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Little Rock Airmen test next generation gas mask

Two pilots put of face masks on the flight line

U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan Schenk, 61st Airlift Squadron pilot, assists U.S. Air Force Capt. Mike Morrison, 19th Operations Support Squadron instructor pilot, in removing the M69 Joint Service Aircrew Mask Strategic Aircraft during operational testing of the new system at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, April 26, 2019. This was the first time testing out the system before it could be approved for the C-130J airframe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rhett Isbell)

A loadmaster wears a gas mask in the back of a C-130J

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Lail, 19th Operations Support Squadron loadmaster, tests the water tube of the M69 Joint Service Aircrew Mask Strategic Aircraft during operational testing of the new system at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, April 26, 2019. Joint service members conducted testing as part of a process beginning in 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rhett Isbell)

A pilot puts on gloves in the cock pit of a C-130J

U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan Schenk, 61st Airlift Squadron pilot, puts on the M69 Joint Service Aircrew Mask Strategic Aircraft during operational testing of the new system at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, April 26, 2019. The M69 system will be replacing the Aircrew Eye and Respiratory Protection system currently used by aircrew members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rhett Isbell)

A pilot does a gas mask fit test

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Lail, 19th Operations Support Squadron loadmaster, undergoes a gas mask fit test of the M69 Joint Service Aircrew Mask Strategic Aircraft during operational testing of the new system at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, April 26, 2019. Lail performed his typical duties on a C-130J testing the compatibility and effectives of the system for the airframe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rhett Isbell)

A pilot does a gas mask fit test

U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan Schenk, 61st Airlift Squadron pilot, inspects the M69 Joint Service Aircrew Mask Strategic Aircraft for the first time at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, April 26, 2019. Schenk worked to test the M69 for its operational capabilities on the C-130J airframe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rhett Isbell)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, tested the capabilities of the M69 Joint Service Aircrew Mask Strategic Aircraft for implementation and field use for individual respiratory, ocular and percutaneous protection against chemical biological agents on the C-130J airframe April 25 – 30. The M69 is intended to replace the Aircrew Eye and Respiratory Protection system.

A joint team led by Air Combat Command’s 52nd Wing and 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron located at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, provided guidance and supervision to Airmen as they tested the new Aircrew Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear system on C-130J aircraft. A total of 13 Airmen participated in the operational testing evaluation, consisting of nine aircrew and four aircrew flight equipment technicians.

“Operational tests are one of the last phases of the acquisition and a necessary part of the path towards receiving a full-rate production decision,” said U.S. Air Force Kevin O’Neal, ACC ACBRN AFE combat developer. “The testing involves a realistic look at how the system would be used operationally. We’re challenging the AFE technicians to be trained and then apply the maintenance, sizing, and fitting concepts they learned. Additionally, aircrew were asked to review various mission profiles in a static aircraft, with the final evaluation in the C-130J simulator conducting both day and night missions complete with night vision devices.” 

The tests are part of a joint acquisition program and were designed to show how the M69 is the next generation in aircrew CBRN safety after years of rigorous testing and studies.

“The Home of Combat Airlift is the perfect venue for testing the next-generation aircrew CBRN system,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Shane Haughian, 19th Operations Group commander. “Our Airmen have gotten after readiness training aggressively from the wing level on down, and we are excited to be a part of this process as it will directly impact how we fight. This equipment will ultimately make it logistically easier for our aircrews to perform their mission in austere conditions.”

The M69’s introduction to the military has a number of positive effects compared to the USAF’s legacy AERP, including: reduced thermal burden, decreased bulk, increased field of view, increased field of regard, ease of use, and ease of maintenance.

“It allows for a safer, longer-lasting operating environment,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Leis, 19th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of AFE quality assurance. “As far as aviation in any type of contamination, I think we’re in a far better situation for aircrew protection and the ability to maintain operations in contested environments with this piece of equipment. It’s also a lot easier to train young Airmen on this piece of equipment as well.”

After testing the compatibility and effectiveness of the M69, as well as identifying any hurdles the development team may need to be aware of for the C-130J airframe, Little Rock team members removed their gear and returned to their normal duties while awaiting the release of the new equipment for the U.S. Air Force and the other services.

“I would feel better being able to use the M69 because we’re going after a better technology,” O’Neal said. “The U.S. Air Force is targeting full capability in fiscal year 2023, and looking at starting our first fielding location around October 2019. There’s been a lot of hard work leading up to this, and I think it will be a much better solution for our aircrew if required to operate in a CBRN environment.”