Defense Media Network

U.S. Army Explores Integrated Head Protection

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The U.S. Army is continuing to explore the next generation of head protection through the recent release of a draft request for proposal (RFP) for its Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS).

IHPS is one of the elements within the Army’s Soldier Protection System (SPS) concept. The SPS program is directed toward “a system level integrated approach to protecting the soldier.” The program concept currently encompasses five commodity areas:

  • Hard armor (vital torso);
  • Soft armor (torso/extremity);
  • Head protection (helmet/hearing);
  • Eye protection; and,
  • Integrated soldier sensor systems.

As described in the draft RFP, “The SPS will provide the soldier multiple levels of ballistic protection that can be tailored to select mission profiles and protection against specific threats from conventional fragmenting munitions, small arms ammunition, and blunt impact. Soldiers equipped with the SPS will be able to accomplish a broad range of missions. The versatility of the system will enable the soldier to quickly transition from one mission type to another without degrading the momentum of small unit operations. The SPS will protect soldiers involved in major combat operations, stability operations, homeland security operations, joint operating concepts, and the joint force functional concept.”

It adds that the focus of IHPS is on a head protection system for both mounted and dismounted warfighters “which includes the helmet shell, suspension system, retention system, maxillofacial system (mandible & visor), and hearing protection, capable of meeting the integrated head protection requirements as defined in the Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) specification.”

As outlined in the draft document, the IHPS program will include a two-year phased developmental effort with contractors providing developmental test items for both year one (DT1) and year two (DT2) testing.

Air Warrior

The Army’s Integrated Head Protection System is planned to include maxillofacial and eye protection, different in detail but with the same basic aims as the helmet elements of the Air Warrior system shown here. U.S. Army PEO Soldier photo

It is currently anticipated that companies awarded contracts will provide 400 Integrated Head Protection Systems (includes helmet shell, suspension system, retention system, maxillofacial system, and hearing protection sets) no later than 60 days after award has been exercised for DT1 test and evaluation.

“Results from DT1 will be provided to the contractors for further product development/improvement. Improved products will be procured through an option contract line item number (CLIN) for a year two (2) developmental test (DT2),” the RFP states. “Low rate initial production (LRIP) quantities for an integrated head protection system will be procured through a third option CLIN and will be partially based upon the results from the second developmental test (DT2). Option CLINs will be executed at the government’s discretion…”

The U.S. Army is not alone in exploring integrated head protection concepts for tomorrow’s warfighters.

Another recent example surfaced on Oct. 10, 2012, with the announcement by Revision Military that it had received “a landmark contract” to supply the Danish Military with the “Batlskin” Cobra Helmet – an ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene shell – as well as components of the Batlskin Modular Head Protection system.

The company recently expanded its ballistic protection capabilities through its June 2012 purchase of MSA’s North American ballistic helmet business.

As part of a seven-year contract, Revision is set to deliver an initial 4,335 Batlskin Cobra helmet systems to the Danish Military, including a high-performance liner, ergonomic Retention System and multipurpose Front Mount. The 4,335 complete systems will be delivered to the Danish Defense Acquisition and Logistics Organization, which will have the option to purchase additional Batlskin helmet-mounted components, including the Batlskin Visor and Mandible Guard.

According to that announcement, Revision was awarded the Danish contract for a lighter-weight, blunt force, blast and ballistic higher protection level helmet “after being down-selected to one of only several competitors able to fulfill this requirement. Testing of the Batlskin system was conducted at the Danish army test center with involvement from Army and Air Force military branches. Revision ultimately won the bid with high technical compliance scores, favorable end-user trials which were weighted at 60 percent of the evaluation and good price/value for this state-of-the-art head protection system.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...