The U.S. Army has released two new helmet prototypes the service is testing to offer soldiers a modular design that would allow crew members to need only one helmet versus the two they currently have to keep.
Army leaders plan to unveil the helmets officially in October that came out of the Helmet Electronics and Display System-Upgradeable Protection program -- a four year development effort led by the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
Engineers and scientists have developed the helmet to potentially include see-through and projected heads up display technologies, better eye and face protection and improved ballistic materials.
A few soldiers have already gotten a chance to test the helmets in mounted and dismounted human factors evaluations. What stood out for these soldiers is the ability to remove or attach the mandible and eye protection.
Currently, crew members must keep two helmets -- the Combat Vehicle Crewman helmet and the Army Combat helmet. These new prototypes would allow them to carry only one by altering their helmet to the combat condition they face.
"I think we've proven through our program that there can be one helmet for both mounted and dismounted soldiers, which, I think, is a big deal," said Don Lee, project engineer in the Headgear Thrust Area of Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, in a statement. "I think the program's proven that a one-helmet system for ground soldiers, whether they're mounted or dismounted, can exist."
A recent report found that 72 percent of all head injuries suffered by soldiers occurred to the face. Army leaders said it forced them to reconsider what equipment was provided to protect a soldiers' face.
Lee said the new mandible and visors associated with the two helmets especially protect soldiers from debris kicked up while riding in vehicles.
"When the soldiers wore the prototype systems with the visor and mandible," Lee said in a release. "It was the first time that they weren't eating sand and dust and rocks going down the road."
Natick will pass on the results of their research into the helmets to the Army's Program Executive Office Soldier and the Marine Corps for further fielding decisions. No detail were provided of when those decisions may be made.