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The Army's new combat helmet is up to 24 percent lighter

March 30, 2017 (Photo Credit: Army)
Soldiers will soon be wearing a helmet that’s up to 24 percent lighter than the current 15-year-old model, according to the Army.

The Advanced Combat Helmet Generation II looks the same as the legacy ACH, but the new helmet is made from polyethylene instead of Kevlar, PEO Soldier experts told reporters during a media roundtable Thursday at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.

“The goal is to achieve a lighter-weight helmet with equal to or greater protection [than the legacy ACH],” said Maj. Brandon Motte, assistant project manager at Soldier Protective Equipment.

An extra-large legacy helmet weighs 3.88 pounds, he said, but an extra-large Gen II helmet weighs 2.94 pounds, which equals a 24 percent reduction in weight. The small and medium helmets see a 21 percent reduction in weight.

ACH Gen II front view
The Advanced Combat Helmet Generation II is made from polyethylene.
Photo Credit: Army

The ACH Generation II material reduces the weight while keeping the same protection, and just like the legacy helmet, the new model can stop 9 mm handgun rounds and fragmentation from improvised explosive devices, according to Jakob Hopping, chief systems engineer for the Program Manager Office.

“This helmet helped push technology by maintaining the protection level and reducing the weight as much as we can,” he said.

Soldiers in the field wear their helmets anywhere from 12 to 18 hours, Motte said, and eventually that causes fatigue and stress on the body.

“By achieving weight reduction, it increases a soldier’s focus and ability to conduct operations at an effective rate for a longer period of time,” he said.

The Army is moving toward purging the system of the legacy models, according to Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, program manager for Soldier Protective Equipment. 

ACH Gen II side view
The Army will replace the Advanced Combat Helmet with the Generation II version, pictured above.
Photo Credit: Army

The team is meeting with the Defense Logistics Agency – the buying entity – next week to figure out the next steps, she said.

After the meeting, the Army will have a better idea of exactly when and how soldiers will receive the helmets. Brown said it’s unclear whether the distribution will be regional or unit specific. Revision Military was awarded an Army contract this month to produce 293,870 units by March 2022.

Hopping added that the Army Aeromedical Research Lab at Fort Rucker, Alabama, will study the Gen II helmet to determine how great of an impact the new model will have for injury reduction. The Army will receive those results in about two years, he said.

“The biggest complaint from soldiers is the weight of the equipment,” Brown said. “What we’ve been able to demonstrate to the Army and fellow soldiers is the Army can and will get after weight reduction and give them a solution.”

The Gen II helmet is three times as light as the original Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, or PASGT, helmet.

Charlsy Panzino covers the Guard and Reserve, training, technology, operations and features for Army Times and Air Force Times. Email her at cpanzino@militarytimes.com.  
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