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Advanced Combat Helmet ( ACH )

Natick Contracting Division, in support of the US Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick developed the new Advanced Combat Helm et (ACH) which will replace the helmet known as the Personnel Armor System Ground Troops (PASGT). The ACH will provide an improved helmet to Soldiers that in addition to providing the Soldier ballistic and impact protection, will be used as a platform t o mount electronics such as communication devices, and Night Vision devices among other items. As a helmet it will provide standard Helmet, Ground Troops and Parachutists and (PASGT) protection as well as increased 9mm protection. The reduced edge cu t f 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 syst em (chinstrap/napestrap), helmet cover, and eye strap.

The Advanced Combat Helmet, or ACH, has replaced the old Kevlar helmet. The ACH is 3.5 lbs lighter then the old model and is cushioned on the inside, which sits more comfortably on a Soldiers head. It also has a different suspension system inside which allows a Soldier to fight more effectively when wearing body armor. The ACH is a helmet system that provides ballistic and impact protection. This system is compatible with the current night vision devices (NVG's), communications packages, and nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) defense equipment and body armor. The ACH provides ballistic protection within the full spectrum of operational environments.

The ACH allows maximum sensory and situational awareness for the operator. This includes an unobstructed field of view and increased ambient hearing capabilities. The ACH's chinstrap retention system and pad suspension system provides unsurpassed balance, stability, and comfort. This system provides for proper size, fit, and ventilation. The ACH's pad suspension system provides impact protection throughout all operational scenarios, including static-line airborne operations.

The ACH is compatible with night vision, communications, and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) equipment. The ACH weighs approximately 3 lbs for the size medium, 3.25 lbs for the size large, and slightly more than 3.6 lbs for the extra large.

The edge cut of the shell has been reduced when compared to the Helmet, Ground Troops and Parachutists. This enables better situational awareness through improved field of vision and hearing. The shell provides ballistic protection. While the ACH has 8 percent less surface area than the Personnel Armor System Ground Troops, or Kevlar, helmet had, most of the material was removed from the front of the ACH, with a smaller amount removed from the sides. Nothing was removed from the back of the helmet.

The pads act as a suspension system providing sizing and fitting. In conjunction with the shell, the pad suspension system provides impact protection. In conjunction with the chinstrap retention system, the pad suspension system provides stability. The chinstrap retention system is a four-point design, attaching to the shell at four locations. In conjunction with the pad suspension system, it provides improved stability.

The ACH provides the user greater situational awareness, comfort and fit than the standard PASGT (kevlar) helmet. It is also compatible with the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), offering the soldier improved target acquisition in all rifle and carbine firing positions, especially the prone position. However, in cases where the ACH is improperly fitted and worn too high on the head, the soldier may be exposed to increased risk from fragmentation. Improper wear may be caused by misunderstanding the wear standards, poor pad placement inside the helmet, improper fit, the incorrect crown pad inside the helmet, or a combination of the above.

The Army launched a study on the effectiveness of the new Advanced Combat Helmet in late 2005. As proponent for the helmet, the Infantry Center and School was tasked to lead the study and "conduct a holistic review of the requirements and materiel solutions for Soldier head protection." The study came in the wake of concerns that the helmet offered less protection on the back and sides of a Soldier's head.

To gather information, CAID developed a helmet and body-armor survey. The survey was an opportunity for Soldiers with experience to provide feedback that can improve the helmet and protective equipment. Survey data will be used to compare helmets and identify needs. The team is working with other agencies and collecting data on ACH and its variations for aviators and armor crews. The team knew there have been fatalities of Soldiers who were wearing the helmet, but know there are successes, too. They wanted Soldiers to take the survey and let them know the good news about the helmets. The study findings were due to the Army's Training and Doctrine Command by June 2005, but the survey would be open after that so they could continue to collect data from the field.

The key is the helmet has to be fitted properly, and it has a lot of pad configuration options. It's lighter and it's so popular, Soldiers are willing to get whatever size is available, whether it's their size or not. The fit factor, plays a large part in the study's findings. The fit, the wear, the placement of pads - all affect vulnerability. The helmet is just one item of personal protective equipment. It has to be worn in conjunction with other pieces - the interceptor body armor with the collar on, the ballistic eye protection. It all functions together.

Surveys from OIF/OEF reveal that a significant number of Soldiers are not properly wearing the Personnel Armor System, Ground Troops (PASGT) Helmet (also known as the "Helmet, Ground Troops and Parachutists," the "K-pot" or the "Kevlar") or the Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH). Results of a U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory photo survey indicate that roughly half the Soldiers in the field are wearing the ground combat helmets improperly. In cases where the PASGT or ACH helmets are fitted or worn improperly, the Soldier is exposed to increased risk of injury due to ballistic threats (fragmentation) or concussion. The majority of improperly sized/fitted helmets have been found to be too small.

The correct size of the ACH might not be the same size as a previously issued PASGT Helmet. Design features result in the front rim of the ACH resting about inch higher than the PASGT. The ACH should be fitted in accordance with the instruction in TM 10-8470-204-10 (by measuring head length, width, and circumference. Sizing instructions in TM 10-8470-204-10 must be supplemented by the instructions in this SOUM. Improper wear may be caused by incorrect helmet shell size, poor pad placement, improper fit, incorrect crown pad size, or a combination of the above.

The ACH should fit so that the front rim is approximately 1/2 inch above the eyebrows. A properly sized and fitted ACH will sit level on the Soldier's head (side to side), with the lower edge of the front rim being level to the ground or slightly inclined with respect to the ground. While looking upward by only moving his eyes, the wearer can test for proper fit by observing that the edge of the rim should just be in view. All ACH Helmets should be fitted with the thinner size 6 crown pad in the top of the helmet. The wearer should feel the crown pad touch the top of his head. Fit can be adjusted by adjusting the pad positions inside the helmet, tightening the retention straps, or exchanging the helmet shell for a larger size. Commanders can quickly inspect that the bottom of the ACH comes to the top of the Soldier's ear canal opening. Failure of this inspection justifies further investigation as to the fit and wear of the ACH.

Soldiers may also find that over time, the pads compress, and the retention straps may need to be adjusted to compensate. Periodically, the ACH pads should be inspected for wear and deterioration by squeezing the pads. Leaders need to periodically check the suspension pads and retention straps for serviceability.

All seven (7) helmet pads must be worn during airborne operations and should be worn during other high-risk operations such as air assault and rappelling/mountaineering. Failure to observe this precaution could result in serious injury or death because all seven (7) pads provide maximum impact protection.

The hardware (p-clamp, ladder lock, screw, and nut) inside the helmet -- where the chinstrap retention system webbing attaches to the helmet shell -- must be covered by padding during airborne and other high risk operations such as air assault and rappelling/mountaineering. The oblong/oval pad must be placed flush with the rim (edge) of the helmet and completely cover the hardware--See illustration Pad Placement over Hardware (Front) and Pad Placement over Hardware (Rear). Failure to observe this precaution could result in serious injury or death to personnel because a hard-point could contact the wearer's head.

Combat soldiers operate in a diverse range of operational environments and injury threats. These operational environments and injury threats place demands on protective systems to provide consistent protective performance throughout an expected range of temperature and threat magnitude. Protective helmets are no exception. The Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) is configured with fitting pads that possess the capability to attenuate blunt head impact forces. Previous combat helmets, such as the Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT) and the older M-1 "steel pot," were not required by their governing specifications to provide any tested levels of blunt impact protection. Protective helmets are typically required to absorb energy in order to reduce head injury risk during blunt impact events. The energy-absorbing mechanism must be robust enough to reduce the impact energy to a low injury probability level throughout a realistic range of impact velocities and environmental temperatures, regardless of the helmet impact site.

ACH Deployment

While USASOC Soldiers pioneered use of the Modular Integrated Communications Helmet helmet, which the Advanced Combat Helmet is based on, many special operations support Soldiers had not received either helmet as of early 2005. With the Army's Rapid Fielding Initiative, brigade combat teams are being issued some of the same equipment they use. Some of the RFI equipment the Soldiers received in late 2004 included a duffel bag, Advanced Combat Helmet, two pairs of desert combat boots, hydration system, cold weather cap, combat rigger belt, multi-use sunglass goggles, low profile goggles, flyers gloves, cold weather gloves, socks, fleece overalls, fleece shirt, silk weight underwear and moisture-wicking T-shirts.

Federal Prison Industries (FPI) also known as UNICOR, was the mandatory source for PASGT helmets. UNICOR did not have a helmet that met the ACH requirements. However, at some time UNICOR may develop a helmet that meets the ACH requirements. If the Contracting Officer makes a determination in the future that UNICOR helmets meets the Governments needs in terms of quality, price and time of delivery, UNICOR may be eligible to receive a portion of the aforementioned requirement. The required source for the pad suspension systems, helmet covers and eye straps will be National Industries for the Severely Handicapped (NISH) and National Industries for the Blind (NIB).

The Government anticipates that this requirement will be a Full and Open Competitive acquisition, however, the Government reserves the right to change the solicitation procedure. Mine Safety Appliances Co., Newport, Vt., was awarded on Aug. 24, 2005, a delivery order amount of $27,934,068 as part of a $69,873,073 firm-fixed-price contract (W911QY-05-D-0002) for the First Article Test Lot, Advanced Combat Helmet, and Spare Parts Kits. Work will be performed in Newport, Vt. (60 percent) and Murrysville, Pa. (40 percent), and is expected to be completed by Aug. 18, 2010. Gentex Corp., Carbondale, Pa., was awarded on Aug. 24, 2005, a delivery order amount of $26,334,422 as part of a $67,500,981 firm-fixed-price contract (W911QY-05-D-0003) for the First Article Test Lot, Advanced Combat Helmet, and Spare Parts Kits. Work will be performed in Carbondale, Pa., and is expected to be completed by Aug. 18, 2010. Specialty Defense Systems Inc., Dunmore, Pa., was awarded on Aug. 24, 2005, a delivery order amount of $8,983,824 as part of a $70,330,582 firm-fixed-price contract (W911QY-05-D-0001) for the First Article Test Lot, Advanced Combat Helmet, and Spare Parts Kits. Work will be performed in Dunmore, Pa., and is expected to be completed by Aug. 18, 2010.




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