The US Department of the Air Force has signed three contracts with a combined value of $133m to step up N95 mask production.

The contracts were awarded to 3M, Honeywell and O&M Halyard.

Overall, the three companies are expected to collectively produce 39 million masks in the next 90 days.

The move was taken in a bid to meet long-term national demand of masks amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The department’s Air Force Research Lab DPA Title 3 Executive Program Office, in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Office for Industrial Policy and Department of the Air Force’s Acquisition COVID-19 Task Force, or DAF-ACT, finalised the contracts.

Of the total contract amount, 3M received $76m, while O&M Halyard and Honeywell received $29m and $27.4m respectively.

The proceeds will help the companies to bolster their industrial capabilities to meet production requirements.

US Air Force Acquisition, Technology and Logistics assistant secretary Dr Will Roper said: “As the Department of Defense’s Executive Agent for the Defense Production Act, increasing N95 production is priority one.

“This week’s award of $133 million to 3M, Honeywell and O&M Halyard will add around 13 million N95 masks per month to our nation’s supply in the near term. I sincerely thank our program team and each company for closing on this critical deal quickly.”

The contract awards are expected to expedite N95 mask delivery to 141 million in the next six months and will boost production to 450 million annually.

The US is one of the worst affected countries by the recent Covid-19 pandemic. As of 22 April, around 825,000 people in the country are infected by the disease.