The Army’s New Plastic Helmet Weighs Less Than 3 Pounds

The new helmet is down to WWii-era weight.

U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez

A new helmet under development by the U.S. Army promises to reduce the weight of a soldier’s protective head cover, bringing it down to World War II-levels. The new Advanced Combat Helmet Generation II will be easier on a soldier’s neck muscles than ever before while protecting the wearer from head injuries.

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The Advanced Combat Helmet Generation II (ACH II) promises up to a over earlier helmets, including the current issue Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH). At the same time, ACH II is rated to stop nine millimeter bullets, shrapnel, and the effects of improvised explosive devices. The helmet was developed by the Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

U.S. Army Rangers wearing M-1 steel helmets and preparing to storm the beach at D-Day, June 6th 1944.
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Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, the U.S. Army issued the famous . Made of steel with a leather internal harness and strap, the M-1 served through World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. The helmet weighed three pounds and offered protection against dirt, debris, ricochets, and light shrapnel. The early 1980s saw the service transition to the (PAGST) helmet, which used Kevlar ballistic fibers to produce a helmet with limited protection against pistol bullets and heavier shrapnel, but at a cost: extra large versions weighed 4.2 pounds. The Army adopted the Advanced Combat Helmet in 2003, which cut the weight of an extra large helmet down to 3.88 pounds.

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The new ACH II helmet cuts the weight even further, with an . How did Natick do it? Army scientists and engineers switched materials, from Kevlar fibers to plastic. Yes, plastic, or as the service calls it, “ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene”, or UHMWPE. UHMWPE is a used in everything from fishing line to hip replacements. It is tough, abrasion-resistant, and light.

According to the new ACH II helmet will be issued in Coyote, a brownish-tan shade. The helmet can be adopted to fit different camouflage environments with the use of cloth covers.

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