US Air Force (USAF) C-130J Super Hercules aircrews at Yokota Air Base, Japan, are set to receive a protective gas mask in 2021 to ensure protection from potential chemical and biological threats.

Eye and respiratory protection equipment enables aircrews to safely fly and execute their operations under real-world chemical scenarios.

The Joint Service Aircrew Mask (JSAM) Strategic will replace the existing Mask Breathing Unit-19/P (MBU-19/P), which is set to expire. The USAF has identified several faults with the current mask during its service.

The new M50 gas mask is expected to serve as a more portable option for chemical protection. It supports modification for use in-flight through the addition of communication-enabled wiring.

These modifications make the M50 gas mask a cost-efficient, user-friendly stopgap for 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J crewmembers and 374th Operations Support Squadron (OSS) Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen (AFE) during the transition.

The 374th Operations Group (OG) will focus on understanding how the M50 gas mask works.

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“During a flight of a C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron this month, relevant data about the M50 gas mask’s communication capabilities was collected.”

374th OSS AFE lead trainer technical sergeant David Showers said: “We’re making sure the equipment is flight-worthy, there are no difficulties flying and seeing how well it integrates with our other AFE equipment.

“We want know what can we keep and what we can make better. By reducing the components and the kits we’ll be giving back time to our people, our training and our mission.”

To expand the use of the M50 gas mask by aircrews across the USAF, Yokota airmen are now reviewing the tactics, techniques and procedures for other large-frame aircraft units.

The shift to the next-generation mask is expected to help reduce maintenance time, which is much longer for the MBU-19/P.

374th OSS AFE technician Airman 1st Class Matthew Wilson said: “By switching to the M50 gas mask we’ll increase our workflow and mission flow. With this switch, we will avoid a lot of maintenance hours and we could have our aircrews running missions more effectively.”

During a flight of a C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron this month, relevant data about the M50 gas mask’s communication capabilities was collected.

In November, the USAF fielded the JSAM to offer better protection against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear contamination for aircrew on the HH-60G Pave Hawk and UH-1N Huey aircraft.

The new mask has the capability to provide improved ocular, percutaneous and respiratory protection and can be integrated with night vision goggles.