The Air Force has rolled out a new, updated mask for helicopter air crew members that the Air Force says will better protect airmen in case of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attacks.
The new Joint Service Aircrew Mask-Rotary Wing, introduced in November, replace the old Aircrew Eye and Respiratory Protection System for HH-60G Pave Hawk and UH-1N Huey helicopters, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center said in a Thursday release.
Air Force officials said it will provide “vastly improved” eye, skin and respiratory protection, and is compatible with night vision goggles. It also will work with other service’s aircraft, fit much better, have six times the battery life, and has a removable faceplate, and will not require aircraft modifications.
Air crew will have an enhanced field of view when wearing the mask so they can better conduct combat missions, the life cycle management center, based at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, said in the release.
“With recent and continuing world events, our nation’s ability to effectively fight and win in an environment that involves weapons of mass destruction has become more and more important,” Mohamed Mughal, the chief engineer for the Life Cycle Management Center’s CBRN Defense Systems Branch.
Brian Brackens, a spokesman for Wright-Patterson, said in an email Friday that air crew only wear those masks in a CBRN environment, not during everyday operations. Brackens said 978 masks have been fielded.
The old masks limited air crew’s ability to perform their mission, and the new ones have been well-received by airmen, Lt. Col. William Holl, the center’s CBRN defense systems materiel leader at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
As the new masks were sent to the field, teams from the CBRN defense joint program executive office and Air Combat Command trained aircrew flight equipment personnel on how to size and fit them, and conduct preventative maintenance checks. They trained the air crew themselves about how to properly wear and use the masks. As of Thursday, the fielding teams had trained about 100 aircrew flight equipment personnel, and about 75 air crew.