pockets in cold weather.
In 1977, the jacket was renamed the CWU-45/P under the same MIL-J-83388A, and the detachable signal pocket that was a feature of the CWU-17/P was reduced in size. In 1980, the lip of the "windshield" (or collar) was reduced slightly and the specification updated to MIL-J-83388B. Concerns over the interference of the rear "action" pleats during a potential ejection, led to the reduction in their size, and the subsequent update to specification MIL-J-83388C. The latest modification was a simplification to the stitching of the windshield (visible underneath) in the 1984 that produced MIL-J-83388D. To all but the experienced eye, the jacket appears virtually the same since its introduction, and remains the U.S. Military's most popular flight jacket.
Currently, Air Force aviators are issued the lighter weight CWU-36/P for the more temperate zones where flight training is conducted, and the CWU-45/P upon assignment to frontline units in cooler climates. From a distance, both jackets are virtually identical; only a close inspection reveals the heavier padding of the CWU-45/P. CWU-45/P flight jackets can be found on the backs of aviators flying virtually every frontline aircraft in the United States Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. It affords warmth in the cavernous and drafty cargo holds of the cargo hauling C-17, C-5, C-130 and C-141 aircraft, and in all helicopters currently in service. Patrol aircraft like the P-3, and specialized aircraft like the RC-135, E-3 AWACS and EP-3 are especially happy customers. Aviators flying tactical aircraft with ejection seats typically do not wear the CWU-45/P once strapped into the aircraft due to the necessity for a snug fit of the torso harness; but wear the jackets during the preflight and post-flight on the cold windswept concrete ramps and in their squadron bases.
The jackets are even more popular with non-aviator personnel working around the aircraft who will do anything to get their hands on one through barter or trade. The jackets are a highly visible status symbol, and although rules generally prohibit wearing the jacket off-duty with civilian clothes, it is done all of the time. In fact, generals and admirals can often be seen in their offices in the Pentagon wearing their jackets in the colder months. The United States Air Force has strict rules regarding the wearing of patches on flight jacket. A nametag is worn over the left breast attached by Velcro to the jacket, while the right breast displays the Major Command (MAJCOM) insignia (MAJCOM's are Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, etc.). The left shoulder has the Wing Insignia (a typical wing has three aviation squadrons as well as other "support" units), and the right shoulder displays the individual unit insignia. The Navy has no formal guidelines, but many units adopt a similar style with the unit. The most common is to wear the squadron patch on the right breast and a patch for the type aircraft flown on the right shoulder. Usually a patch with the aircraft logo (i.e. Tomcat) is worn on the left shoulder, but fighter aircrew will substitute the Top Gun patch when it is earned.
Many flight jackets will add additional patches as they are earned, transforming the jacket into a visual biography of the aviator's career. This would include patches for missiles fired, Aircraft Carrier commemoration patches, achievement patches, etc. A quick glace from an experienced eye instantly discerns the wearer's career biography from their display of patches.
Army Navy Deals offers a CWU jacket that are exactly the same flight jackets worn by Air Force, Navy, Army, and Marine Corps aviators. We buy them straight from the U.S. military production line and insist on only first quality jackets that have passed the tough military inspection. But the military inspection is a cakewalk compared to our even tougher quality standards. We reinspect every jacket ourselves and reject every one with even the smallest flaw. You won't receive a second or a military reject from us, only first quality, genuine U.S. military issue.
We also offer Genuine Issue Flight Gear, purchased directly from Government's World-Wide. Surplus remains the best value for your buck. We will always note when a product is Vintage or used, and the condition it is in.
CWU-45/P Winter Jacket
This is the military's winter weight flight jacket. It is manufactured to Milspec MIL-J-83388 on the current military production line. The CWU-45/P is made entirely from NOMEX® fiber, including the continuous filament twill shell, warm quilted lining, zipper, and knit waistband cuffs. Its storm flap and knit cuffs and waistband keep out the cold. Two front pockets that close with hook-and-loop fastener and a zippered pen-and-pencil pocket on the left sleeve give you room to stow your gear.
CWU-36/P Summer Jacket
The CWU-36/P is a summer weight military flight jacket manufactured to military specification MIL-J-83382C. It is made completely from NOMEX®. The CWU-36/P is identical to CWU-45/P except that is has a lightweight summer lining and no storm flap.
The military CWU-36/P and CWU-45/P jackets are now out of production. We have only a limited number available. We can make a similar jacket from sage green staple Nomex® or from sage green leather.
Alpha MA-1 History
The MA-1 flight jacket is perhaps the most popular clothing item ever designed for the United States military forces. It's official name is "Jacket, Flyers, Man's Intermediate Type MA-1" (MIL-J-8279). Alpha Industries (and our predecessor, Dobbs Industries), has continuously manufactured the MA-1 since the 1950's. We are the largest and virtually the only supplier of the MA-1 jacket for the United States military from the 1950's to date.
History of MA1
The MA-1 jacket was first developed in the late 1940's. A new flight jacket was needed at that time because the emergence of the jet age created new requirements for pilot comfort and safety. Prior to the invention of the jet aircraft, fleece-lined leather jackets were issued to flight personnel. However, the new jets could fly at much higher altitudes and in much colder temperatures than propeller aircraft. When the heavy, bulky leather jackets became wet from rain or perspiration, the water would freeze at high altitudes, making the jackets cold and uncomfortable. In addition, new jets were more streamlined in design and their cockpits were cramped. Speedy, unimpeded access to and from the cockpits became even more critical for safety. Rather than the bulky leather jacket, a sleek, more lightweight and warm jacket was needed for this new jet technology.
To meet these needs, a new type of flight jacket was developed. The material selected for the jacket was a high quality nylon. Nylon had been discovered prior to World War II, but it was not used in flight clothing until after the war; possibly because the demand for nylon for items, such as parachutes, consumed the available supply during the war. The initial nylon flight jacket was designed in about 1944. It was called the B-15 flight jacket (MIL-J-6251). The B-15 was similar to the MA-1 except it had a mouton fur collar. After a few years, the B-15 was discontinued and the MA-1 was introduced. The first MA-1 jackets were issued between 1949 and 1950 to the United States Air Force and Navy pilots and flight crews. Small numbers were also issued to Army flight personnel. Alpha Industries' first government contract was awarded in 1958 under the Dobbs Industries name (MIL-J-1958B). MA-1 jackets first appeared outside the U.S. in very small quantities in the mid to late 1950's, probably on the black market and at sales of government surplus in Europe. In the early to mid 1960's, more MA-1 jackets appeared in Europe as Alpha Industries began to export MA-1 jackets and other military clothing to European Air Forces and commercial customers.
Today, the government orders MA-1 jackets only for the use of ground crew personnel not associated with flight; such as security police, base maintenance and line repair personnel. Pilots and flight crews are currently issued the CWU 45/P jacket. Thus, the orange lined MA-1 has entered a special place in history, where it will remain one of the most popular flight jackets ever produced.
The MA-1 has undergone various design modifications during its long history of use, but its classic, highly functional design remains basically the same. The original design was detailed in U.S. Government specification MIL-J-8279. Changes were often signaled by adding a new letter of the alphabet to the original military specification number. For example, the MA-1 specifications progressed from the original number, J-8279, to J-8279A, J-8279B, J-8279C, etc. until the most recent number, J-8279F, which was issued in the early 1980's.
The MA-1 as originally designed, was made from high quality nylon outer shell and a nylon lining. In between these nylon layers was a double faced wool material for warmth. After a few years, the wool interlining was replaced by the newly developed polyester fiber fill interlining. The polyester replaced the wool because it made the jacket much lighter and provided superior warmth.
The MA-1 introduced two major design changes from its predecessor, the B-15:
The MA-1 discarded the mouton fur collar and substituted a knit collar. This was done because the fur collar interfered with the parachute harness worn by the aviators.
In later models (J-8279D, about 1960), the MA-1 jacket was made reversible and added a bright Indian Orange lining. If the airplane crash landed and the pilot escaped, he could reverse the jacket to the orange side for a highly visible signal to rescue personnel.
Other changes have been made to the original MA-1 design over the years, such as:
Early models contained a front tab where the pilot could clip his oxygen mask when not in use. After several years, advances in airplane design and pilot helmet oxygen systems made the clip-on arrangement unnecessary, and the front tab was removed.
Early models also had sewn loops to hold the wires running from the radio to the pilot's helmet. When radio improvements made this unnecessary, the sewn loops were removed.
The early MA-1 flight jackets were used by the Air Force and had the United States Air Force decal on each sleeve. This was dropped in later MA-1 models when the jacket began to be used by other branches of the military.
The MA-1 and its ancestor, the B-15, were originally produced in two colors; Sage Green and Midnight Blue. Blue was the original color used by the military, but it was soon replaced by the sage green color. During the Korean War period (1950-1953), mixing flight clothing from multiple time periods and colors was not unusual. Presumably, the green was eventually adopted because it blended more easily with the environment should the pilot need camouflage protection on the ground. The MA-1 was designed as a "intermediate weight" jacket. Its purpose was to keep the pilots and crews in warm temperatures ranging from 14 degrees to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 to +10 degrees Celsius); with an extended usable range of 0 degrees 60 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 to +15 degrees Celsius). Other lighter or heavier jackets were designed for comfort in warmer or colder temperatures.
Technical Details of the MA-1
Each Alpha MA-1 is engineered to the highest quality standards. Consistency in construction in all Alpha jackets ensures that each MA-1 looks identical and meets these strict standards.
Important authentic details of Alpha MA-1's include:
Each MA-1 jacket requires 57 separate sewing operations. These operations are highly engineered and each has a distinct quality purpose. The utility pocket, originally called the cigarette pocket, involves 8 sewing operations.
The embroidered Alpha logo label is stitched in the left pocket, along with the white specification label. The labels are sewn inside so that they will not show if the jacket is reversed.
When comparing the authentic Alpha MA-1 to other copies, look for the following special quality details in our construction to assure the authenticity:
For extra strength - edge stitching on pocket flaps, bar tacks on interior and exterior pockets to prevent tearing, reinforced pocket snaps, double needle lap seams on sleeves, top stitching on the jacket back and cuffs
Neatly constructed utility pocket with a ¼ inch taper and square corners in the bellows construction, with the precisely positioned pencil point protectors
The knit at the bottom of the jacket is attached to the shell of the jacket (not sewn to both the shell and the lining during the attachment, because this construction can cause twisting in the waistband), and the knit is stretched uniformly over the bottom width of the coat
The quilt on the storm flap is constructed using a 3 inch quilt on the points, with a tolerance of only +/- ¼ inch.
The Alpha MA-1, which is sold to the commercial market, has several deviations from the government specifications. These changes have no effect on the appearance, and make the jackets more useful for consumers on an everyday basis.
The deviations include:
Water repellent treated fabric - this makes the garment more resistant to water and wind
Knit collar, cuffs and waist band are an acrylic blend rather than 100% wool. It has been found that wool does not wear as well as acrylic and is subject to insect damage.
The interlining is cut staple, non-quilted polyester batting rather than a quilted, continuous staple polyester batting; and has no performance impact on the finished garment.
Alpha sets the standard for authentic MA-1's - often copied, but never duplicated. Alpha - Tried, Tested and Proven.
The MA-1 - From Flight Jacket to Fashion Statement
This military staple was introduced by the Air Force in 1949 for pilots. Although its design has been tweaked throughout the years, its basic design has remained the same. The jacket's main feature is its orange lining. The coat is reversible so that a downed pilot could be spotted easily by rescue personnel simply by turning the jacket inside out for better visibility. Although the MA1 flight jacket is no longer worn by pilots, because it is such a useful jacket (lightweight and well insulated ), it is now worn by the ground personnel. Repair technicians need the same warmth and dryness that the pilots needed in the cockpit. This jacket has made the crossover into the fashion industry by Alpha Industries. Alpha Coats have been remodeled for women. These Air Force jackets are more shaped and trim thus creating a flattering look and fit for women. Alpha Industries has also created an Alpha Air Force jacket for children so that they can mimic their parents and at the same time have a practical flight jacket.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the MA-1 orange on the inside?
In 1960, the MA-1 was changed to a reversible jacket with an orange lining instead of green. By reversing their MA-1 jacket to the orange side, downed pilots could easily be located by search and rescue teams.
What is the sleeve pocket on the MA-1 for?
This pocket was originally created to hold a pack of cigarettes.
Why is there a tab on the front of the vintage MA-1?
True to the original military spec, this tab was placed on the front of the jacket so that the pilot could clip his oxygen mask to it.
What is the M-65 made of?
The fabric for the M-65 outershell is a wind-resistant 50% Cotton/50% Nylon Sateen with a 225 lb. Breaking strength.
Has Alpha ever made a floating jacket?
Yes. It was called the Impermeable Extreme Cold Weather Waterproof Clothing Ensemble. This was originally designed for U.S. Navy shipboard use during extreme cold, wet weather.
Why are the "pen bullets" sewn into the MA-1?
These bullets are sewn into the MA-1 to cover the tip of the pen when it is placed in the pen pocket, assuring that the ink does not leak on to the sleeve of the jacket.
Why are the pockets angled on the CWU 45/P?
When the jacket was designed officers realized the need for pockets from a functional standpoint, but did not want their pilots walking around with their hands in their pockets. Consequently, they asked that the pockets be angled and placed high on the front of the jacket.
Alpha has been going strong since 1959 when they started in Knoxville, Tenn.
A traditional Alpha Jacket tag.
Alpha Industries Original CWU-45/P Jacket
CWU-45/P Leather Model
Chuck Yeager and X-1, Photo Courtesy of USAF Museum Photo Archives
1958 MA-1 Dobbs Industries
MA-1 (later version) Alpha Industries