The U.S. Army is testing a new helmet designed to offer full ballistic protection to a soldier's entire head. Looking like something out of Starship Troopers, the Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) protects a soldier's entire head, including for the first time the face and jaw, from injury. The helmet, , is scheduled to head to the troops next year.
Army helmets were first issued in the years leading up to World War I. The helmets, made of simple pressed steel, were heavy and offered very little in the way of real protection against bullets. Helmets offered protection against grazing bullets, ricochets, and shrapnel, but against rifle rounds they were next to useless. The use of heavy steel made covering a soldier's head below the ears impractical.
The advent of new synthetic materials such as Kevlar made changed the equation. Both lightweight and tough, helmets could stop enemy pistol bullets for the first time. The first synthetic helmet, the (PAGST) was fielded in the U.S. Army in the 1980s.
In the years since, new materials with improved ballistic protection have offered increased protection while further reducing weight. After 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, it became clear that while soldiers had excellent protection against injuries to the chest and cranium, the face and jaw was still vulnerable—a problem magnified by improvised explosive devices that often exploded directly underneath a soldier riding in a vehicle.
The Integrated Head Protection System is the first U.S. Army infantry helmet that fully protects a soldier's head. In addition to standard cranial protection, the IHPS includes a mandible, visor, night vision goggle attachment device, rails and a modular ballistic applique. The helmet offers increased blunt impact protection over the current . It is five percent lighter, offers passive hearing protection, and can reportedly gauge head trauma suffered by the wearer.
The new helmet is just part of a six-part system, , which aims to protect a soldier's eyes, head, torso, and pelvic region. IHPS was during an airborne exercise, and the Army will issue 7,000 of the helmets to soldiers across the Army in 2018.