The MPU-6(V)/P is needed to protect Apache pilots and aircrews from chemical and biological agents.
An interesting image showing a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache aircrew wearing a Joint Service Aircrew Mask has recently started making the rounds on the social media networks. The mask, designated MPU (Mask Protective Unit) 6(V)/P, and was the first mask of the JASM FoS (Family of Systems) to enter Full Rate Production at the beginning of the decade, to replace the legacy M-48 Apache and M-43 masks.
Generally speaking, the purpose of these masks is to protect the head, eyes, and respiratory system of the user from chemically, biologically, and radiologically toxic environments, allowing aircrews to safely operate in virtually any hazardous environment.
MPU-6 is the variant of the JSAM FoS designed to be used by the AH-64A/D/E aircrew.
According to the Department of Defense:
The Joint Service Aircrew Mask (JSAM) system is a lightweight Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protective mask consisting of mask, filter, blower, and accessories incorporating state-of-the-art technology to protect U.S. Forces from anticipated threats. The JSAM systems will be developed to support multiple aircraft platforms which will integrate with aircraft subsystems: Aircrew Life Support Equipment (ALSE), seating, portable aircrew systems, restraint systems, night vision goggles (NVGs), and communications systems. The mask is optimized to minimize impact on the wearer’s performance,maximize its ability to interface with aircrew protective clothing, and provide improved field of view when compared to current protective masks.
The JSAM Rotary Wing (RW) Mask Protective Unit 5 (MPU-5(V)/P) will provide head, eye, respiratory, and CB protection and “don in flight” capability for general purpose, rotary wing aircrew in all four Servicesand the US Coast Guard.
The JSAM Apache (MPU-6(V)/P) aircrew mask provides head, eye, respiratory and Chemical-Biological (CB) protection for U.S. Army AH-64A/D Apache aircrew as part of the JSAM Family of Systems. JSAM MPU-6(V)/P replaces the legacy M-43 and M-48. It is compatible with the Joint Protective Aircrew Ensemble (JPACE) and the Apache Integrated Helmet and Display Sighting System (IHADSS). It provides flame and thermal protection, and reduces heat stress imposed by existing CB protective masks. The system is capable of being donned and doffed while in flight.
The JSAM for Tactical Aircraft (JSAM TA) will be the first and only CB protective mask in the DoD inventory that can provide anti-G protection. The JSAM for Strategic Aircraft (JSAM SA) will provide CBprotection for positions that only need pressure breathing for altitude. Both the JSAM TA and JSAM SA will provide flame and thermal protection, demist/emergency demist, and anti-drowning features.
The photos being posted these days were taken during testing done by the U.S. Army years ago. Some were included in an interesting article by Christopher Ezelle, published in 2011 by the Chem-Bio Defense Magazine Volume 8 No. 1.
According to the article by Ezelle, the MPU-6’s faceplate “is stowed on the aircrew member’s chest, and in times of need, the mask is removed from stowage and snapped ontot the wearer’s hood ring around the face. It also provides the best optical system available, integrates with all crew stations, has a man-mounted supply system that is used without aircraft or life support equipment modifications, and provides improved comfort and reduced heat stress. As another Department first, the MPU-6(V)/P is the first JASM product that allows face-free flight during the threat of a chemical-biological attack. It introduces the uniquely novel, detachable faceplate”.
The ability to don and doff the mask in-flight should not be underestimated: it allows Apache pilots to snap on the faceplates to the mask hood ring only if this is needed because CB agents are reported to be used on the battlefield and only during the engagement of the targets phasee of the mission. Previous MPUs forced the aircrews to fly don their protective masks before the take off and to carry out the whole mission with the mask.
According to a Federal Contract Opportunity for MPU-5(V)/P & MPU-6A(V)/P Chemical-Biological Protective Masks, dated 2017, the anticipated MPU-6A(V)/P production was 2,200 face plate and hood ring assemblies over a one year period.