Army enhances protective masks

The M50 protective mask | The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center

The M50 protective mask is the latest technology created by scientists at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) aimed at keeping soldiers safe as they operate in environments where the use of a chemical weapon may be a threat.

The next-generation mask has improved functionality with a wrap-around visor and symmetrical filters on each side compared to the previous M40 model that had goggles and just one filter. 

The new mask is also more comfortable with a silicon and butyl face piece that fits all face sizes. The ECBC says that the design enhancements make it 50 percent easier to breath than with the previous model. The filters are easy to change in a threat environment, and the single lens across the face allows for better area of view and the ability to use binoculars or other sighting devices. 

The M50 costs $280 to manufacture including the mask, its filters and a decontamination kit. The Army is putting more than 1 million of the masks into the field.

The Army is also designing a respirator that is lighter and has a built-in airflow from the nose cup to the eye cavity to keep the face cooler.