MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force C-130 pilots get new gas mask

Senior Airman Juan Torres
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Juan Torres)

With the help of the 374th Operations Group, Yokota Air Base C-130J Super Hercules aircrews are always ready for potential chemical and biological threats.

By using the Aircrew Eye/Respiratory Protection Equipment, aircrews can safely fly and execute their mission under any real-world chemical scenario.


The current mask, the Mask Breathing Unit-19/P (MBU-19/P), is nearing the end of its lifespan and has been found to have many faults during its service. Its successor, the Joint Service Aircrew Mask, or JSAM, Strategic, is scheduled to be available for Yokota AB's C-130Js in 2021.

Maj. George Metros, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules evaluator pilot, puts on a M50 gas mask, allowing communication during a flight, Feb. 5, 2019, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Juan Torres)

The standard issue M50 gas mask, a newer, more portable option for chemical protection, can be modified for use in-flight by adding communication-enabled wiring. With these modifications, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J crewmembers and 374th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen can use the M50 gas mask as a cost-efficient, user-friendly stopgap during the transition.

Yokota AB Airmen are now leading the way, reviewing the tactics, techniques and procedures for other large-frame aircraft units across the Air Force on the use of the M50 gas mask by aircrew.

Learning how the M50 gas mask works alongside other Air Force assets is a top priority for 374th OG Airmen.

"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," said Tech. Sgt. David Showers, 374th OSS AFE lead trainer. "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."

Maj. George Metros, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules evaluator pilot, connects a M50 gas mask during a training flight, Feb. 5, 2019, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Juan Torres)

By making this integration possible, 374th OG Airmen are saving the Air Force time and money.

Maintenance on the older, more complicated MBU-19/P could take anywhere from three to four hours to a full day depending on the inspection and what kind of fixes the technician needs to make. With the introduction to the M50 gas mask on flights, inspection and maintenance times could be cut to approximately 30 minutes per mask freeing up valuable time to complete other tasks.

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