The Enhanced Combat Helmet: The Next Big Thing in Helmets

WHRC - U.S. Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) with Desert Camouflage and GogglesWHRC - United States Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH)

The ACH Helmet                                                                                 The ECH Helmet

 

For the first time since the introduction of Kevlar based helmets in 1983 the United States Military is planning a significant change to the material make up of its protective headgear.  For the past few years the Army and Marine Corps have committed themselves to testing designs for a lighter and more effective armor system for American troops and it appears they have found their helmet.

The ECH, or Enhanced combat helmet, a product of Ceradyn of North America, is currently in testing and could see deployment in combat as early as next fall.

The ECH is a ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene based helmet, and its abilities are currently before referred to by Army personnel associated with the project as a massive leap forward in personal protection.

Both the ECH and ACH are the same design, with the only difference being the ECH’s brown color, tag and slightly greater thickness. While the currently used ACH, Advanced Combat Helmet introduced in 2002, is able to resist a 9mm bullet at point blank range and rifle bullets from longer range, the ECH has been tested to resist 7.26mm rounds along with rifle bullets from point blank range.  According to size the ECH can also be up to 4 ounces lighter than the ACH, which was a significant improvement over the PASGTs introduced in the 1980s.Testing on the part of private companies has emboldened optimism about the ECH. The V50 rating, the speed a projectile must travel to push 50% of its mass in shrapnel through armor, has yet to be determined, because testing mechanism are unable to penetrated the helmets shell.

The only downside seems to be the cost. While a brand new ACH helmet costs $325 the new ECH will cost $650-750 based on the size of the orders.1 Furthermore, a recent production anomaly has slowed the ECH’s deployment. The initial proto-types were manufactured without a high temperature curing process now in use, which has had an effect on tests. The process is not being reassessed but Ceradyn has promised to have orders for the United States Military on schedule. By fall of this year 200,000 ECHs will be deployed and used by members of the United States Army in combat and will save lives. The Marine Corps will also receive 38,500 and the Navy is investing in 6,700.2

Article by Daniel Roberts (March 2011)