New dive mask lets Marines talk underwater

Marine Corps Times

By James K. Sanborn - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Apr 16, 2011 9:08:44 EDT
The Marine Corps has fielded a new full-face dive mask to its most elite troops that is safer, easier to maintain and allows Marines to talk underwater.

Called the Combat Divers Full Facemask, or CDFFM, it will be used by reconnaissance and special operations Marines across the Corps for missions such as beach mapping and surveillance, and clandestine infiltration for direct action. It marks a significant improvement over the half-mask design previously used, said Master Sgt. Anthony Balchun, a project officer with Marine Corps Systems Command.

Based on the KMS-48, a commercially available dive mask produced by California-based Kirby Morgan Dive Systems, the CDFFM covers a Marine’s entire face instead of just the eyes and nose. Marines once clenched a mouthpiece fed by oxygen to breathe underwater; now they get a steady stream of air pumped directly into the mask.

“In comparison to the half mask, the full-face mask reduces heat loss during cold water operations and protects the diver’s face from exposure to environmental conditions,” Balchun said. “The mask also allows the integration of an underwater voice communications system. … Finally, diver safety is increased by providing a constant air supply to the diver in the event he loses consciousness.”

Until now, Marines had to communicate underwater through hand signals and alternative means. Now, they can talk with one another as if they were on the surface.

While the CDFFM is similar to the KMS-48 commercial model, several modifications were made to meet the Marine Corps’ needs. For instance, by using two lenses placed closer to the face, instead of a single lens, the Marine Corps’ version increases divers’ field of vision by 25 percent, officials said. To accommodate the new lenses, which required a larger opening, the mask’s face seal also had to be slightly modified.

The mask can be used with a number of diving systems, including scuba, which releases bubbles into the water, and MK25, a stealthy rebreather that conceals a Marine’s position by not releasing bubbles.
Another added benefit: Previous models had to be shipped to the manufacturer for repair, but the new mask can be serviced by Marine dive leaders.

Fielding began less than a year ago. Third Reconnaissance Battalion at Camp Schwab on Okinawa, Japan, became the final unit to be trained on it, wrapping up training in early March.