Army Secretly Fields Lighter Helmet that Offers More Ballistic Protection

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The U.S. Army’s new Integrated Head Protection System. (Military.com/Matthew Cox)
The U.S. Army’s new Integrated Head Protection System. (Military.com/Matthew Cox)

In late September, the Army secretly fielded a small number of helmets that offer increased protection against high-performance sniper rounds.

Army equipment officials "quietly fielded" 150 of these improved Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) helmets to soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas as part of the first issue of the service's new Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binoculars, Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier, told reporters today at the 2019 Association of the United States of the Army's annual meeting.

The first generation of IHPS weighs about three pounds, in size medium, but to get to a "classified level of protection against higher-level threats, what we had to do for our soldiers is put another two-pound applique on the top of the helmet," Potts said.

"Soldiers don't particularly like the fact that they have five pounds on their head, but if you are traveling through urban areas or areas where there is a known sniper threat, our soldiers are willing to put the additional applique on for at least a period of time," he added.

Related: Army's Newest Combat Helmet Revealed

But Army scientists at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center have developed a new process for molding the polyethylene helmet material that reduces its weight by up to 40%, Douglas Tamilio, director of the NSRDEC, told reporters.

The new process allowed manufacturers to produce an IHPS helmet that offers the same ballistic protection without the additional applique.

"So, instead of having five pounds to protect against that threat in a very specific region of your helmet, now the entire helmet protects against that threat at three pounds," Potts said.

The Army is working with defense companies to produce more of the new design, Potts said.

"We have done enough testing to know that it absolutely meets the current level of threat, but we also know that it exceeds that," Potts said. "Now, it's about getting more companies that can actually press that mold. So, once that goes out, we will no longer field that applique for those IHPS helmets."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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