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Marines get new helmet

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 8/11/2003

Story by Lance Cpl. Paul Leicht

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif.(August 8, 2003) -- Marines will be getting another new look with a lighter, more protective piece of headgear designed specifically for the twenty-first century Marine Corps.

Beginning this September with an initial 43,000 units, the Marine Corps will start fielding to fleet Marines more than 200,000 new U.S. Marine Corps Lightweight Helmets featuring a slimmer, thinner profile and improved protection, according to a U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center, Natick, Mass., press release.

With a similar shell and fitting existing helmet covers, the LWH provides superior performance to the current issue Personnel Armor System Ground Troops Kevlar helmet that has been in use since the early 1980s.

"The lightweight helmet was one of the highest-rated pieces of equipment in the Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity," said Jim Mackiewicz, Marine Corps Customer Team Leader, USASSC. "To get an 85-90 percent approval rating is almost unheard of."

Mackiewicz, whose team provides technical and contract support for Product Manager-Individual Combat Equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command Quantico, Va., said the helmet is part of a project that began in 1999 to redesign all individual equipment for Marines.

In 2000 and 2002, helmet prototypes went through field-testing at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms by elements of the 7th Marine Regiment during combined arms exercises and were also field-evaluated by Marines at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., said Maj. Stuart Muladore, PM-ICE team leader, MCSC.

"The final field tests held in 2002 validated that our helmet met the requirements given to us," Muladore said. "MCOTEA monitored the field test and was actually the agency that 'blessed' our final design to take forward as the solution."

Testing took an additional year to work out glitches and to compare the helmet to the Army's Modular Integrated Communication Helmet, said Steve Parks, marketing manager, Gentex Corporation--producers of the new helmet--adding that the helmet is more comfortable and provides better protection than the MICH helmet used by the Army.

"Both the lightweight helmet and the MICH were more comfortable and higher rated than the PASGT, but the lightweight helmet was higher rated than the MICH and is our choice for the Marine Corps," Muladore said.

Sporting the old Kevlar's familiar shape, the new lightweight helmet's layers provide improved fragmentation protection and the ability to stop a direct hit from a 9mm round, according to Parks, who said that lab tests showed a 40 percent improvement in impact protection, which means greater durability in the field.

Made using a smarter lamination process and improved materials, the LWH weighs in at 3.1 pounds--lighter than the PASGT, which weighs 3.6 pounds, said Parks, who added that the new lightweight helmet has a warranty of 15 years.

"It's the same weight as the MICH, but it doesn't lose the area of coverage," said Mackiewicz. "We could have made it as light as 2.8 pounds with a MICH-style cut, but the Marines who tested the helmet said they did not feel as protected wearing it."

With an added cost of $40 per helmet and an estimated $40 million in procurement costs, MCSC believes the advantages far outweigh the costs.

"The additional cost gives us improved ballistic protection against fragmentation, 9mm handgun protection, a vastly improved suspension and chinstrap system with a reduction in weight," explained Muladore. "A half pound may not sound like a lot, but when you are able to shave off a half pound here and two pounds there, you get to a point where you are taking 10 to 15 pounds off the individual load, which has significant positive human physiology benefits."

The LWH, which is jump qualified, highlights increased ballistic protection, 30 percent improvement in helmet impact protection, up to fifteen percent reduction in head carried weight, and a new suspension that provides improved helmet stability and comfort using a retention system with four attachment points with multiple adjusting features.

The helmet's suspension consists of two main elements: the headband adjustment system and a head height adjustment system.

The headband adjustment system is designed to fit the helmet to various head sizes and to accommodate any additional material thickness from hoods, masks, etc. The headband pad is adjusted with hook and pile, achieving proper fit through a one-time adjustment.

The head height adjustment system is designed to accommodate varying individual head heights and to provide adjustment for any helmet-mounted display or optics, such as goggles. The assembly contains a breathable, nylon-mesh crown pad with its own adjustment mechanism designed to conform to the top of the Marine's head.

The retention system features an integrated chin-nape design for superior stability. The nape pad consists of an X-shaped, leather-covered foam pad to better capture the head's rounded shape, and is secured to the helmet shell with nylon webbing straps at four locations. Two buckles on each side of the helmet provide balanced tensioning and centering of the retention webbing.

The lightweight helmet, using the same five sizes available with the PASGT, has convenient adjustments and is designed to fit 99 percent of Marines.

Miramar Marines can most likely expect to see the new lightweight helmet soon.

"Our intent is to field horizontally to the MEFs and MARFORRES, followed by Base, Post and Station establishments," said Muladore. "It will be up to the MEF to determine priority of fielding within the MEF. 3rd MAW and Miramar could therefore see the new helmets within the first few months, or up to a year or two down the road."

For more information, visit the Gentex Web site, the Marine Corps Sytems Command Web site, or the Soldier Syetems Center Web site

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