2009/03/28

Ballistic helmets

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I recently found this graphic about plans for a future (2011) helmet for the Dutch forces.

My first impression: It looks cool.

It's also the most interesting modern helmet design in my opinion (well, combined motorcycle/ballistic helmets are also interesting).

The ear protection:
This is debatable. The protection reduces certainly the hearing quality of the soldier - but hearing is an important sensory capability. Earplugs add to the issue.
It might be interesting to combine active ear protection systems (already in use) that an amplify hearing in relative silence and reduce peak noise (firing, explosions) to protect the hearing. Both together would be great.
To add ballistic protection without consideration for hearing issues is probably neglect.

The face protection:
Veterans have often terrible facial scars - an effective fragmentation protection for the face looks like a good idea and I promoted this idea many years ago. Nevertheless, it's a compromise. Such a module adds a lot of weight (in the front, the night sights add weight as well - a balance problem). It's likely to degrade the sense of smell - sometimes an important sense for an infantryman.
It needs to be detachable as in this Dutch project anyway because of its limiting effect on direct communication (especially communication with civilians).
Facial armour has been in use for thousands of years. The Romans had a semi-flexible solution - one of the most smart solutions in history, but only partial. (They also later had full face masks.)
The neck protection:
This, too, is an old story. The Romans and East Asians used a lot of neck protection in their helmet designs.
I learned during my time in the military a drill for incoming artillery/mortar fire: Down to the ground and protect the neck with my hands. It's counter-intuitive because most are more aware of the consequences of hand injuries than of neck injuries. I, too, liked my hands and was convinced that there should be a better, different protection for my neck than my hands.
Neck protection is partially a job of ballistic vest collars. These collars are also a problem ; they cannot be much larger or else they'd cut into the neck when you look upwards. On the other hand it's difficult to have a helmet-mounted protection for the gap because said part collides with the collar.
The American solution/approach was to cut away a part of the helmet at the back and to add a semi-flexible plate instead. I haven't tested it myself, so I can only assume that it works.
The suspension:
The suspension inside is the most important part of a helmet, and I can tell absolutely nothing about the Dutch helmet's suspension.
I can merely assume that they don't flunk on it.

It took about 90 years from their re-invention in the First World War till today, but now we're back at the degree of helmet protection complexity and maturity that the late Roman Republic had achieved more than 2,000 years ago.
We were slow, but better late than never.

Sven Ortmann

edit 2009-06-08: http://soldiersystems.net/2009/06/08/galea-photos/
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3 comments:

  1. I've worked on a battlesuit system with a few freinds a while back, and the neck was the main issue when we tried to market the design. now we are trying a PASGT mod and this article helped us out a lot, thank you

    ReplyDelete
  2. Does anyone happen to know who purchased Mine Safety Appliances (MSA) Ballistic Helmets business?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think the "Soldier Systems" (promotions) blog is the way to go for this question.

    ReplyDelete

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