Modern warfighters face various biological and chemical threats on the battlefield, from disease to potential manmade poisons, and they require more protective and innovative gear to keep them safe in the varied environments they encounter. When you think of a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) protective mask, most people visualize one of the currently fielded masks, such as the M50 or M51, which is a large black mask with two filter canisters on each side of the mask (see image below for reference). These are the masks that most warfighters across the services are fielded for a protective ground mask. The M51 variant has additional components and is fielded for wear inside certain combat vehicles. It’s designed to connect to air supplies within the vehicles and avoids having to switch masks for these warfighters.
Between the M50 and M51 masks, the Joint Program Executive for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense’s (JPEO-CBRND) Joint Project Manager for CBRN Protection (JPM CBRN Protection) has fielded approximately 1.7 million masks. Mask protection is used by the joint force to prevent and mitigate battlefield exposure to chemical-biological agents, toxins, Toxic industrial materials, and radioactive particulate matter. Over the past several years, there have been several innovations made to mask protection and development to ensure additional protection, reduce the physical burden of the gear, and unencumber our warfighters in denied CBRN environments. JPM CBRN Protection recently fielded another mask variation for the Special Forces, CBRN, and EOD communities, called the M53A1, which will lessen the physical burden and provide enhanced CBRN protection capability.