New Army Helmet Design Raises Concerns

Monday, 25 Aug 2014 07:47 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The U.S. military is testing various configurations of an innovative helmet, but so far has not perfected a prototype that protects the jaw and face from explosions without creating intense atmospheric pressure around the skull from blast waves, Army Times reported.

Tests by Navy researchers using mannequins show that the Conformal Integrated Protective Headgear System — a helmet that can include a visor and jaw protector — developed by Army engineers is going to need further work because of the shockwave hitch.

Wearing the full-face model of visor and jaw protector may protect the head against an explosion, but tests show that the helmet would absorb ricocheting blast waves creating pressure around the head.

"The military actually has specific criteria that helmets have to meet to be certified for use in ballistic and blunt force. No such criteria exists for pressure because the medical community is still working on what the injury mechanisms are, and we don't know where to set those desirable levels anyway, at this point," said Naval Research Laboratory engineer Daniel Mott, according to Army Times.

Navy researchers found that pressures on the forehead were higher wearing the jaw protector and with the visor combination than the helmet alone when the blast is in front of the soldier. The forehead would experience two to four atmospheres of pressure.

In the case of a blast coming from behind the soldier, atmospheric pressures on the forehead doubled wearing the combination gear as opposed to just the helmet.

There needs to be a gap between the head and the helmet to deal with "blunt-impact and ballistic-impact protection," but that space also allows blast waves to infiltrate, said Mott.

The ultimate design requires a series of trade-offs. A soldier might opt to wear the visor against bomb fragments despite higher blast-wave pressures, Army Times reported.


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