General Paul J. Selva, commander of US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), recently publicly introduced a new isolation unit that will allow the Department of Defense to air transport multiple patients with highly infectious diseases. The Transport Isolation System has reached initial operational capability and crews have been trained and made ready to deploy anywhere in the world in response to a biological event.
The need for the system was highlighted during Operation United Assistance, the US military mission to help combat the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, said USTRANSCOM, noting that private operators’ capacity for these transports is limited. Along with USTRANSCOM, other agencies have worked on acquiring the system, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Transportation Command, Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), Joint Project Manager – Protection, Air Mobility Command, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center among others. The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved a USTRANSCOM request for urgent funding in September 2014, and less than four months later; the Transport Isolation System went from development to testing, evaluation and then production with a commercial company.
Selva explained: “We needed a system like the one you see today. In short order, we partnered with our technical experts at DTRA, and in about 120 days from the day we said go, to the day we had a flight tested, ready piece of equipment – they delivered.”
The system is that it is built to fit on existing mobility aircraft, including the US Air Force’s C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III. It is also based on existing military patient support pallets. Each unit has a disposable liner supported by a metal structure and an air filtration system.
“The infectious disease module provides us a safe way to bring multiple patients back,” said Brigadier General (Dr) Kory Cornum, command surgeon of Air Mobility Command.
The new system is modular, allowing for flexibility in the configuration. The standard set-up is for two seats and one litter, but up to three litter patients or four ambulatory patients can be accommodated in each module. Two isolation modules and an anteroom module can fit on a C-17 or C-130J Super Hercules, and one isolation module and an anteroom module will fit on a C-130 Hercules. The Department of Defense has ordered 25 systems, with expected delivery of all units by the end of March. Joint Base Charleston has received the first two systems for training and staging. Additional staging locations will be developed following delivery and based upon ongoing world events.