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SPEAR Modular/Integrated Communications Helmet (MICH)

Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements (SPEAR) is the United States Special Operations Command's (USSOCOM) modernization effort for the joint (Army, Navy, and Air Force) Special Operations Forces (SOF) operator. SPEAR will focus on four areas of improvement in personal equipment from 1996 - 2005 including the Modular/Integrated Communications Helmet (MICH). The SPEAR MICH provides the SOF operator the flexibility to tailor ballistic/impact protection and communications to the mission using one modular system.

MICH is a modular helmet system that provides ballistic, fragmentation, aural and impact protection, while being night vision, communications and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) equipment compatible. The MICH is intended to replace standard government and commercial helmets, communications and aural protection items currently in use. The MICH helmet and is compatible with standard and SOF-unique clothing and individual equipment.

The ballistic helmet provides 9mm (handgun) and fragmentation protection within the spectrum of environments (climatic, salt water, fresh water, POL, etc). The helmet allows maximum sensory awareness for the user, which includes unobstructed field of view and ambient hearing capabilities. It also allows mounting of night vision devices and oxygen masks. The helmet's retention/suspension system provides maximum balance, stability and comfort, while providing the proper size, fit and ventilation. The pad suspension system provides adequate impact protection throughout all joint SOF operations, to include Static Line and Military Free Fall airborne operations. The ballistic helmet, retention system and pad suspension system may be worn with or without the communications subsystem.

Although molded like the current, standard-issue Personnel Armor System, Ground Troops (PASGT) helmet in use since the early 1980s, the MICH trims away the edge for improved visibility, unobstructed hearing, reduced weight (less than 3 pounds without communication equipment) and easier integration with body armor.

Until the MICH, there had never been a helmet designed to stop bullets. The MICH uses a different version of Kevlar combined with different bonding techniques to form a shell capable of halting a submachine gun's 9 mm round in addition to protecting against fragmentation. The PASGT Kevlar helmet only protects against fragmentation and at most can deflect bullets.

The communication subsystem is intended to provide aural protection as well as a dual channel communications capability. The subsystem provides aural protection, occluding and non-occluding communications, omni-directional hearing, ear-specific communications (dual channel), low profile microphone(s), microphone adapter for mask microphone, multiple radio and intercom adapters, and push-to-talk access. The headset may be worn alone or with the ballistic helmet retention system and pad suspension system.

The communications subsystem is designed to be included with the helmet, and because of its modularity, the MICH can be configured to each specific group with or without the added equipment. The subsystem is intended to provide aural protection and dual-channel communications capability. It offers features such as a low-profile microphone, microphone adapter for mask microphone, multiple radio and intercom adapters, and push-to-talk access. The headset may be worn alone or with the helmet.

What would allow the wearer to stay conscious if hit 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 tling mat. The foam is like a shock absorber against a striking bullet.

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. An improved strap attaches at four points on the helmet while retaining the chin pocket for a more secure fit.

Also remarkably different from the current helmet is the four-point instead of two-point chinstrap. The two-strap "pocket" at the chin remains the same, but instead of anchoring to the helmet over the ear, one strap in front and behind the ear on each side securely clamp down the MICH.

Airborne operations are easier because the MICH requires no shock pad to prevent whiplash while descending or retention strap. Two features of the MICH reduce logistics. It's made in medium and large with different sized pads used to account for the vast majority of sizes in between, and the helmet cover is reversible for woodland and desert camouflage. The PASGT helmet uses separate covers and is issued in five sizes.




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