ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – ECBC is playing a critical role in ensuring that military pilots and aircrew have the most advanced chemical and biological protective gear available.
The Joint Service Aircrew Mask for Strategic Aircraft, or JSAM SA, is undergoing testing to ensure that it meets joint service requirements, with some tests conducted at ECBC facilities at APG South (Edgewood).
The Joint Service Aircrew Mask Program is managed by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense Joint Project Manager for Protection.. Its goal is to provide individual respiratory, eye, and skin protection from chemical and biological warfare agents and radiological particulates for pilots and aircrew. When approved, the Joint Service Aircrew Mask is intended to replace the legacy mask respirator for all services. This joint path enables each service to have the same respirator and receive next generation masks concurrently as they are developed. This will result in more efficient mask turnover, as well as save costs and time.
The Joint Service Aircrew Mask was originally designed as a single program initiated to replace all aviation protective masks for both fixed and rotary wing platforms. However, the U.S. joint services have since utilized different platforms and configurations that have created a need for different protection solutions. One such solution is the JSAM SA, designed specifically for strategic aircraft ? heavy, fixed-wing cargo platforms used by U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps aviation units.
The JSAM SA testing process established by ECBC was well-planned in coordination with JPM-P. “There are many steps involved during the developmental test phase, and precision is key to ensuring accurate results,” said Zachary Chadwick, a chemist who supports JPM-P on behalf of ECBC.
Chadwick and other team members collaborated with the JPM-P throughout the testing process and supported the JPM with management of the acquisition process, writing the test plan, and reaching out to combat developers from the joint services to check that configurations were operationally realistic.
Certifying that the laboratory is properly equipped and prepared for testing is critical, as is ensuring that the test participants are well-fitted with the appropriate equipment.
For these tests, fittings were conducted by Army and Navy service members, since they are the individuals responsible for issuing masks to pilots and air crew at military installations. Typically, a resident expert fitter will size and fit test participants for testing. According to Chadwick, “Having actual CBRNE 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. It provided a real, hands-on evaluation of the mask from start to finish.”
After test preparations were completed, members of ECBC’s Engineering Test Division conducted protection factor testing on the JSAM SA XM69 mask and Joint Protective Aircrew Ensemble, along with additional service-specific chemical and biological protection equipment.
Protection factor testing measures the chemical protective capabilities of equipment by simulating exposure as test participants don equipment and perform a series of exercises. The exercises are designed to challenge the equipment and measure comfort, fit, breathing resistance, vision and communication ability.
The protection factor testing was conducted to assess whether the mask’s fit met the protective capability requirements of JSAM SA as dictated in the program’s performance specification. Eighteen test participants, both military and civilian, were fitted for testing by Army operational fitters from the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence as well as Navy operational fitters from the Naval Air Station Patuxent River Air Test and Evaluation Squadron.
The participants completed three trials each to evaluate the fit of the mask in a simulated chemical agent environment. At the test’s conclusion, each participant’s mask received a weighted protection factor score, which was compared to the requirement.
All test participants in this exercise met the threshold protection factor, with most exceeding the objective requirement.
The JSAM SA was tested under strict conditions to ensure that the mask’s seal provides the customer-required protection factor when worn by personnel performing mission-related exercises.
“The protection factor team ensured that the customer test plan was executed correctly, that the chamber equipment was calibrated and accurate, and that test subjects received proper assistance while participating in the testing process,” said Steve Yurechko, lead test engineer for the ECBC Protection Factor Test Team.
The next step in the JSAM SA test process is to conduct an integrated test whereby the Interface Control Working Group, which serves as the official communications link between program participants, will evaluate mask performance during normal duties and functions by utilizing the masks in actual aircraft staffed by real crew. This test will evaluate the mask’s functionality during normal crew duties as well as during emergency conditions.