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Negative for COVID

In the midst of a pandemic, the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, and Air Mobility Command partnered with more than a dozen other military and civilian organizations, to respond to U.S. Transportation Command’s (USTRANSCOM) Joint Urgent Operational Need (JUON) request for the development of equipment and procedures to transport COVID-19 patients on C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules aircraft, while maintaining the health and readiness of aircrews. The result was an elegant solution of transforming existing 20 and 40-foot Conex CONEX containers into air-mobile medical isolation wards – The Negative Pressured CONEX (NPC) and the Negative Pressure CONEX-Light (NPC-L) - and they went from concept to deployment in just four months. Video Production: Andrew Arthur Breese Motion Graphics: Travis Burcham Assistant Producer: Joseph Eddins Source Broll: DVIDSHUB.net Music License: Universal Production Music

Graphic depicting the patient entrance area of the NPC.

Graphic depicting the patient entrance area of the NPC.

Graphic depicting the antechamber area of the NPC.

Graphic depicting the antechamber area of the NPC.

Graphic depicting the main patient area of the NPC.

Graphic depicting the main patient area of the NPC.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Conor Favo, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron division chief, and Neal Riemer, contracted senior systems engineer, conduct a trial movement and purge through a Portable Bio-Containment Module loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Charleston S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army Public Health Center tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Conor Favo, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron division chief, and Neal Riemer, contracted senior systems engineer, conduct a trial movement and purge through a Portable Bio-Containment Module loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Charleston S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army Public Health Center tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

Victor Arca, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron senior test engineer, records time as Capt. Conor Favo, 28th TES division chief, and Neal Riemer, contracted senior systems engineer, conduct a trial movement and purge through a Portable Bio-Containment Module loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Charleston S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army Public Health Center tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

Victor Arca, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron senior test engineer, records time as Capt. Conor Favo, 28th TES division chief, and Neal Riemer, contracted senior systems engineer, conduct a trial movement and purge through a Portable Bio-Containment Module loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Charleston S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army Public Health Center tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

An aerosol vapor is released into a Portable Bio-Containment Module, loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III, to test its ability to contain pathogens at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army Public Health Center tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

An aerosol vapor is released into a Portable Bio-Containment Module, loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III, to test its ability to contain pathogens at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army Public Health Center tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Conor Favo, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron division chief, Victor Arca, 28th TES senior test engineer, and Gabriel Intano, Army Public Health Center microbiologist, conduct data collection from a Portable Bio-Containment Module on a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint-Base Charleston, S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army PHC tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Conor Favo, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron division chief, Victor Arca, 28th TES senior test engineer, and Gabriel Intano, Army Public Health Center microbiologist, conduct data collection from a Portable Bio-Containment Module on a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint-Base Charleston, S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army PHC tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

En-Route Patient Staging personnel from the 86th Medical Group and Airmen assigned to the 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron transfer a COVID-19 patient at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 1, 2020. The patient was airlifted to Ramstein in a Negatively Pressurized Conex, the latest isolated containment chamber, aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft for movement to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. With its transport of 12 COVID-19 patients, this was the first operational use of the NPC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)

En-Route Patient Staging personnel from the 86th Medical Group and Airmen assigned to the 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron transfer a COVID-19 patient at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 1, 2020. The patient was airlifted to Ramstein in a Negatively Pressurized Conex, the latest isolated containment chamber, aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft for movement to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. With its transport of 12 COVID-19 patients, this was the first operational use of the NPC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brooke Tjulander, 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering technician, right, helps Senior Airman Chelsea Levesque, 86th Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician, secure a powered air-purifying respirator hood during a COVID-19 patient movement training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 18, 2020. After a simulated patient was transported on a Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite, a bioenvironmental engineering and biomedical equipment team performed decontamination procedures. The training presented Airmen with various patient transfer scenarios and ended with a proof-of-concept flight on a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John R. Wright)
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U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brooke Tjulander, 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering technician, right, helps Senior Airman Chelsea Levesque, 86th Medical Support Squadron biomedical equipment technician, secure a powered air-purifying respirator hood during a COVID-19 patient movement training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 18, 2020. After a simulated patient was transported on a Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite, a bioenvironmental engineering and biomedical equipment team performed decontamination procedures. The training presented Airmen with various patient transfer scenarios and ended with a proof-of-concept flight on a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John R. Wright)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 86th Medical Group and 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron carry a simulated COVID-19 patient off of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 18, 2020. The simulated patient was transported within a Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite aboard the aircraft during an 86th AES training. The NPC-L is a smaller version of the Negatively Pressurized Conex, an isolated containment chamber intended to transport individuals with infectious diseases like COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John R. Wright)
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U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 86th Medical Group and 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron carry a simulated COVID-19 patient off of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 18, 2020. The simulated patient was transported within a Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite aboard the aircraft during an 86th AES training. The NPC-L is a smaller version of the Negatively Pressurized Conex, an isolated containment chamber intended to transport individuals with infectious diseases like COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John R. Wright)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brooke Tjulander, 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering technician, checks for personal protective equipment breaches during a COVID-19 patient movement training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 18, 2020. An 86th AMDS bioenvironmental engineering team ensured all PPE and infectious disease guidelines were followed during each training scenario. The training included use of a Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite for simulated COVID-19 patient movement and ended with a proof-of-concept flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John R. Wright)
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U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brooke Tjulander, 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineering technician, checks for personal protective equipment breaches during a COVID-19 patient movement training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 18, 2020. An 86th AMDS bioenvironmental engineering team ensured all PPE and infectious disease guidelines were followed during each training scenario. The training included use of a Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite for simulated COVID-19 patient movement and ended with a proof-of-concept flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John R. Wright)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron inspect and prepare to set up the inside of a Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 18, 2020. The NPC-L is a smaller version of the Negatively Pressurized Conex, an isolated containment chamber intended to transport individuals with infectious diseases like COVID-19. The 86th AES used the NPC-L in a COVID-19 patient movement training that ended with a proof-of-concept flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John R. Wright)
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U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron inspect and prepare to set up the inside of a Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 18, 2020. The NPC-L is a smaller version of the Negatively Pressurized Conex, an isolated containment chamber intended to transport individuals with infectious diseases like COVID-19. The 86th AES used the NPC-L in a COVID-19 patient movement training that ended with a proof-of-concept flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John R. Wright)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron carry a simulated COVID-19 patient onto a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during a training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 15, 2020. The training included patient movement on a Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite, an isolated containment chamber developed to fit on a C-130J. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John R. Wright)
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U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron carry a simulated COVID-19 patient onto a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during a training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 15, 2020. The training included patient movement on a Negatively Pressurized Conex-Lite, an isolated containment chamber developed to fit on a C-130J. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John R. Wright)

The original NPC concept was sketched out on a napkin by Capt. Alexis Todaro, the NPC program manager. U.S. Air Force photo
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The original NPC concept was sketched out on a napkin by Capt. Alexis Todaro, the NPC program manager. U.S. Air Force photo

Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test, and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 4, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system developed for use in Operation United Assistance in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2015
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Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test, and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 4, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system developed for use in Operation United Assistance in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2015

Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 13, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)
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Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 13, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)

Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 10, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)
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Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 10, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight familiarize themselves with a Negatively Pressurized Conex secured inside a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during a training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2021. Patients are brought onboard the aircraft and kept in the biocontainment unit during flight to isolate them from the rest of the crew. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing and offers on-hand infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)
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U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight familiarize themselves with a Negatively Pressurized Conex secured inside a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during a training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2021. Patients are brought onboard the aircraft and kept in the biocontainment unit during flight to isolate them from the rest of the crew. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing and offers on-hand infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)

Airmen prepare to off load a specialized medical container designed to transport COVID-19 patients onto a flatbed on the flight line of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on Sept. 18, 2020, from a C-5 Galaxy. The Negatively Pressurized Conex, or NPC, is configured for the C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Super Galaxy aircraft to safely transport up to 28 passengers or 23 patients, including ambulatory and litter, around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
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Airmen prepare to off load a specialized medical container designed to transport COVID-19 patients onto a flatbed on the flight line of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on Sept. 18, 2020, from a C-5 Galaxy. The Negatively Pressurized Conex, or NPC, is configured for the C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Super Galaxy aircraft to safely transport up to 28 passengers or 23 patients, including ambulatory and litter, around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Edward Osborn (left), 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, trains in the Negatively Pressurized Conex- Lite (NPC-L) during a static training at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Aug. 7, 2020. The NPC-lite is the latest isolated containment chamber developed for intra-theater airlift of individuals with infectious diseases like COVID-19 and is designed to fit inside a C-130 Hercules aircraft (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Perdue)
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U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Edward Osborn (left), 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, trains in the Negatively Pressurized Conex- Lite (NPC-L) during a static training at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Aug. 7, 2020. The NPC-lite is the latest isolated containment chamber developed for intra-theater airlift of individuals with infectious diseases like COVID-19 and is designed to fit inside a C-130 Hercules aircraft (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Perdue)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight write notes about patient care and speak with their instructors while inside a Negatively Pressurized Conex during training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2021. Once the door is closed and pressurized, personnel cannot leave the unit without following strict procedures. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing here and offers infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)
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U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight write notes about patient care and speak with their instructors while inside a Negatively Pressurized Conex during training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2021. Once the door is closed and pressurized, personnel cannot leave the unit without following strict procedures. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing here and offers infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight secure a litter holding a simulated patient and medical equipment inside a Negatively Pressurized Conex during training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2021. Stretchers are secured to adjustable wall fixtures and can accommodate up to ten patients. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing here and offers infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)
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U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight secure a litter holding a simulated patient and medical equipment inside a Negatively Pressurized Conex during training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2021. Stretchers are secured to adjustable wall fixtures and can accommodate up to ten patients. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing here and offers infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)

Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight unload a litter with a simulated patient from a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 26, 2021. In a real-world situation, the patient would be transported to the nearest appropriate facility while the crew decontaminated the aircraft and prepared it for the next mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)
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Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight unload a litter with a simulated patient from a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 26, 2021. In a real-world situation, the patient would be transported to the nearest appropriate facility while the crew decontaminated the aircraft and prepared it for the next mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Rileigh Schickel, 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight aeromedical evacuation technician, writes a message on a whiteboard during a training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 26, 2021. Exchanging written messages through the window of the Negatively Pressurized Conex is an important secondary method of communication. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing here and offers infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)
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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Rileigh Schickel, 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight aeromedical evacuation technician, writes a message on a whiteboard during a training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 26, 2021. Exchanging written messages through the window of the Negatively Pressurized Conex is an important secondary method of communication. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing here and offers infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Nicholas Pilch)
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(U.S. Air Force photo by Nicholas Pilch)

Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 11, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)
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Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 11, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)

Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test, and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 4,2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)
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Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test, and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 4,2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)

Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 10, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)
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Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 10, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)

Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 13, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)
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Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 13, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III is prepped to transport a transportation isolation system March 6, 2019, during a training exercise that allows Airmen to practice the most effective and safest form of transportation for patients and their medical professionals. Engineered and implemented after the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, the TIS is an enclosure the Department of Defense can use to safely transport patients with highly contagious diseases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller)
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A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III is prepped to transport a transportation isolation system March 6, 2019, during a training exercise that allows Airmen to practice the most effective and safest form of transportation for patients and their medical professionals. Engineered and implemented after the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, the TIS is an enclosure the Department of Defense can use to safely transport patients with highly contagious diseases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller)

U.S. Airmen converse inside a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype during in-flight testing on a C-17 Globemaster III, April 30, 2020. The NPC was rapidly developed and designed to fit inside both C-5 and C-17 aircraft to enable safe transport of up to 28 passengers, as well as teams of medical professionals to medical facilities around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)
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U.S. Airmen converse inside a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype during in-flight testing on a C-17 Globemaster III, April 30, 2020. The NPC was rapidly developed and designed to fit inside both C-5 and C-17 aircraft to enable safe transport of up to 28 passengers, as well as teams of medical professionals to medical facilities around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

Testers and evaluators from organizations across the Department of Defense discuss the status of in-flight testing conducted to certify a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype on a C-17 Globemaster III, April 30, 2020. The NPC was rapidly developed and designed to fit inside both C-5 and C-17 aircraft to enable safe transport of up to 28 passengers, as well as teams of medical professionals to medical facilities around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)
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Testers and evaluators from organizations across the Department of Defense discuss the status of in-flight testing conducted to certify a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype on a C-17 Globemaster III, April 30, 2020. The NPC was rapidly developed and designed to fit inside both C-5 and C-17 aircraft to enable safe transport of up to 28 passengers, as well as teams of medical professionals to medical facilities around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

In-flight testing is conducted to certify a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype on a C-17 Globemaster III, April 30, 2020. The NPC is designed to transport individuals with the COVID-19 virus and other highly infectious diseases, all while preventing the aircrew and medical professionals onboard from being exposed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)
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In-flight testing is conducted to certify a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype on a C-17 Globemaster III, April 30, 2020. The NPC is designed to transport individuals with the COVID-19 virus and other highly infectious diseases, all while preventing the aircrew and medical professionals onboard from being exposed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Conor Favo, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron division chief, adjusts the settings of his headset during the first in-flight testing of a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype on a C-17 Globemaster III, April 30, 2020. The NPC was rapidly developed and designed to fit inside both C-5 and C-17 aircraft to enable safe transport of up to 28 passengers, as well as teams of medical professionals to medical facilities around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)
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U.S. Air Force Capt. Conor Favo, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron division chief, adjusts the settings of his headset during the first in-flight testing of a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype on a C-17 Globemaster III, April 30, 2020. The NPC was rapidly developed and designed to fit inside both C-5 and C-17 aircraft to enable safe transport of up to 28 passengers, as well as teams of medical professionals to medical facilities around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein listens to a brief by Lt. Col. Paul Hendrickson, Agile Combat Support Directorate's AF Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense Systems Branch materiel leader, about the rapid acquisition process and functional capabilities of a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., April 30, 2020. The NPC was developed and designed to fit inside both C-5 and C-17 aircraft to enable safe transport of up to 28 passengers, as well as teams of medical professionals to medical facilities around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)
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Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein listens to a brief by Lt. Col. Paul Hendrickson, Agile Combat Support Directorate's AF Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense Systems Branch materiel leader, about the rapid acquisition process and functional capabilities of a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., April 30, 2020. The NPC was developed and designed to fit inside both C-5 and C-17 aircraft to enable safe transport of up to 28 passengers, as well as teams of medical professionals to medical facilities around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

Civilians from the 437th Aerial Port Squadron position a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype after its delivery to Joint Base Charleston, S.C., April 21, 2020. The NPC was rapidly developed and designed to fit inside both C-5 and C-17 aircraft to enable safe transport of up to 28 patients, as well as teams of medical professionals to medical facilities around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)
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Civilians from the 437th Aerial Port Squadron position a Negatively Pressurized Conex prototype after its delivery to Joint Base Charleston, S.C., April 21, 2020. The NPC was rapidly developed and designed to fit inside both C-5 and C-17 aircraft to enable safe transport of up to 28 patients, as well as teams of medical professionals to medical facilities around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

Victor Arca, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron senior test engineer, and Gabriel Intano, Army Public Health Center microbiologist, record and analyze data after a trial movement and purge through a Portable Bio-Containment Module loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Charleston S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army PHC tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)
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Victor Arca, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron senior test engineer, and Gabriel Intano, Army Public Health Center microbiologist, record and analyze data after a trial movement and purge through a Portable Bio-Containment Module loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Charleston S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army PHC tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

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Simulation of the interior of an air-mobile bio-containment isolation ward, the Negatively Pressured Conex, created by a team led by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center in conjunction with the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center and Air Mobility Command, and more than a dozen other military and civilian partner organizations. The system development was in response to a U.S. Transportation Command’s (USTRANSCOM) Joint Urgent Operational Need (JOUN) request for equipment and procedures for the high-capacity airlift of COVID-19 patients on mobility aircraft like the C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules, while maintaining the health and readiness of aircrews. 3-D Animation // Travis Burcham

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Simulation of the exterior and cutaway interior of an air-mobile bio-containment isolation ward, the Negatively Pressured Conex, created by a team led by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center in conjunction with the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center and Air Mobility Command, and more than a dozen other military and civilian partner organizations. The system development was in response to a U.S. Transportation Command’s (USTRANSCOM) Joint Urgent Operational Need (JOUN) request for equipment and procedures for the high-capacity airlift of COVID-19 patients on mobility aircraft like the C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules, while maintaining the health and readiness of aircrews. 3-D Animation // Travis Burcham

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Fort Meade, MD --  

 

Nearly a year ago, in the midst of pandemic, a team led by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, with the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center and Air Mobility Command, partnered with more than a dozen other military and civilian organizations to respond to U.S. Transportation Command’s Joint Urgent Operational Need request to develop equipment and procedures for the high capacity airlift of COVID-19 patients on mobility aircraft like the C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules, while maintaining the health and readiness of aircrews.




The result was the rapid and novel solution of transforming existing 40-foot CONEX containers into air-mobile bio-containment isolation wards – the Negatively Pressured CONEX; and designing and fabricating a similar new 30-foot aluminum container for C-130 aircraft, the Negative Pressure CONEX-Light. These systems went from concept to operations in less than 100 days.

To date, the NPC and NPCL have flown 37 missions across five geographic commands carrying 267 U.S. military, civilian, dependent and contractor COVID-19 patients with no confirmed cases of infection spreading to air or aeromedical crews in flight, according to Lt. Col. Paul Hendrickson, materiel leader and JUON lead with the Air Force Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Systems Branch, Human Systems Division at the Program Executive Office for Agile Combat Support — part of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

Hendrickson, the leader of the NPC development team, explained that the not-so-simple goal was to design, build, test and deploy a fully-enclosed aeromedical system that would allow for the transport and in-flight care of COVID-19 patients, while keeping the virus from circulating through the aircraft and do it at breakneck speed.

“A Joint Urgent Operational Need statement is basically the way the military communicates to the acquisition community. They are saying, ‘We need something right now, as soon as humanly possible.’ So, it’s a way to streamline the acquisition and prioritize resources… to get something quickly versus months and years,” Hendrickson said.



Graphic depicting the patient entrance area of the NPC.
Graphic depicting the patient entrance area of the NPC.
Graphic depicting the patient entrance area of the NPC.
Negatively Pressurized Conex
Graphic depicting the patient entrance area of the NPC.
Photo By: Travis Burcham
VIRIN: 210224-D-HR740-9037

Graphic depicting the main patient area of the NPC.
Graphic depicting the main patient area of the NPC.
Graphic depicting the main patient area of the NPC.
Negatively Pressurized Conex
Graphic depicting the main patient area of the NPC.
Photo By: Travis Burcham
VIRIN: 210224-D-HR740-9036

Graphic depicting the antechamber area of the NPC.
Graphic depicting the antechamber area of the NPC.
Graphic depicting the antechamber area of the NPC.
Negatively Pressurized Conex
Graphic depicting the antechamber area of the NPC.
Photo By: Travis Burcham
VIRIN: 210224-D-HR740-9035

The endeavor needed to succeed quickly to achieve one paramount goal; maintain readiness.

“When it comes to medical readiness, we need to think of the human being as a human weapon system,” said Brig. Gen. Mark A. Koeniger, a physician and commander of the Air Force Medical Readiness Agency.

“You can have all of the great equipment and technology, and the Air Force has a lot of that, yet ultimately it boils down to the Airmen. It is that Airman that turns the wrench out on the flight line or gets into the cockpit to fly the jet or is sitting in front of the computer screen assessing all of that intel. Healthy Airmen are the key to force readiness.

“While we do a great job in maintaining health readiness through prevention, something like COVID emerges and has shown that, despite all our technology and modern medicine, we can still be thrown for a loop. We have to assess and react quickly to maintain a healthy force.”

Before the NPC design was adopted and developed, AFOTEC, in conjunction with Air Mobility Command and others, first tested two existing airmobile biomedical isolation units; the Transportation Isolation System and the Portable Biocontainment Care Module.


Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 13, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)
Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 13, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)
Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 13, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)
Negative for COVID
Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center build, test and evaluate the Transport Isolation System (TIS) at JB Charleston, Dec. 13, 2014. The TIS is a self-contained module system that can be used with either two or three sections, depending on aircraft space. It will be used to safely transport patients with an infectious disease. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen/Released)
Photo By: Airman 1st Class Taylor Queen
VIRIN: 210224-F-SP601-9003

The TIS was a system developed in response to the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa from 2014 through 2015. As U.S. forces deployed to assist in mitigating the crises, a device was needed to safely transport infected personnel.

The TIS, which was never used during the West African Ebola outbreak, but was kept in storage, is a palletized enclosure that is essentially a simple metal frame and plastic curtains with an air circulation and filter system.

However, as the only option for the DoD at the earliest stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, TIS units were taken out of storage and infectious disease specialists were sent to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, to assist in training AMC aircrews, aeromedical personnel and Critical Care Air Transport teams in the proper use of the system, according to Koeniger.

As the test director, Maj. Phillip Hoyt, CBRN branch chief, combat support division, AFOTEC Detachment 2, was at the center of ensuring the entire united test team was synced for the JUON.

As a bioenvironmental engineer, he was uniquely qualified for testing a proposed solution to USTRANSCOM’s needs.

“I got to utilize my previous operational experience with bio-containment units,” Hoyt said. “I was at Joint Base Charleston from 2010 to about 2015. During that time period, 2014 and 2015 in particular, we were conducting Operation United Assistance (in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa). I was able to help out with precautions for C-17s and their crews that were ferrying equipment and people to set up the hospitals.

“We had come up with an initial isolation plan and contingency plan for what would happen if somebody was to get sick on a plane… A joint urgent operational need arose for the Transport Isolation System, which is basically the grandfather of the NPC. So, I was at Charleston when that was fielded and had a great opportunity to come up with the concepts of how that would be employed out of the base.”

AFOTEC’s test team, in response to the COVID JUON, also included a test analyst, bioenvironmental technician, and emergency management testers who work out of Detachment 2’s CBRN Branch along with the 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Agile Combat Support Flight out of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. 

Subject matter experts from the Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center and USA Public Health Center volunteered to travel to JB Charleston to round out the initial test team.

During the first week, the team’s focus shifted to helping AMC medics solve TIS deficiencies that restricted the system from supporting immediate operations with COVID-19 infected patients to developing new decontamination procedures to allow greater TIS mission flexibility and quick turnaround times.

According to Hendrickson, the TIS was suitable for isolating patients with a disease transmitted only by direct physical contact, like Ebola, but was of limited utility with airborne contagions, such as COVID-19. It also had other limitations that quickly eliminated it as a permanent solution.

“The Transportation Isolation System had a low transport capacity. You could hold three ambulatory patients or one litter patient in one module, and you could fit only two modules on a C-17. It was a capable system for its intended use with Ebola patients, but it wasn’t operationally usable for long periods of time. So, looking at that and the increased demand signal for transportation of COVID patients, it was quickly ruled out as a permanent solution and TRANSCOM issued a JUON statement, looking for the ability to transport large numbers of COVID-19 patients,” Hendrickson said.



U.S. Air Force Capt. Conor Favo, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron division chief, Victor Arca, 28th TES senior test engineer, and Gabriel Intano, Army Public Health Center microbiologist, conduct data collection from a Portable Bio-Containment Module on a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint-Base Charleston, S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army PHC tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)
U.S. Air Force Capt. Conor Favo, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron division chief, Victor Arca, 28th TES senior test engineer, and Gabriel Intano, Army Public Health Center microbiologist, conduct data collection from a Portable Bio-Containment Module on a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint-Base Charleston, S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army PHC tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)
U.S. Air Force Capt. Conor Favo, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron division chief, Victor Arca, 28th TES senior test engineer, and Gabriel Intano, Army Public Health Center microbiologist, conduct data collection from a Portable Bio-Containment Module on a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint-Base Charleston, S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army PHC tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)
Negative for COVID
U.S. Air Force Capt. Conor Favo, 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron division chief, Victor Arca, 28th TES senior test engineer, and Gabriel Intano, Army Public Health Center microbiologist, conduct data collection from a Portable Bio-Containment Module on a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint-Base Charleston, S.C., April 15, 2020. Members from the 28th TES and Army PHC tested the PBCM, which will be exercised regularly to transport COVID patients and medical personnel, all while ensuring the aircrew is impervious to risk of infection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)
Photo By: Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski
VIRIN: 210224-F-OF524-9010

The Portable Biocontainment Care Module, an existing unit on loan from the Department of State (DOS), was also quickly assessed between DOS missions in late March 2020 during an Operational Utility Evaluation led by Hoyt, with support from Defense Threat Reduction Agency and AMC’s Test and Evaluation team. 

While the PBCM is an air-isolated, hardened, roll-on-roll-off structure that met airworthiness and biocontainment requirements, medical-crew familiarization, and flight testing on the C-17 with operational crews, it could effectively accommodate only three patients as utilized by the Air Force. Again, the potential need to transport large numbers of U.S. military and civilian personnel eliminated it as an option.

Yet the evaluations of, and training on, the existing systems, yielded perhaps the most critical component of future success; it brought exactly the right people together at Joint Base Charleston to create a solution to USTRANSCOM’s need in record time.

Having key personnel already working as a team supercharged the starting-from-scratch effort, which led to the elegant solutions of transforming existing 40-foot CONEX containers and building the new NPCL into airmobile medical isolation wards; solutions that went from a drawing on a napkin to operational status in only 94 days.

“Our office had been working along with the 51st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Osan Air Base on a modification to a standard 40-foot CONEX to provide protection in a CBRN environment. The initial need for the AMXS was to get its aircraft maintainers rest and relief from their chem-bio gear before going back to the fight,” said Hendrickson. “We were working on the production of the ColPro CONEX and prepping to demonstrate the concept at an exercise in Korea. So, after talking to Air Mobility Command and understanding the requirements of the urgent need, I reached out to my Collective Protection Program Manager, Capt. Alexis Todaro, and she sketched out transforming the CPC into the Negatively Pressurized CONEX in a matter of hours, and we were off and running.”



The original NPC concept was sketched out on a napkin by Capt. Alexis Todaro, the NPC program manager. U.S. Air Force photo
The original NPC concept was sketched out on a napkin by Capt. Alexis Todaro, the NPC program manager. U.S. Air Force photo
The original NPC concept was sketched out on a napkin by Capt. Alexis Todaro, the NPC program manager. U.S. Air Force photo
Negative for COVID
The original NPC concept was sketched out on a napkin by Capt. Alexis Todaro, the NPC program manager. U.S. Air Force photo
Photo By: U.S. Air Force
VIRIN: 210224-D-XX999-9039

The NPC has high-efficiency particulate air filters and blowers that make the air pressure inside the NPC less than that of the aircraft cargo area. It can be configured to accommodate 28 seated passengers or seats for 23 ambulatory patients and litters for eight patients. Its design has been certified for military airworthiness for the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.

The negative air pressure inside the unit essentially makes it function like a laboratory clean room.

“It will pull in air from the outside through two layers of HEPA filters and then push out the air through the other side through HEPA filters as well,” said Col. Timothy Mach, AMC chief of requirements.

“We are getting the air as clean as possible as it moves throughout the device, which prevents the spread of an aerosol virus, like COVID-19. You have air pressure inside the device that is less than the air pressure in the cargo bay of the aircraft. That way, if a door is opened, you only get uncontaminated air rushing into the device. The difference in air pressure keeps the potentially contaminated air from leaving the device except through HEPA filters which can trap an aerosolized virus as small as 0.3 microns.”



00:34
VIDEO | 00:34 | NPC Exterior/Interior Animation

The NPC is divided into two sections. The patient compartment is for the COVID patients, both ambulatory, seated, and those on litters, including patients requiring ventilators and the aeromedical personnel. The anteroom separates the cargo area of the aircraft from the area containing the infected patients. Control boxes with signal lights in both compartments allowing for communication between care personnel and multiple windows enable coordination of care.

Air is drawn from the aircraft into the anteroom through two sets of filters before passing into the patient area. Doors on both sides of the anteroom allow for aeromedical crew to enter the device before donning personal protective equipment and entering the patient chamber. It also allows aeromedical personnel to take breaks outside of the patient area and remove PPE and decontaminate before safely returning to the cargo area.

“Think of it as similar to an airlock in sci-fi films. You enter from the craft. Close the door and put on protective gear before you go out the other door into space. Then you come back in from space into the airlock where the atmosphere is made safe, remove your protective gear and re-enter the craft,” said Mach.



00:34
VIDEO | 00:34 | Negative Pressure Conex Interior

This clean air allows the patients and caregivers to travel over long distances while keeping bio-organisms or other pathogens safely contained within the NPC.

“(Upon) seeing the concept, Col. Mach said, ‘Go and prove it will meet the need,’” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson’s team partnered with the Joint Program Executive Office for CBRN Defense and numerous experts across the CBRN, aeromedical and airworthiness communities. By April 7, a contract was awarded using the “other transaction authority” process. 

The first proof-of-concept NPC was constructed in only 13 days and delivered to Joint Base Charleston for validation testing. That testing concluded April 30, when Air Mobility Command green-lit the NPC as the system to meet its requirements under the JUON.

Ensuring the NPC was proven capable of what it was designed to do was a combined effort of the academia, contract partners, and Department of Defense units.

Designing the bio-containment unit was only part of the solution; creating a system that could safely transport individuals on an aircraft presented an additional challenge to the team. 

Teams from the C-17 Program Office, C-130 Program Offices and AFLCMC Engineering Airworthiness Office provided hundreds of hours of support over a few short weeks to ensure the systems were designed to achieve stringent airworthiness requirements for the safety of passengers and aircraft. 

As an example of this teamwork, Matt Kilmer, Tony Bermudez, Robert Whitfield and Laura Hawthorn, engineers from the C-130 Offices, spent weeks at HEI in Michigan to support the design and manufacturing of the system. Robert David and Scott Brantley, C-17 program office engineers, supported the build at Delta in Atlanta and all individual supporting testing at JB Charleston.

“The innumerable impacts that the individuals across the aircraft program offices and engineering offices provided to this program to shave days and weeks off of the process was considerable. The nights, weekends and holidays worked by individuals who had never met before to get this system fielded is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of the entire Air Force Life Cycle Management Center team,” Hendrickson said. 

Hendrickson added that the procurement, demonstration and testing of the NPC is a textbook example of rapid acquisition and development and credited the contractors involved in building the NPC and NPCL — UTS Systems, Highland Engineering Inc. and Delta Flight Products with significantly contributing to such rapid deployment.

“In just nine days, we proved the NPC concepts and capabilities 21 days after the contract award. I could not be prouder of this team of teams,” Hendrickson said.


U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Edward Osborn (left), 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, trains in the Negatively Pressurized Conex- Lite (NPC-L) during a static training at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Aug. 7, 2020. The NPC-lite is the latest isolated containment chamber developed for intra-theater airlift of individuals with infectious diseases like COVID-19 and is designed to fit inside a C-130 Hercules aircraft (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Perdue)
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Edward Osborn (left), 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, trains in the Negatively Pressurized Conex- Lite (NPC-L) during a static training at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Aug. 7, 2020. The NPC-lite is the latest isolated containment chamber developed for intra-theater airlift of individuals with infectious diseases like COVID-19 and is designed to fit inside a C-130 Hercules aircraft (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Perdue)
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Edward Osborn (left), 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, trains in the Negatively Pressurized Conex- Lite (NPC-L) during a static training at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Aug. 7, 2020. The NPC-lite is the latest isolated containment chamber developed for intra-theater airlift of individuals with infectious diseases like COVID-19 and is designed to fit inside a C-130 Hercules aircraft (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Perdue)
Negative for COVID
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Edward Osborn (left), 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, trains in the Negatively Pressurized Conex- Lite (NPC-L) during a static training at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Aug. 7, 2020. The NPC-lite is the latest isolated containment chamber developed for intra-theater airlift of individuals with infectious diseases like COVID-19 and is designed to fit inside a C-130 Hercules aircraft (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Perdue)
Photo By: Senior Airman Ashley Perdue
VIRIN: 210224-F-XX999-9001

Along with many agencies, a team led by Capt. Kerollos Marzouk and 2nd Lt. Hunter Mangueira from the AF CBRN Branch partnered with Hoyt’s AFOTEC team, Capt. Conor Favo and the 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron and the 417th Flight Test Squadron to combine and conduct concurrent test design, test planning and test execution to shorten the total time required to complete the testing process. While this usually is a process done sequentially by a single test team, these test teams joined together in a joint effort to accomplish the events concurrently.

The first production NPC was delivered to JB Charleston on June 7, had its test flight June 15, and flew its first operational mission June 30, transporting 12 patients from CENTCOM to Ramstein AB.

While the NPC was designed to protect the aircrew, aircraft, and the aeromedical evacuation crew members treating on long-haul inter-theater flights, the 30-foot-long NPC-Lite was designed to fit inside a C-130 and evacuate patients from more austere intra-theater locations.

The first production NPCL was delivered to Joint Base Charleston on June 1, where it was subjected to similar tests as the NPC but on three variations of C-130 aircraft, had its final test on June 24 and arrived at Ramstein Air Base on July 3.

While it protects aircrews, it also has the effect of supporting readiness of combat units in the field, according to Mach.

“Think of COVID-19 and how rapidly it could spread amongst personnel in the field. We are doing social distancing as a way to slow the spread across the U.S. and the world, but there are some places where we are deployed that we can’t easily socially distance; like one person per tent or a room,” Mach said.

“So, we came up with a capability that has now been used to quickly take patients from the frontline, wherever they are, and transport them to a suitable medical facility. So, think of a bare-bones base, say in Africa, we can pick up a Soldier, Sailor or Marine in a C-130 carrying an NPCL and quickly get them to treatment, but also quickly get them away from their unit before the virus can spread and negatively affect that deployed unit’s readiness.”

According to Col. Leslie Wood, Headquarters AMC medical director for en-route medical care, treating patients in place makes sense for infectious patients if you have the resources and personnel to give proper care because you completely mitigate the risk of losing operational capability in airlift medical crews.



U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight secure a litter holding a simulated patient and medical equipment inside a Negatively Pressurized Conex during training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2021. Stretchers are secured to adjustable wall fixtures and can accommodate up to ten patients. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing here and offers infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)
U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight secure a litter holding a simulated patient and medical equipment inside a Negatively Pressurized Conex during training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2021. Stretchers are secured to adjustable wall fixtures and can accommodate up to ten patients. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing here and offers infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)
U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight secure a litter holding a simulated patient and medical equipment inside a Negatively Pressurized Conex during training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2021. Stretchers are secured to adjustable wall fixtures and can accommodate up to ten patients. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing here and offers infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)
Negative for COVID
U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight secure a litter holding a simulated patient and medical equipment inside a Negatively Pressurized Conex during training at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 30, 2021. Stretchers are secured to adjustable wall fixtures and can accommodate up to ten patients. The NPC used in the training is permanently assigned to the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing here and offers infectious disease transport capabilities to Europe and Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez)
Photo By: Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez
VIRIN: 210224-F-WY757-9029

“The U.S. military has done amazing work with trauma in being able to rapidly move patients from point of injury, through the echelons of care, to definitive care. Before Vietnam, that transition from point of injury to definitive care was often two to three weeks. Now it’s two to three days, and we have had the most amazing improvements in combat mortality; if you survive your initial injury and make it to the first echelon of care, you have like a 98 to a 99% chance of survival,” Wood said.

“However, when you take that same model and apply it to infectious disease, you actually can make the situation worse. Think about taking infectious patients who are highly contagious and moving them through echelons of care, especially without appropriate engineering controls to maintain isolation and without adequate personal protective equipment for the people taking care of them. You are going to spread the disease throughout your echelons of care and actually make the problem worse, creating new nodes of transmission, and then losing operational capability as you infect your air and medical crews.”

Wood also noted that those same aircraft are part of the logistical supply chain. Without effective biocontainment transport, the military risked not only infecting air and medical crews but also losing the very airlift capability needed to send food, supplies and equipment where personnel needed them.

However, Wood adds that there are instances where there is no other option but to transport the patient, making the NPC an absolute requirement to maintain readiness.

“COVID patients require high amounts of oxygen and full ICU support. And while we have that capability in many places across the globe, we do not have it everywhere. And in order to be able to effectively have the same standard of care for all of our deployed military personnel, it was going to require that we had a transport capability,” Wood said.

Wood believes that the team’s response to the USTRANSCOM JUON was one of the highlights of her career.

Currently, the fielding team comprised of Todaro, Deputy Program Manager 1st Lt. Donald Wiegner and Jason Adamek, JPEO CBRND chief engineer, have fielded nine NPCs and six NPCLs and provided on-site training and familiarization for ground and operational crews. The systems are positioned strategically around the world in United States Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command to respond to inter-theater and intra-theater airlift requirements. 


Airmen prepare to off load a specialized medical container designed to transport COVID-19 patients onto a flatbed on the flight line of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on Sept. 18, 2020, from a C-5 Galaxy. The Negatively Pressurized Conex, or NPC, is configured for the C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Super Galaxy aircraft to safely transport up to 28 passengers or 23 patients, including ambulatory and litter, around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
Airmen prepare to off load a specialized medical container designed to transport COVID-19 patients onto a flatbed on the flight line of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on Sept. 18, 2020, from a C-5 Galaxy. The Negatively Pressurized Conex, or NPC, is configured for the C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Super Galaxy aircraft to safely transport up to 28 passengers or 23 patients, including ambulatory and litter, around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
Airmen prepare to off load a specialized medical container designed to transport COVID-19 patients onto a flatbed on the flight line of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on Sept. 18, 2020, from a C-5 Galaxy. The Negatively Pressurized Conex, or NPC, is configured for the C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Super Galaxy aircraft to safely transport up to 28 passengers or 23 patients, including ambulatory and litter, around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
Negative for COVID
Airmen prepare to off load a specialized medical container designed to transport COVID-19 patients onto a flatbed on the flight line of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on Sept. 18, 2020, from a C-5 Galaxy. The Negatively Pressurized Conex, or NPC, is configured for the C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Super Galaxy aircraft to safely transport up to 28 passengers or 23 patients, including ambulatory and litter, around the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
Photo By: Staff Sgt. Kayla White
VIRIN: 210224-F-XF897-9034

Another six NPC’s and four NPCLs are being stored in ready status and postured for future responses and pandemic requirements by Marine Force Storage Command located at Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany, Georgia, in partnership with Marine Corps Logistics Command’s Joint Enterprise Fielding and Surveillance team, who will oversee long-term monitoring and maintenance.

In total, 30 NPCs and 30 NPCLs have been ordered, with delivery expected by the end of Summer 2021.

Koeniger believes the development and acquisition of these units were necessary for the present and will be a key capability for the future; ready to go if the call comes.

“It’s possible we’re not going to be waiting another hundred years between major pandemics. The population will continue to grow, and with changes in climate and other things going on in the world, it may be a lot shorter of a time before we see something else emerge,” Koeniger said.

“If there is a bright side, it’s that COVID-19 and the development of the NPC, a winning capability, has given us a lot of lessons learned. The next pandemic could be more challenging, but thanks to the tireless work by all the Airmen involved with this project, we will be prepared and able to maintain readiness when we’re called on again.”



En-Route Patient Staging personnel from the 86th Medical Group and Airmen assigned to the 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron transfer a COVID-19 patient at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 1, 2020. The patient was airlifted to Ramstein in a Negatively Pressurized Conex, the latest isolated containment chamber, aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft for movement to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. With its transport of 12 COVID-19 patients, this was the first operational use of the NPC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)
En-Route Patient Staging personnel from the 86th Medical Group and Airmen assigned to the 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron transfer a COVID-19 patient at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 1, 2020. The patient was airlifted to Ramstein in a Negatively Pressurized Conex, the latest isolated containment chamber, aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft for movement to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. With its transport of 12 COVID-19 patients, this was the first operational use of the NPC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)
En-Route Patient Staging personnel from the 86th Medical Group and Airmen assigned to the 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron transfer a COVID-19 patient at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 1, 2020. The patient was airlifted to Ramstein in a Negatively Pressurized Conex, the latest isolated containment chamber, aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft for movement to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. With its transport of 12 COVID-19 patients, this was the first operational use of the NPC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)
Negative for COVID
En-Route Patient Staging personnel from the 86th Medical Group and Airmen assigned to the 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron transfer a COVID-19 patient at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 1, 2020. The patient was airlifted to Ramstein in a Negatively Pressurized Conex, the latest isolated containment chamber, aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft for movement to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. With its transport of 12 COVID-19 patients, this was the first operational use of the NPC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)
Photo By: John R. Wright
VIRIN: 210224-F-KY598-9032

NPC TIMELINE:

  • March 18, 2020 – NPC concept first developed based off of another development for CBRN a ColPro CONEX

  • March 25 – NPC concept officially “green-lit” as a Proof of Concept effort with AMC/A5Q

  • March 25-30 – NPC Requirements Generation and Statement of Objectives authored by community

  • March 28 – Joint Urgent Order of Need issued (PBCM and NPC move ahead)

  • March 30 – Draft Other Transactional Authority (OTA) Request for Prototype Proposal (RPP) for an Enhanced White Paper released

  • March 31 – OTA RPP for an Enhanced White Paper released

  • April 2 – OTA Enhanced White Papers Due – source selection begins

  • April 7 – OTA agreement awarded to Advanced Technology International (ATI), ATI issued Project Agreement to UTS Systems/Highland Engineering Inc./Delta Flight Products for NPC Proof of Concept (PoC)

  • April 12 – NPCL kick-off meeting with AF/Navy/USCG/USMC

  • April 21 – NPC Proof of Concept delivered to Joint Base Charleston for testing

  • April 30 – NPC PoC flight test – AMC/CC Concurs to move forward w/ NPC/NPCL programs, not pursue PBCM procurement

  • May 9 – $32M of funding received and NPC-001 and NPCL-001, builds begin

  • June 1 – NPCL arrives at JBC for testing

  • June 7 – NPC Arrives at JBC for testing

  • June 12 – NPCL conducts its Operational Utility Evaluation (OUE) flight on HC-130J

  • June 15 – NPC conducts its OUE flight on C-17

  • June 19 – NPC receives its Military Flight Release (MFR) for operations

  • June 23 – NPC departs for operations from JBC to Ramstein AB

  • June 25 – NPCL receives its MFR for operations 

  • June 30 – NPC conducts first mission (12 Patients) from CENTCOM to Ramstein AB

  • July 2 – NPCL departs for operations from JBC to Ramstein AB




 

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