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Some pads really burn; some don't burn so much.  See the test information here.

Some pads are more durable than others.  See examples here

There are four major helmet types in use in the US Military today.  All are made from Kevlar.  The steel pot is from Vietnam and before.

ECH ACH LWH MICH PASGT M1 Steel Pot

Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH) is a United States Marine Corps program to replace the combat helmets of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marines using thermoplastics instead of the ballistic fibers used on the current generation combat helmets. We're hearing from the field that the ECH, outfitted with the old Team Wendy helmet pads, cause the same problems seen with the ACH and GI helmet pads. Original estimates were the ECH would be 35% lighter, but as tests showed it could not meet specs, the weight was increased to that equal the ACH/MICH.

Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) is based on the MICH design and  provides an improved helmet to soldiers, replacing the older PASGT.  It provides increased 9mm bullet protection. Comes with pad suspension system and the four-point chinstrap.  Primary users: originally Army, now all services.

Lightweight Helmet (LWH) was developed for the US Marines to replace the PASGT.  Looks very similar to the PASGT, but has a four-point chinstrap built-in and is about 6 ounces lighter.  Originally it had a web suspension system and being upgraded to padded suspension.  Primary users: Marines and Navy FMF.

Modular Integrated Communications Helmet (MICH) is a special operations lightweight ballistic helmet that incorporates excellent ballistic and non-ballistic protection with the ability to interface with most tactical headsets and mikes used by SOF.  Standard with a pad suspension and four-point chinstrap.  Primary users: Spec Ops.

Personal Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT) helmet (also called the K-Pot) is made of and has been in use since 1983. The Kevlar helmet, available in five sizes from extra small thru extra large five sizes, provides ballistic protection for the head from fragmenting munitions and handgun bullets.  Comes with a strap suspension system inside the helmet and two-point chin strap.  Can be upgraded with a four point chinstrap and pad suspension system.  Primary users: being phased out, with the only two remaining helmets in military service being the Army-style ACH/MICH and the Marine LWH. An occasional National Guard or Reserve individual may wind up in-country with the older PASGT, but that likelihood is diminishing rapidly.

Pad Systems from various manufacturers

Helmet
Impact
Testing
Video

 

Click on images above for larger views


  • Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH) is a United States Marine Corps program to replace the combat helmets of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marines using thermoplastics instead of the ballistic fibers used on the current generation combat helmets. 

    The ECH Program Office has delayed production and fielding of the ECH pending identification and correction of the reasons for the ballistic failures. The ECH Program Office projects testing to determine the effectiveness of corrective
    actions will begin in early 2013.
      For more information see here

    Ceradyne, makers of the Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH) has received the first (~$3 million) of possibly two low rate initial production orders. Ceradyne expects full rate production to commence during second quarter of calendar year 2012 with totals to exceed $170 million. It’s good to see this program moving forward after it was plagued with curing issues after showing initial success. According to Ceradyne and the Marine Corps, slight changes in the manufacturing process to accommodate the transition of tech development to production had to be dealt with to ensure consistent performance.

    Called the Ceradyne Diaphorm Ballistic Helmet, the winning ECH design is twice the price of current Army and Marine Corps helmets, but provides up to 70% improvement in ballistic protection. In addition to delays, the program has received criticism over its arbitrary protection level (an undisclosed .30 threat) since there has been no move to dissipate the energy of such a round. Additionally, the size, weight and shape of the Army’s ACH was chosen for the ECH. Rather than decreasing weight and maintaining current ballistic protection to make troops more agile and to help offset the added weight of applique sensors and lights, the choice was made to maintain the current burden on the wearers neck and increase ballistic protection. Instead of telling industry that they wanted to defeat a threat, the Marine Corps wrote a requirement that boxed everyone into a narrow set of solutions.


    Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) is based on the MICH design and  provides an improved helmet to Soldiers, replacing the older PASGT.  In addition to providing the Soldier ballistic and impact protection, it will be used as a platform to mount electronics such as communication devices, and Night Vision devices. It provides increased 9mm bullet protection. The reduced edge cut of the ACH, although reducing area of coverage, will improve the field of vision and hearing, leading to better situational awareness over the current helmet. The ACH has five basic components: The helmet shell, the pad suspension system, the retention system (chinstrap/napestrap), helmet cover, and eye strap. While the first 600,000 or so were equipped with top-of-the-line pads, the Army recently changed to a cheaper pad system that is hard and  non-conforming to the skull, resulting in pressure points and headaches. The 'GI' pads also disintegrate quickly in the rigors of combat. Some troops are removing the pads and taping rolled-up socks inside their helmet...hardly a safe procedure when a much better pad system is available and used in the past.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/ach.htm

    Click here to see how to wear the helmet properly.

    Army ACH complete story: Questions from a Congressman to the Army were answered as follows on May 26, 2006:

    What is the Army's acquisition objective (AAO)?  In other words, how many helmets do they want to procure? 1,100,000

    What percent of the AAO has been met?  How many helmets?  992,950 contract or 90%

    Will the AAO be completed in FY06?  AAO will be procured by FY06 and Fielded by FY07.

    How much has been spent on the program to date? $304,673,000 has been spent on ACH to date

    For clarification, how many have been fielded?  To date, 370,000 have been fielded to the Army through the rapid fielding initiative (RFI) program.

  • View ACH wear and fit examples
  • ACH Operator's Manual (TM 10-8470-204-10) All 184 pages
  • Download the Helmet GTA - How to properly wear and adjust the helmet
  • ACH Maintenance Advisory Message MAM
  • Safety Of Use Message for the Advanced Combat Helmet
  • Blunt Impact Performance Characteristics of the ACH and PASGT Helmets from US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, August 2005
  • New Army helmet pad requirements

  • Lightweight Helmet (LWH) was developed for the US Marines to replace the PASGT. The inner 'skullcap' suspension system has now been abandoned in favor of shock-absorbing pads, following the House Armed Services Committee hearing in June 2006. Unfortunately, the pads chosen are the same bottom-tier pads the Army uses that disintegrate quickly, are hard and uncomfortable, resulting in troopers removing their helmets for comfort, even facing the ever-present and unpredictable threat of IED's, RPG's, Ambush, vehicle accidents, etc..

    Ý This is the standard helmet above.

     

    Ý This is the helmet with the kit installed (click on the photos for a much larger view)

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/lwh.htm

    The LWH received Milestone C approval in May 2003. Initial operational capability was scheduled for the second quarter of FY 2004 and full operational capability for the first quarter of FY 2009. Production of 200,000+ helmets for Marines started in the June 2003.  The helmet's shell is shaped like the older version, but new materials bring a 6 percent improvement in fragmentation protection and the ability to stop a direct hit from a 9mm round.  A medium-size PASGT helmet weighs 3.6 pounds as compared to medium LWH's 3.05 pounds.

    November, 2011: NOTE: Federal Prison Industries (nee UNICOR) were the sole source for the Marine LWH helmet. Some 44,000 helmets failed the protection test for ballistic missiles (bullets, frags), but were shipped along with all the other helmets and can't be told apart from good ones. The LWH is now produced by Gentex.

     MARADMIN 362/06 Released - Authorizes Use of Pad Suspension Kit in the Marine Lightweight Helmet (From OH Archives)


    Modular Integrated Communications Helmet (MICH) is a lightweight ballistic helmet that incorporates excellent ballistic and non-ballistic protection with the ability to interface with most tactical communications headsets and microphones utilized by special operations forces. This is now integrated in to Army inventory as the MICH/ACH helmet.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/mich.htm

    From NDIA Magazine Full article  

    "Elder, a former U.S. Army Ranger, told National Defense that the helmet is not only comfortable and reliable, but also provides improved communications capabilities.

    “First, the higher cut [of the helmet] allows a user to have complete range of motion while using the complete range of load carriage systems and body armor employed by our user groups,” he said. “It allows a user to lay in the prone and engage a target. This is huge. This task was very difficult to impossible with the old PASGT (Personnel Armor System Ground Troops) helmet while wearing most body armor and load carriage,” Elder said. "

    From Natick's "The Warrior" newsletter

    "What would allow the wearer to stay conscious is the innovative seven-pad suspension system. The current helmet uses a bolted-on nylon suspension with a leather headband that is fastened onto the inside headband. Many users would buy a circular pad to ease the weight stress on top of their heads.

    Suspension pads consist of a comfort foam and “slow memory” foam to absorb shock. The cloth covering wicks away moisture to keep users cooler.

    The MICH suspension pads are composed partly of comfort foam where the pads touch the head and mostly of “slow-memory” impact foam with the resilience of a wrestling mat.  The foam is like a shock absorber against a striking bullet.

    (NOTE: In ballistic testing, while the helmets will stop a 9mm round, the impact indents the helmet approximately 1.5. inches. If the helmet were against the skull when the bullet strikes, that indentation is transferred to the skull with resultant injury and/or fracture. Holding the helmet permanently off the skull with shock-absorbing pads reduces or eliminates that scenario. Edit by OpHelm)

    A black CoolMax cloth covering wicks moisture away and helps the user stay cooler. Lining the inside is a glued-on strip of Velcro fastener. Users can unhook and adjust the pads to create a custom fit. "

     


    Personal Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT) helmet (also called the Kevlar, K-Pot and Fritz) was first fielded to U.S. military units in the early 1980s. The helmet, available in five sizes, provides ballistic protection for the head from fragmenting munitions. It is a one piece structure composed of multiple layers of Kevlar ballistic fiber and phenolic PVB resin. For a complete story, go to olive-drab.com. This helmet is now being removed from inventory in ALL services, replaced in the Marines by the LWH (see below) and the Air Force by the Army-style ACH helmet.

    Ý This is the standard helmet above

     

    Ý This is the helmet with the kit installed (click on the photos for a much larger view)

    Click here to see how to wear the helmet properly.

  • PASGT Operator's Manual (NATICK PAM 70-2)
  • Blunt Impact Performance Characteristics of the ACH and PASGT Helmets from US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, August 2005
  • Blunt Head Injury Protection for Paratroopers. Part II Improved System Description from US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, March 2005
  • PASGT Use and Care Manual (Ch 19, TM 10-8400-203-23)
  • This another after-market comfort kit that is cheap, hot, and provides no impact protection
     


    M1 Steel Pot

    As far as we know, the US Military no longer uses these helmets at all. From a Navy STG3 on 17 Mar 2013: Hey, just wanted to let you know that the M1 IS still being used by the US Military in some capacity. My ship has three damage control "repair lockers" for fighting damage to the ship. Each of these has a rack with a few dozen M1 steel pots. They are also located in a few other common passage ways. They are there in case all hell breaks loose and we need quick head protection. During inbound and outbound transit, our gunners wear the marine corps LWH, so the M1 is never used under normal circumstances. But we still have probably 100+ kicking around on our ship. I imagine its the same on a lot of the lower-funded cruisers and frigates on the waterfront. Though not necessarily the newer ships. But who knows.

    This is the helmet Doc Bob wore in Vietnam and Mark & Carla wore in Desert Storm.  They were kinda nice - you could use the top steel 'pot' for cooking, bathing, etc.  Of course, the folks that designed these have said that as soon as you heat the metal over a fire, the strength of helmet decreases significantly.


    Ops-Core FAST helmets:

    Some in the Special Ops are not enthusiastic about this helmet as it provides less coverage for impact/blast and ballistic protection than the ACH/MICH or LWH helmets. There is a Ballistic Side Cover available from the manufacturer that is said to more than make up that difference.

    Fast Ballistic Weight Chart
    Impact Protection
    Ballistic Protection Chart

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    Last modified: 04/22/14