Fairchild Airmen perform first test of new chemical defense mask on KC-135

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Whitney Laine
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
In the midst of calm or chaos, there lies a potential for aircrews to fight the faceless combatants of chemical and biological agents. U.S. military personnel actively operate within areas that maintain the capability to employ these agents, making individual protective equipment imperative to mission readiness.

Fairchild aircrew members performed the first-ever test of the Joint Service Aircrew Mask on a KC-135 Stratotanker during a night-flight July 17.

The JSAM is a new chemical and biological defense mask/hood combination designed to replace the former six-decades-old aircrew masks in the Department of Defense inventory. The mask provides an advanced and efficient safety measure tailored to be interchangeable between all services.

“The new gear provides a greater capability for aircrew to operate in contested environments,” said Lt. Col. Sean Howlett, 93rd Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 evaluator pilot. “The current Aircrew Eye and Respiratory Protection System has a multitude of limitations due to the mass and limited function of its design. The cumbersome tasks of dawning the gear, transporting to the jet, conducting pre-flight inspections, air refueling and landing has been averted through the new design and functional values of the JSAM.”

While protection takes precedence, Airmen from the 92nd, 93rd and 384th ARS evaluated additional crucial areas of improvement including comfort, weight, durability, heat stress, function and donning and doffing ease for every flight task.

The gear enhances the ability to operate because of the reduced footprint of the gear while still allowing maximum protection for each crewmember. It also gives users a secure fit, broader field of view and minimal hose attachments, Howlett said.

Equipment undergoing in-field testing represents an initial capability based upon the best available technology, but is not yet the perfect solution. Constantly evolving threat environments demand continual improvements.

“Although the JSAM is still in development, it is already more efficient and easier to use in comparison to AERPS,” said Senior Airman Stetson Vigil, 93rd ARS boom operator. “We will be better prepared for combat if anything does happen because we will be able to be anywhere at any time.”

The development of the JSAM contributes to the continuous investments in Mobility Air Force capabilities and readiness, which is essential to ensuring the Air Force maintains range, speed and agility advantages over potential adversaries, and in support of global mobility operations.