The US Air Force has completed testing of its new face mask for helicopter and other rotary aircraft crews. The Joint Service Aircrew Mask – Rotary Wing (JSAM-RW) mask is one of five variants that will replace a whole range of masks worn by military aircrews, and will not only provide oxygen at high altitudes, but also protect the wearer against nuclear, biological, radiological, and chemical (NBRC) threats.

Modern aircrews don't just have to face missiles and bullets. In our modern age of increasingly advanced weapons, terrorism, asymmetric warfare, and rogue states, those who operate helicopters and other rotorcraft also have to fly into the possibility of dangers like chemical or biological weapons, the after effects of nuclear attacks, or radioactive contamination due to a dirty bomb attack or nuclear disaster.

This means that aircrews both in the air and on the ground need long-term protection against these hazards that can work both aboard the aircraft or self contained off it for many hours at a time. In the case of face masks, they need to cover as much skin as possible, protect the eyes, nose, and mouth, yet allow for the maximum of comfort and visibility.

According the Air Force, the JSAM-RW is the latest such mask to achieve full operational capability. The JSAM-RW will replace the present Aircrew Eye and Respiratory Protection system on HH-60G and UH-1N aircraft and on all other rotary aircraft, except the Apache attack helicopter.

The JSAM-RW is notable because it has better visibility, better skin and respiratory protection, fits five times better and has six times the battery life of its predecessor. It can work with night-vision goggles and has a removable faceplate, and using it requires no modification of existing aircraft. It's also cooler to wear for extended periods, and can be worn by crews for both escaping a crippled aircraft and while evading hostile forces.

"Fielding the new masks is significant because they are replacing equipment that limits the capability of aircrew to perform their mission," says Lieutenant Colonel William Holl, Materiel Leader of AFLCMC's CBRN Defense Systems at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. "The feedback I'm getting from aircrew is that they love the system and are excited about getting this new capability."

Source: US Air Force

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