A new mask that provides individual respiratory, eye, and skin protection from various chemical and biological warfare agents, including radiological particulates, for pilots and aircrew recently underwent testing at Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) facilities at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Should it receive approval, the Joint Service Aircrew Mask for Strategic Aircraft (JSAM SA) will replace the legacy mask respirator for all services. This joint path, ECBC said, enables each service to have the same respirator and receive next generation masks concurrently as they are developed which allows for a more-efficient mask turnover.
Fitting for the tests were conducted by Army and Navy service members since they are typically responsible for issuing masks to pilots at air crew military installations.
“Having actual [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives] warfighters as the test participants, and incorporating size and fit training for them into the test process were both unique to this effort and very valuable,” said Zachary Chadwick, a chemist who supports the Joint Project Manager for Protection (JPM-P) on behalf of ECBC. “It provided a real, hands-on evaluation of the mask from start to finish.”
Chadwick, along with other team members, collaborated with the JPM-P over the course of the testing process, including managing the acquisition process, writing testing plans, and reaching out to developers to ensure that configurations were operationally realistic.
Included in the testing process were exercises known as protection factor testing, which measures the chemical protective capabilities of equipment by simulating exposure among test participants during a variety of exercises. Each exercise was developed to test comfort, fit, breathing resistance, vision, and communication ability.
ECBC said each participant met the threshold protection factor, with most exceeding the objective requirement.