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Should Helmets Stop More or Weigh Less?

It looks like combat troops in Afghanistan will soon get a helmet that stops rifle rounds, but do they really need it more than say-- a brain bucket that weighs half as much?

This is a question some operators have quietly asked, suggesting that Army and Marine Corps armor experts haven't showed that head wounds from rifle rounds is a significant threat to grunts on the ground.

The new ECH is no heavier than the current helmets, offers better frag protection and can stop an AK47 round. But how much head and neck trauma is caused when a projectile traveling up to 2,400 feet per second slams into the side of it?

Military officials have downplayed this but havn't presented any test data that shows the affects of catching a rifle bullet with your head.

What is clear is that combat loads for ground troops continue to be too heavy.

The Army and Marine Corps have made great progress in fielding lighter equipment such as armor plate carriers and stream-lined kit. But the issue is far from resolved.

The chair of the House Armed Services Committee's tactical air and land forces panel held a special hearing just yesterday to grill military leaders on the issue.

Some experienced operators pose this idea -- take this new ultra-light, high-strength plastic in the ECH and make a helmet that offers the same protection troops have today but weighs 50 percent less than the current Army and Marine helmets.

What would you rather wear -- a 3-pound helmet or one that weighs a pound and half or less?

Protecting Your Mellon: Weight or Strength?survey software

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