A new coating system being made available for the Army's use to paint aircraft and other equipment performs better than the standard system - and it is safer to human health and the environment. This breakthrough comes after two years of research and testing conducted by the Connecticut Army National Guard at its 1109th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot (AVCRAD) on trivalent chromium-based primers and sealers.

Chromium has long been used in paint to create dense, protective coatings. This is especially important to the Army, which needs to cover its equipment with paint that can resist corrosive chemical agent. However, chromium, in its hexavalent form, is a known carcinogen. Although the Army has used chromium-6-based paint safely to protect and extend the life of its expensive equipment, it was open to trying something else that wasn't so potentially harmful both to human health and the environment. The question was, what else is there?

Now they know. It's a different kind of chromium-based paint that uses chromium-3 instead of chromium-6.

Willingness to find a new paint system turned to resolve in 2006 when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released more stringent regulations for permissible exposure limits of chromium-6. That's when the Connecticut Army National Guard's 1109th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot, which plays a major role in aircraft maintenance for the Army, decided that finding a green alternative to the standard chromium-6 paint system was better than upgrading its air filters to meet the new requirements.

The maintenance team at the 1109th AVCRAD initiated a rigorous hunt for a suitable replacement. What they found was a water-based chemical agent resistant coating system that exceeds the performance of the old system. The replacement coating system leaves a smoother finish coating and is more resistant to fading and chalking, which minimizes the need for cosmetic painting procedures.

The new chromium-3-based coating system is also safer to human health and the environment because it reduces the use of hazardous materials and the release of potentially harmful air emissions. It also significantly reduces the harmful chemicals that are present when disposing of paint stripping waste.

The new chromium-3-based painting system reportedly is a breakthrough for the Army.

"AVCRAD's willingness to test and demonstrate the viability of alternative aircraft primers will help eliminate they Army's use of chromium-6, resulting in significant protection of human health and the environment," says Dana Arnold, chief of staff for the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive. "The Office of the Federal Environmental Executive applauds AVCRAD for helping the Army to meet (an Executive Order) while achieving its mission."

Partnering with the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, the 1109th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot initiated and now manages the effort to promote use of the new paint system in both military and private organizations.

For implementing the aviation industry's first chromium-3 painting system suitable for use to the Army, the Connecticut Army National Guard's Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot recently received the Army's highest honor in environmental stewardship - the Secretary of the Army Environmental Award.

For more information, visitaec.army.mil/usaec/.