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In 1945, the U.S. Army Air Force issued the Jacket, Aircrew, Heavy, Type N-3, the first of a long line of very successful N-3 style parkas. The N-3 evolved into the N-3B by 1958, described as "for aircrew members in extremely cold environments." The N-3B was a single breasted, four pocket, 3/4 length parka with an outer layer of nylon twill (typically sage green), insulated with a layer of wool pile fabric and lined with nylon cloth. The integrated parka hood was fur-trimmed, mouton lined. The N-3B is also known as a "Snorkel Parka" because the hood can be zipped up, leaving only a small opening (the snorkel) for looking out.
Models of the N-3B Line of U.S. Air Force Parkas
The N-3 Parka evolved through a series of specification changes, starting with the original 1945 issue. The first model of "Jacket, Aircrew, Heavy, Attached Hood, Type N-3" was labeled "Specification No. 3110" and had an olive green nylon outer, wolf fur rim on beaver lined hood, and was wool mouton insulated with a nylon inner lining. Around 1950, after the U.S. Air Force separated from the Army, the model became N-3A, the specification became MIL-J-6279 and the nylon outer was USAF blue in color. By 1958 the parka was known as the N-3B, under specification MIL-J-6279A and was grey in color.
The specification continued to evolve from MIL-J-6279B and by the 1970s the color changed to Sage Green under MIL-J-6279F. By then the insulating layer was changed to a warmer, lighter polyester padding. The nomenclature also eveolved, becoming "Jacket, Flying, Man's Nylon Twill, Sage Green USAF 1511, Type N-3B" by the time of MIL-J-6279F in 1964. The FSN for this version was 8415-269-0421 in size Extra Large.
The Jacket specification became a Parka specification, called MIL-P-6279, and continuing to evolve to MIL-P-6279J in the 1980s. The nomenclature was then "Parka, Extreme Cold Weather, Type N-3B." The hood fur had changed slowly from the original wolf and beaver, to coyote, and finally to synthetics. The NSN range appears to be 8415-00-376-1657 to -17xx. In size Large, the NSN is 8415-00-376-1710.
As of 2009, the specification for Parka, Extreme Cold Weather, Type N-3B is MIL-DTL-6279M, published 9 Dec 2003, a very long run for an item of military clothing. For the Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS), the N3B Parka can be replaced with NSN 8415-01-228-13xx, the Gortex "Parka, Cold Weather, Camouflage" along with its liner.
The N-3B Parka is usually worn with the matching F1B trousers, which evolved along with the parka. Later versions of the trousers are known as "Trousers, Extreme Cold Weather" (MIL-T-6284) with NSNs in the range 8415-00-394-3598 to 8415-00-394-3619.
In the same period as the N-3B developed, the N-2B "Jacket, Flying, Man's Heavy" was also fielded, similar to the N-3B but waist length. Both jackets are worn by U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy aircrews as well as others who may acquire them for cold weather duty.
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