Helmet envy?

Helmet safety draws scrutiny on Hill

This is a couple of weeks old but I haven’t seen anyone discussing it, so here it is:

“Apparently we have thousands of military personnel who believe the helmet they are being issued does not provide them satisfactory protection,” said Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., during a Thursday hearing held by the Tactical and Land Forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

“The Marine Corps’ own testing indicates that their helmet provides about half the blast impact protection of the [Army] helmet, said Weldon, subcommittee vice chairman. “We need to understand why this is acceptable.”

In 2003 I noted that the Marines were about to issue their new helmet (simply called the Lightweight Helmet) and wondered why the Marines and the Army were both working seperately on new helmets. Just over a year later I noted the Army’s new Advanced Combat Helmet and that some were concerned that the new helmet’s design left soldiers more vulnerable, especially to shrapnel.

If you check out the link on the Marines’ Lightweight Helmet (LWH) you’ll see that one of the touted features is the padded suspension system. However, it’s that very system that is being questioned. While an improvement over the previous helmet, the PASGT, the LWH’s system is apparently not as good as that on the Army’s Advanced Combat Helmet.

Dr. Robert Meaders, a former Navy flight surgeon, started Operation Helmet more than two years ago to help his grandson’s Marine unit upgrade their helmets with Army-style padding before deploying to Iraq. The organization gathers donations to upgrade PASGT (still used by many Marines) and the new LWH.


It appears that a Joint Helmet Project would have been in order, after all.


  1. With the new helmet vs the PASGT, you’re getting a trade off of wearability vs shrapnel protection. The PASGT reaches lower on the head, thus covering more area from fragments, but has interaction problems with IBA. Specifically, when shooting in the prone, the IBA tends to push the back of the helmet up, thus pushing the front down in front of the shooter’s eyes. It’s a royal PITA. The Army’s new helmet (now I guess the ACH, formerly the MICH) is cut higher on the head so this doesn’t happen. Of course, this means that less of the head is covered from fragements.

  2. A war hero like John Kerry didn’t need any stinkin helmet — just the soft boonie (sp?) cap the Spec. Forces guy gave him when he gave them a ride into Cambodia.

  3. Actually, the prevailing opinion that the ACH covers less area at the rear of a soldier’s head compared to PASGT simply isn’t true — if the helmet is fitted and worn properly. Worn properly, the rear protection of the two helmets is identical, and the difference in coverage is at the front of helmet in the area over the eyes, where the cut-away brim of the ACH provides better visibility (and if IBA pushes up on the rear of the helmet, the helmet rotates forward but doesn’t obscure the soldier’s vision). There is slightly less shrapnel protection, but not from typical angles. A large number of soldiers wear the ACH improperly with the helemt tilted too far forward (where it feels more like a PASGT with the upper brim in view), wear a too-small ACH, or wear a center pad that is too large, causing the helemt to ride too high on the head. The Army has been circulating a new GTA that shows proper wear of the ACH and is retraining fitters to make sure the helmet is properly sized and fitted. FYI – The Army concluded a lengthy study comapring the PASGT helmet, ACH, and the USMC helmet after concerns about ACH protection surfaced, and the results were decisively in favor of ACH, which will become the standard Army helmet (until now it had been issued side-by-side with PASGT and commanders would make the call on what to wear).

  4. Thanks, Hawk! That has a link to a page with pics of proper and improper wear: http://peosoldier.army.mil/achfit.asp I had a post with MICH coverage compared to the PASGT back when the ACH was first introduced: http://www.murdoconline.net/archives/001539.html Is the ACH coverage exactly the same as the MICH? Everything always says the ACH is ‘based on’ the MICH but I have been unable to determine how close they are. Also, the Marine helmets aren’t exactly junk: http://www.murdoconline.net/archives/003730.html