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Interview with James Wilcox, President Military, Avon Protection

SD: What kind of CBRN threats do troops in operation nowadays have to be aware of?
Wilcox: The last decade has clearly demonstrated that the nature of threats to international security has changed significantly. Challenges such as terrorism, state and non-state sponsored attacks and perhaps more recently nuclear proliferation, have created an entirely new security environment. The threat is always evolving. At Avon Protection we are continuously working with our customers worldwide to ensure we design, develop and deliver world leading solutions to protect them from every possible threat whether air, land or sea based.

ESD: What are the key features of Avon Protection’s M53A1 solution?
Wilcox: The M53A1 mask and powered air system was specifically developed for Special Operations Forces and CBRN special mission units to counter the unique and domestic threats encountered on the modern battlefield, global war on terrorism and CBRN operations around the world. The M53A1 is the first dual use respirator for both military tactical operations and domestic response certified to MIL-SPEC and NIOSH CBRN approval. The M53A1 allows users to operate more effectively in a CBRN environment with improved comfort, improved vision, communications, weapon sighting and the ability to transition from negative pressure mask to a positive pressure in one simple action; ONE MASK ALL MISSIONS.

ESD: “One Mask – All Missions” is your message to your customers. What does this mean?
Wilcox: The M53A1 can function as a conventional negative pressure mask or as a positive pressure mask, providing specialist operators with the ability to adapt the mask to meet the threat in seconds. Offering the user maximum mission flexibility with one system, the M53A1 can be combined with PAPRs (Powered Air Purifying Respirator), SCBAs (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus), combination PAPR/SCBA systems and even closed circuit systems to deliver adaptable protection factor through positive pressure, powered air and negative pressure modes with one single mask.

The M53A1 provides protection against traditional chemical and biological agents, specific toxic industrial chemicals and particulate matter, including radioactive dust.

ESD: Does your M53A1 solution primarily or even exclusively address the military or might it attract attention of civilian first responders as well?
Wilcox: The M53A1 was developed from Avon Protection’s world class 50 series range so it has been specifically developed for the unique requirements of Special Missions units. The 50 series has multiple masks within the range, each of the masks offering different benefits to user groups depending on the threat, and their operational requirements. The M53A1, over the past 13 years since the first military delivery, has also become the mask of choice for first responders including tactical police officers and CBRN units due to its operational flexibility!

ESD: Can you elaborate on the US order you got?
Wilcox: In March 2019 we announced Avon Protection had been awarded a sole source contract to supply the US Department of Defence with M53A1 Protective Masks, ST54 SCBAs, PAPRs and related accessories. This framework contract (5 year IDIQ with 2 options years), which also covers additional Avon Protection products, including the MP-PAPR and recently launched ST54 SCBA has a maximum contract value of $246M. Just a month after announcing the original contract win, we received our first order against the contract worth $20.2M.

ESD: What other markets beyond the US do you currently focus on?
Wilcox: We have been supplying specialist solutions to military forces, civil and first line defence troops, emergency services for over 130 years. Our products are used in over 65 countries worldwide and these users all put their trust in Avon Protection’s technology to shield them from whatever threat whether air, land or sea based.

ESD: Does your customer service include training programmes to get familiar with the broad range of capabilities the M53A1 provides?
Wilcox: Our product line does include training post purchase for Level 1 (Operator) and Level 2 (Organisational Maintenance). Additionally we provide training/presentations to our sales teams and potential customers during the sales process.

The interview was conducted by PB.