Service officials recognized how hot the current masks can make soldiers and want to offer masks that would have a fan blowing cool air on their faces when conditions get hottest. Scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center are leading the effort.
"Technology brings this relief to a Soldier through a powered air purifying respirator, which consists of a hose connected to the face mask from a blower unit and battery pack hanging off the hip or back. A typical respirator is heavy and cumbersome, adding to the weight of the equipment troops already carry," the Army said in a statement.
The challenge is building a light respirator that requires little power, keeps out harmful chemicals and agents, and also can blow cool air on a soldier's face.
Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Respiratory Protection Branch has designed an entire helmet system for the respirator that includes the mask. The Army has tested a few prototypes and found the commercial version of the M50 joint service general purpose mask to be the most comfortable to the soldier.
The Army has started a larger helmet development program. Last Fall, Army officials released two new helmet prototypes the service is testing to offer soldiers a modular design that would allow crew members to need only one helmet versus the two they currently have to keep.
The helmets came out of the Helmet Electronics and Display System-Upgradeable Protection program — a four year development effort led by the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
Engineers and scientists have developed the helmet to potentially include see-through and projected heads up display technologies, better eye and face protection and improved ballistic materials.