America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

By Albert J. Mauroni | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
Individual Protection--
Part 2

In 1985 the Air Force announced it was procuring and fielding the former XM30 mask as the MCU-2/P protective mask, with a softer one-lens facepiece and a harder, clip-on protective shield. All Air Force ground personnel would use this mask. It was also adopted by NAVSEA, NAVAIR, and Marine Corps aviation crews, given its superior field of vision and better fit (as compared to the M17A2 mask) and its immediate availability (as compared to the M40 mask). Marine Corps ground forces and NAVFAC continued to procure the Army's M17-series masks for their ground personnel. Other government agencies, specifically law enforcement and the Secret Service, began requesting the new MCU-2/P masks as well, admiring the larger field of vision, more comfortable fit, and external canister. The Air Force's success with the MCU-2/P raised eyebrows at the Army's continuing difficulties with the M40 mask program.

M40 mask production had continued to hit delays due to difficulties designing the masks for industrial production and related testing issues. While it is one thing to produce a few hundred masks with trained industry personnel, it is something entirely different to produce tens of thousands of protective masks that would all pass quality assurance testing. The rubber facepiece molds for masks and the industrial presses, in particular, are critical to the process and are very difficult to design. Complicating the issue was a change in contractors, due to the military's requirement to open-bid each stage of R&D and production, and the practice of awarding contracts to low-bidding firms over higher quality (and more expensive) firms.

Although ILC Dover had conducted a large portion of the R&D on the mask, the production contract was awarded to Scott Aviation after the mask's type classification in May 1987. Scott Aviation delivered only 3,358 masks out of a contract target of 300,000, which initially resulted in a stop-work order in 1988, and eventually the contract's termination for the convenience of the government in January 1990. In September 1988 AMCCOM awarded Mine Safety Appliances (MSA) and ILC Dover with short-term M40 production contracts (120,000 each

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