On the way for those in Air Force Security Forces: a next-generation helmet akin to those worn by special operators.
The sleek helmets will replace the Advanced Combat Helmet, the standard skull-protector worn by the Air Force and the Army. It's part of a broader effort to provide better weapons and job-specific gear to security forces airmen, who are responsible for guarding Air Force installations and carrying out other law enforcement functions.
An Air Force release notes the current helmet had to be modified with bulky add-ons to meet requirements for the security forces; the new next-generation ballistic helmet has a more streamlined profile and is made to accommodate accessories.
According to the release, it's lighter and cooler than the predecessor, has upgraded padding and, like special ops helmets, cuts away above the ear and features a rail for mounting tools such as night-vision goggles or a mouthpiece for communication.
"Defenders perform a variety of duties around the globe, anything from guarding bases in combat environments to protecting nuclear armament," Master Sgt. Markus Nelson, an individual equipment manager with Air Force Security Forces Command, said in a statement. "In alignment with the Security Forces Enterprise Plan, we had to find a solution to have one standard helmet that would keep all security forces Defenders lethal and ready, no matter the task."
According to the release, the 71st Security Forces Squadron out of Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, was the first unit to get the new helmets; it's unclear when the fielding process will be complete.
According to the Air Force, security forces is the service's largest enlisted career field. There are roughly 38,000 security forces airmen stationed at 120 bases globally.
The Air Force is in the middle of a long-range effort to modernize the equipment provided to these defenders, with updated weapons and better protection. According to the new release, new weapons additions have included the M18 modular handgun system pistol, M4A1 assault rifle, M110A1 semi-automatic precision engagement rifle and M320A1 grenade launcher.
The service also signed a contract in June for better-fitting female body armor that will offer increased comfort and improved protection.
More upgrades may be on the way: In July, Lt. Gen. Warren Berry, deputy chief of staff for logistics, engineering and force protection, called for improved counter-drone weapons for Air Force defenders in light of new threats facing U.S. bases.
"We're identifying salient characteristics of the best individual equipment industry has to offer at the best value to achieve standardization across the force," Lt. Col. Barry Nichols, AFSFC director of logistics, said in the release. "This effort is instrumental in keeping Defenders throughout the security forces enterprise ready and lethal with procurement of the most cutting-edge and innovative equipment available in order to accomplish missions safely and effectively."
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.