USMC to Deploy New Helmets

enhanced combat helmet

The Army Times is reporting the United States Marine Corps placed an order for more than 3800 new helmets capable of stopping rifle rounds at point blank range.

The new helmet is called the Enhanced Combat Helmet or ECH.  According to Military.com, the new helmets use Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene instead of older ballistic fibers like Kevlar and Twaron.  The result is a higher degree of protection at the same weight.

The helmets are being made by Ceradyne, Inc.  Ceradyne is a subsidiary of 3M.  Ceradyne already manufactures SAPI plates for the US government.

The USMC plans to deploy up to 38,500 of the helmets, and the US Army is looking to buy at least 200,000 of the helmets.




Richard Johnson

An advocate of gun proliferation zones, Richard is a long time shooter, former cop and internet entrepreneur. Among the many places he calls home is http://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/.


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  • Lance

    I do think there a better helmet. But I disagree they are all bullet proof I remember they said the same thing about Kevlar in the 80s. It might stop 7.62×39 but 5.45mm or 7.62x54mm will punch threw it. I dont care what its made of. many cases steel and Kevlar helmets hit at some angles can stop a bullet but not a direct hit. Overall these and body armor like in Iraq gave troops too much of a false sense of security. Moving fast is far better and avoid being hit in the first place. I also think too if it stops a full powered round it would knock you unconscious and or brake your neck hate to say but new Helmet cant make you invincible unlike what tacti idiots like some at Army times always says.

    • Mr Mxyzptlk

      A bullet that is successfully stopped by a helmet would never break your neck, and probably wouldn’t even knock you out. Assuming the bullet hasn’t magically gained more energy since it was fired, the maximum possible impact will be equivalent to the recoiling of the gun when it was fired. I wouldn’t recommend you try it, but if you held an AR against your head and fired it you will not be knocked out, let alone break your neck. Granted this assumes there is no significant back face deformation.

      • bigbear78

        I’m sorry but you are very wrong I won’t get into the physics of it but I have seen people hit in there armor buy rounds and it is much more violent than the recoil of firing the rifle energy has to go somewhere me personnely would rather be knocked out and alive than dead but it would be a violent event never the less

        • gunslinger

          no, please do go into the physics of it.
          mythbusters did one on the “old west shotgun” where a guy gets blown out of a window from a shotgun. didn’t work. it barely knocked the dummy off the suspension rig.

          newton 3, every action has equal and opposite. so the “energy” felt by the recoil is the opposite to the energy of the bullet. granted it’s dissipated through the rifle and stock to the shoulder area. when a bullet hits, it is a smaller area, and therefore a higher concentration of that energy to a particular place.

          on top of that, shooters are “braced” for the recoil, where as targets usually aren’t. but i still don’t think that a bullet to the head would “break” the neck.

        • Rick Randall

          What you are seeing is the target jerking because he got hit by a bullet, NOT the bullet knocking him around.
          They DID NOTrepeal physics any time recently.

      • Clodboy

        The kinetic energy of a bullet is concentrated on a few square milimeters, the recoil is spread around several square centimeters on the grip and buttstock. A good hit from a bullet will penetrate the helmet and kill you, but it’s unlikely to break your neck (which is, after all, supported by pretty strong muscles)

        That said, these helmets aren’t designed to stop a rifle bullet impacting at a 90° angle. Nor was Kevlar ever supposed to do that without trauma plate inserts. What they do however do a good job of is deflecting shrapnel, debris from explosions and probably also some bullets (although still probably not a hot-loaded 7.62×54 at close range) that hit at sub-optimal angles. Plus, you should never underestimate one factor they raise: troop morale.

        • Rick Randall

          Yeah, in addition to the fact that bullets don’t magically gain energy after leaving teh barrel and heading downrange, the suspension setup of the helmet acts spreads the energy of the impact over the 50% or so of the suspension on that side of the hit (albeit,not exactly evenly — the closer it is to the hit, the more it transmits; you’d need either a bunch of really small sensors or an FEA modelling run to quantify it). And the suspension does have SOME give, so it’s more elastic (and thus both energy absorbing as well as stretching the event SIGNFICIANTLY in time, which really matters for injuries).
          The resulting impact force is thus going to be lower total than the shock against the shooter’s shoulder, and very likely will be lower PER SQUARE INCH than what the shooter’s shoulder has to take. The neck muscles are more than powerful enough to absorb the TOTAL force delivered without breaking anything. (Might well be sore afterwards, especially since it is natural to tense up in an overreaction AFTERWARDS.)

          • Lance

            Too-trusting that this helmet makes you invincible. NO read stories of men with neck and head trauma after being nit in the helmet. many still spend many days in a hospital. You point is true technically but a 7.62x54mm or equivalent cannot be stopped and no harm to the shot from a helmet. Little lone if fired at point blank range. PSGT helmets where sold as bullet proff in the 80s but this was Pentagon BS. I feel the same about this. NO solder is invincible and they never be from the crap Generals say from the pentagon. This may protect you better but it wont always save your life.

          • Rick Randall

            Nobody is claiming they will make soldiers invincible. Only that they are better, and it won’t break your neck if your helmet stops a rifle round. Hurt your neck? Sure. Whiplash and similar injuries CAN occur with relatively small forces. But BREAK your neck? Not unless you have a serious underlying condition commpromising your neck already. . . like being 90 years old with osteoporosis or something.

  • USMCDerp

    Once again, great gear that will only go to MARSOC. Your regular grunts will have to stick with the old stuff…..Gucci gear, as my CO would say!

  • Clodboy

    It’s “Twaron” not “Tarwon”. Also, it’s pretty much the same thing as Kevlar (Aramid).

    From what I know, while the rest of the world has been switching to UHMPE, the US Army has been using something called Zylon for their vests – problem is while Zylon protects just fine initially, it isn’t exactly long-lived, and vests need to be replaced every 3-5 years (well, knowing the army, kinda sorta should be replaced but maybe you can use it for another year… ok?).

    • http://www.bluesheepdog.com/ Richard

      Thanks for the correction on the Twaron name – you are correct.

      I’m not terribly familiar with military vests, but I do know that the original Zylon product proved to be a disaster in the law enforcement vest production. They only lasted a few months before the fibers broke down and lost the ability to stop handgun rounds. There was a huge recall, lawsuits, etc.

      Zylon seemed to be one of those things that worked great in the lab (very light and strong) but broke down quickly when worn. I imagine soldiers & Marines are harder on their gear than the average cop.

      Any idea if a new Zylon product was developed?

  • TangledThorns

    When it comes to military terms ‘same weight’ means heavier than the original.

  • Bruce

    The big complaint I heard from my friends that spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan was the weight of the standard load. Even jacked up on adrenaline, with bullets flying, it was hard to move in. Of course that’s a grunts view, perhaps the Army/Marines have better data on actual injuries in combat with armor load vs moving faster.

    • LRB

      I always tell my soldiers, ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain. Anything they can do to make it lighter I am happy with. I was first issued the PAGST helmet and an IBA, now I have an ACH and a plate carrier. My joints are what they were when i first entered the Army, much of that I attribute to daily carrying 60-70lbs in Afghanistan, but hey there will always be the VA right?

      • Nicks87

        Good luck with the VA. They are denying claims left and right because there is so much fraud going on right now. Some of our fellow veterans seem to have lost all their honor and integrity and are making fake PTSD claims. Now vets that have real military related health problems and disabilities arnt getting the care they need. Too many vets these days get propped up as heroes when in reality they deserve to be behind bars.

    • Sid

      An instructor asked this question to our Captains Career Course students who represented Army Reserve and Army National Guard: how many of you know someone who was shot and the plates made a difference? No one answered. How many of you know someone who has back or knee problems post-deployment? All of the previously deployed soldiers raised their hands.
      In Panama, we had PASGT and flak vests, had to carry our daily supply of water, and thought we weighed a ton. The moment plate carriers were added, humping into a war ended.

    • holland

      Modern war is a publicity war, deaths in combat is bad publicity the military doesn’t need. They don’t care if your crippled for life as long as you can smile for the camera.

  • Joseph B Campbell

    If this is a done deal, we will have to wait for the body count! This does not seem right to me otherwise they would have used them before. Follow the money!

    • FourString

      That was irreverent and not at all appropriate.

      • Joseph B Campbell

        Irreverent…appropriate… Someone is making money by wagering the lives of our children that at close range the weapons of tomorrow will not penetrate the helmet. You should be more concerned about them than about me.

        • Nicks87

          Joseph, I agree with you 100% dont worry about the clowns on this website they are a bunch of wannabes that play airsoft and pretend to be soldiers. Those of us that have been there understand the realities of combat and see the corruption for what it is. These folks are a microcosm of the average brain dead voter that cant see past left/right politics. This is the “Call of duty” crowd you are conversing with, they live vicariously through video games and understand nothing of warfare, money, politics or how the three are combined.

          • dirtyharry

            way to blanket generalize dumbass.

          • USP9

            There are plenty of men and women who served overseas who comment here regularly. What the hell makes you think you’re better than them?

          • Joseph B Campbell

            I am a United States Marine, Disabled American Veteran. I have three of four sons serving in the United States Army. I become very concerned anytime someone tries to make deals in the government/military/industry who in making a cash dollar put any soldiers life in danger, again as you should be.

          • howboutnoucrazydutchbastard

            Sure, because if you haven’t served overseas, then you’re automatically a “Call of duty” player. Nothing in between those extremes, like LEO or competition shooter. You sir put too much faith in tired stereotypes. Furthermore: Thanks for being a supercilious douchebag.

          • gunslinger

            if it is so bad, why do you keep coming back?

            what’s the definition of insanity?

        • USP9

          The reason why you are downvoted is not because of your politics or point but the way you say it, totally disrespecting men in service by viewing them as mere bodybags. Healthy skepticism is one thing but downright, unnecessary, and flagrant disrespect is tasteless. Way to stay classy.

    • Rick Randall

      Better materials, better compromise between a protection versus likelyhood of a particular area being hit versus the armor interfering with your ability to do your job. There is evidence, actually, of earlier helmets causing at least some additional casualties because the troops couldn;t return fire as effectively and end teh firefight. . . because the helmets got in the way.
      Something you would only know if you’ve ever tried to shoot with those helmets on while wearing a large ruck.

  • SawThumper

    I have this helmet as my current issue gear and it is definitely lighter than the older styled helmets.

  • Jeremy Star

    Have a friend who was USAF that took a round in the helmet while repairing comm lines. He brought back several pictures that his unit took of him in the helmet and holding the helmet. The bullet passed completely through the front of the helmet, missing his head by centimeters and passed out the back. Two neat holes like the helmet didn’t even phase the bullet.

    I bet he’d have loved to have one that stopped it instead of letting it pass so close to his head it would have parted his hair if he had any.

  • Geoff a well known Skeptic

    Does anyone know of a study on helmet skirting? How much of the weight savings is from removing the skirt from the design. It looks like the US of A, after copying the Fritz helmet from the Germans in WWII, is now copying the WWII German paratrooper helmet, in modern plastics of course. Geoff Who wore a steel pot with plastic liner a long time agone.

    • Sid Collins

      They were not copying a German helmet design. The original design of the PASGT was to offer increased protection from shrapnel. One of the biggest complaints from that generation was not being able to hear well due to the extended skirt. The ACH was an improvement in many ways but the reduction of weight by reducing the size of the skirt was the most needed.

      • Rick Randall

        The other complaint was that with the original PASGT helmets, getting your weapon up in the prone position while wearing a ruck was an issue, because the helmet skirt hit the rucks (especially the Marine MOLLEs when they first fielded, IIRC.)

  • JT

    How do these guns deal with the kinetic energy of bullet impact to the helmet? They obviously stop the bullet, but why does it have to be stopped instead of deflected? Why can’t they just develop a harness system that allows the helmet to fly off on impact, absorbing the energy, but still be retained? Some soldiers don’t use the straps on their helmets for this reason, but then they risk losing their helmets if they have to move quickly

    • Rick Randall

      Um, even with the straps unsnapped, the helmet literally cannot move out of the way fast enough to make a difference. You can’t use an aikido soft block strategy to deflect bullets, the time involved in a bullet impact doesn’t work out. Same thing for idiots who think that they should unsnap their chinstraps to avoid breaking their neck if an explosion happens nearby. (I.e., if you’re unbuckling your chinstraps to “let the helmet move”, you’re wrong — it was a mistaken idea in 1917, it was a mistaken idea in 1941, it was a mistaken idea in 1950 and 1967, and it is mistaken now. Only now they can actually model the situation well enough to know WHY. Buckle the damned chinstrap, Hero.)
      Your only option for deflection is via shaping — which they already do as much as possible without having to bulk the helmets up so much teh weight makes tham a non-starter.

  • snmp

    Commercial name of the UHMWPE (or UHMW) is DSM Dyneema or Spectra. The Spectra is fiber of The French helmet from MSA Gallet

  • Robert

    I want one of thoose Stormtroopers suits made out of that stuff :p

  • Doom

    holy hell I hope I can get my mitts on one of those babies, rifles at point blank ranges?? current helmets can barely even stop handguns point blank and thats if you are lucky!