An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : Media : News : News Article View
NEWS | May 23, 2023

Pacific Air Forces Airmen test Next Generation Aircrew Protection Equipment

By Tech. Sgt. Hailey Haux and Col. Paul “Jimi” Hendrickson

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- If you’ve spent time in the Indo-Pacific region, you’ve heard the term “Fight Tonight,” probably more than once, and for good reason. Pacific Air Forces Airmen are on the forefront of operations in ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific and in doing so, it comes with a need to be ready, diverse, innovative and lethal.

We have been charged with challenging the status quo, operationalizing resourcefulness, and adopting concepts and technologies that drive the readiness, resilience, and lethality of the force.

One of the most recent advances added to the PACAF portfolio involves the U.S. Air Force Next Generation Aircrew Protection (NGAP) effort.

Airmen with the 15th Wing and 154th Fighter Squadron on Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii were able to test out and train on the F-22 Raptor using the innovative Step-Launch and Recover (SLR) concept of operation and the critical data provided by the NGAP effort. SLR allows for the aircrew to safely generate sorties in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) contaminated environment.

“The ability to confidently operate in less-than-optimal conditions is vital for our aircrew,” said Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander. “SLR and NGAP capabilities ensure our ability to fight tonight with an enhanced level of protection for our Airmen who may be operating in a CBRN-threatened environment.”

The current solution for pilots is to use the Aircrew Eye and Respiratory Protection System that was initially developed during the Gulf War and is not agile to allow for scaled protections against current CBRN threats. The legacy mask ensemble risks a degradation to aircrew performance and combat effectiveness due to its bulk and impact on dexterity. While this is the current solution for most ejection seat airframes, the F-22 doesn’t have an effective CBRN mask—making it even more essential to innovate to find an adaptive solution for our warfighters.

This new process uses the modified M-50 ground crew mask—the same one that’s used with Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear—and two-layer nitrile gloves worn under the standard flight glove and allows aircrew to safely execute take-off and landing procedures in a chemically contested environment without the thermal burden and loss of dexterity.

“This method of CBRN protection provided me not only the dexterity but the visibility I needed while in the cockpit,” said Capt. Alex “Doom” Moss, 19th Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor pilot.

The concept of SLR was originally generated by a series of events set in motion during the North Korea pressure campaign in 2018.

“The ability to use an innovative science-informed concept like SLR immediately restored combat capability options in a CBRN contested environment to our Indo-Pacific Command Commanders,” said Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Rios, PACAF Command Aircrew Flight Equipment lead. “This is the type of flexibility that provides game-changing combat power and removes options from our near peer adversaries to degrade our capabilities.”

Based on a need to unencumber the pilot, a team of cross functional experts from Headquarters Air Force A10, Pacific Air Forces, Air Force Research Lab, Air Combat Command, the Air Force CBRN Defense Systems Branch, the Joint Program Executive Office for CBRN Defense, and numerous other organizations began looking at the ability of the on-aircraft environmental control system—or air conditioner—to remove and purge chemical vapor contamination from the cockpit.

“The assumption was that if a chemical vapor threat could be purged and mitigated, the pilot could fly with a decreased level of protection,” said Col. Paul “Jimi” Hendrickson, Air Force CBRN Defense Systems Branch Materiel leader. “The initial findings were positive and the NGAP effort was launched to characterize the environments our pilots and aircrew could face in order to allow for the creation of risk informed operational techniques and new materiel solutions.”

To date, the joint team has tested F-15, F-16, F-22, A-10 and C-130 aircraft and provided the data to commanders to allow them to make risk-based decisions based on the threat, ultimately transitioning the aircrew to the aircraft without additional contamination.

The team at Hickam tested this process for the F-22. The pilot donned protective gear, the M-50 mask, went to the aircraft, purged the simulated contaminants before removing the mask, simulated conducting a mission before reversing the process and going through an expedited decontamination line.

“Using science and technology to ensure we are developing the right materiel solutions for the future fight is a game changing mentality which gives us huge flexibility as materiel developers to develop pertinent solutions at the speed of relevance to protect the warfighter and support mission effectiveness,” said Steve Singleton, Air Force CBRN Defense Systems Branch NGAP program manager.

Throughout the SLR testing procedure for the F-22, all involved were notating any shortfalls or limiting factors for further examination.

“The ability to work directly with the warfighter to provide relevant and mission enhancing information that allows them to conduct their operations safely while maximizing protection in a chemical environment is a huge win for the work the team has done over the last five years,” said 1st Lt. Gunnar Kral, Air Force CBRN Defense Systems Branch, CBRN aircrew protection lead engineer.

The events at Hickam were capped off with the opportunity to showcase the successful efforts of all involved to the Commander of Pacific Air Forces, highlighting to him how these practical risk-based decisions are allowing his wing commanders to Fight Tonight.

“These operationally relevant capabilities give his commanders decision superiority to generate combat sorties safely in a chemical environment while maximizing aircrew performance,” said Hendrickson. “This is something that can truly help shape how the warfighter fights over the next decade. The work we’re doing here will save an Airman’s life.”
CONNECT WITH USINDOPACOM

ENGAGE & CONNECT MORE WITH PACOM

                                                 

IN THE USINDOPACOM NEWS
U.S. Joint Forces Strengthen Capabilities and Partnerships in Palau During Valiant Shield 24
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Stephanie Davis, a communication strategy and operations officer with I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) helps a child try on a Kevlar helmet during a military equipment exposition as part of exercise Valiant Shield 24 at Palau International Airport, Airai, Palau, June 13, 2024. U.S. joint forces conducting exercise Valiant Shield 24 held a military equipment exposition to offer insight into military operations and build relationships with the Palauan community. I Marine Expeditionary Force conducts exercises like Valiant Shield to enhance interoperability with allied

and partner forces and expand the operational capability of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hollerud)
July 20, 2024 - Joint forces with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, allies and partners concluded the tenth iteration of exercise Valiant Shield, June 18, 2024, following 12 days of multilateral operations in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern...

Seventh Air Force conducts F-16 Super Squadron test to optimize combat capability
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon lands at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 9, 2024. Nine F-16s are temporarily being reassigned to the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan AB, from the 8th FW at Kunsan AB, to form a “Super Squadron” as part of a year-long force generation assessment. The test will evaluate the Super Squadron’s impact on sortie generation, maintenance, manpower, and logistic requirements, to optimize combat capability and increase readiness in support of the ROK-U.S. Alliance (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Chase Verzaal)
July 19, 2024 - Seventh Air Force has begun initial aircraft and personnel movements for a temporary shift in U.S. F-16 placement on the Korean peninsula as part of a test intended to optimize combat capability and increase readiness in...

U.S. Air Force brings premier combat jet to Exercise Pitch Black 24
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to the 27th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, departs for a local sortie during Exercise Pitch Black at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, July 17, 2024. U.S. Forces have an enduring commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific across all domains for the security and wellbeing of our nation and the international community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Spencer Tobler)
July 18, 2024 - With the soft light of dawn illuminating the vast Northern Territory of Australia, the gentle rustle of eucalyptus leaves in the warm breeze, and the distant calls of kookaburras breaking the calm silence, another morning at...

Singapore, Thailand and U.S. Navies commence CARAT Thailand 2024
240718-N-JT705-1008 SATTAHIP, THAILAND (July 18, 2024) Members from the United States Navy, Royal Thai Navy, and Royal Singapore Navy stand at attention during the opening ceremony of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2024, Sattahip, Thailand, July 18, 2024. This year marks the 30th iteration of CARAT, a multinational exercise series designed to enhance U.S. and partner navies’ abilities to operate together in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daemon Pellegran)
July 18, 2024 - The Royal Thai Navy (RTN), Royal Singapore Navy (RSN), and U.S. Navy began exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2024 in Sattahip, July 18, 2024...

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility Welcomes ASC Personnel
Twenty-eight ASC [formerly known as the Australian Submarine Corporation] personnel pose for a photo at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF), Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, July 16, 2024. The team is part of the Australia, United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS) enhanced trilateral security partnership. They will be trained and certified on various aspects of submarine maintenance to support the AUKUS Pillar 1 program that is supporting Australia’s acquisition of sovereign conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines. PHNSY & IMF is a field activity of NAVSEA and a one-stop regional maintenance center for the Navy’s surface ships and submarines. It is the largest industrial employer in the state of Hawai’i, with a combined civilian and military workforce of approximately 6,400. It is the most comprehensive fleet repair and maintenance facility between the U.S. West Coast and the Far East, strategically located in the heart of the Pacific, being about a week’s steaming time closer to potential regional contingencies in the Indo-Pacific.

The AUKUS Integration and Acquisition Program Office is responsible for executing the trilateral partnership to support Australia’s acquisition of sovereign, conventionally armed, nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines at the earliest possible date while setting the highest nuclear stewardship standards and continuing to maintain the highest nonproliferation standard. The AUKUS partnership is a strategic endeavor that will uplift the industrial bases of the three partners and promote a safe, free and open Indo-Pacific, ensuring an international, rules-based order is upheld in the region.

To learn about AUKUS Pillar 1 and the Optimal Pathway, visit ---- FACT SHEET: Trilateral Australia-UK-US Partnership on Nuclear-Powered Submarines | The White House

(U.S. Navy photo by Claudia LaMantia)
July 18, 2024 - Twenty-eight ASC Pty Ltd [formerly known as the Australian Submarine Corporation] personnel began training at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as part of...