Next Generation Aircrew Protection team conducts B-1 vapor purge testing

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sophia Robello
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – The Next Generation Aircrew Protection team conducted the last set of vapor purge testing on the B-1B Lancer at Dyess Air Force Base November 7.

Comprised of six organizations from the Air Force and civilian sector, the NGAP team focused on purge times for the B-1B in the event of an airborne chemical attack.

During testing, a vapor simulant known as methyl salicylate, or wintergreen oil, was injected into the aircraft. Sensors placed inside the cockpit measured how long it took for the vapor to be purged during flight.

“Ultimately, the goal of this testing was to investigate and define how long it takes an aircraft to reduce a chemical concentration in the crew areas to levels where the crew can safely remove their protective gear,” said Dr. Richard Salisbury, 711th Human Performance Wing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear analyst. “This research is important because we need to understand how long it takes to get back into optimal fighting conditions and inform commanders.”

The NGAP team lays the groundwork for future CBRN protective gear while assisting aircrews in the present using the data collected from testing. The team analyzes the purge times on each aircraft and creates data sets showcasing the vapor concentrations at different times during flight. This allows them to find the safest time for aircrew to remove any protective gear and continue flying after an attack.

“Without this testing and the subsequent data, the B-1B aircrew would be required to wear full chemical gear throughout the duration of a mission,” said Lt. Col. Dane Kidman, 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron director of operations. “B-1B sorties can last up to 30 hours during contingency operations, and with this data in hand, the aircrew can now remove CBRN equipment safely in flight which increases aircrew endurance. This will ultimately give the Air Force the ability to employ the B-1B in locations susceptible to chemical weapon attacks with lowered risk to the mission because the data provided gives the aircrew those tools for survival.”

Prior to the B-1B test event at Dyess, testing was conducted on the A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor and C-130J Super Hercules and will continue onto the B-52 Stratofortress next. 

“One of the points of this effort is to ensure Air Force aircrews are able to operate and execute their mission in any scenario and that includes CBRN,” said 1st Lt. Gunnar Kral, Air Force CBRN Defense Systems Branch lead engineer for joint aircrew protection. “The NGAP program is coming along with a lot of great results, executing a lot of tests at a high frequency. The work done by the team is extremely important and, while we hope it won’t be used, it is 100% relevant in today's environment.”