It might sound funny to some, but having to pee can be a real problem for military aviators in the fight. Once holding it in becomes distracting, common sense dictates that you’ve got to let it go to focus on more important things. For a long while, letting it go often meant soaking your kit and your seat. As a result, some pilots drink less before combat operations to reduce their need to urinate–but that can lead to far worse problems than warm, wet discomfort.

That practice of “tactical dehydration” (as it’s been called) can reduce one’s situational awareness and decision-making abilities during long-duration operations. It can also effect a pilot’s ability to withstand high G-forces, which can be fatal for fighter pilots in combat. As a result, personnel at the Human System Division of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center are hard at work finding better ways for pilots to pee in their aircraft. This is especially important for females who historically received the short end of the proverbial stick when it comes to urine-collection equipment.

“Urinary [relief] devices are the number one priority that female aircrews have when it comes to mission equipment,” said Lt. Col. Elaine Bryant, deputy director of the Human Systems Division. That’s where the Aircrew Mission Extender Device (AMXDmax) comes in.

Solving the pee problem: Fighter pilots receive new high-tech urine collection devices to prevent tactical dehydration
(Courtesy of Omni Medical)

With variants for both male and female pilots, the AMXDmax is a battery-operated piece of gear pilots put on under their flight suits. When the need arises, male pilots fill a collection cup and female pilots fill a collection pad. An electric pump removes the urine and stores it in a separate container with a maximum capacity of 1.7 quarts.

“These are a vast improvement over the legacy relief devices that many aircrews are currently using. The battery life is longer, it holds more urine, the pads are better, the cups are better, and overall it’s more anatomically correct,” Bryant said.

Thus far, some 600 devices have already reached the field, with 1,500 more expected for delivery to the Air Force by this summer.


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