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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: July 25, 2003
No: 03-28

Marines field lightweight helmet

NATICK, Mass. -- It may not look much different from the current Personnel Armor System, Ground Troops (PASGT) helmet, but the new Marine Corps Lightweight Helmet is improved in almost every way.

Fielding of more than 200,000 of the lightweight helmets to Marines will start this summer, replacing the old "Kevlar" as it's commonly called, which has been around since the early 1980s.

A project that began in 1999, the helmet is part of the redesign of all individual equipment for Marines, according to Jim Mackiewicz, Marine Corps Customer Team leader at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center here. The team provides technical and contract support for Product Manager-Individual Combat Equipment (PM-ICE) at the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va.

Helmet prototypes went through operational testing at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., in 2000 and 2002 during combined arms field exercises and were field-evaluated by Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"It was one of the highest rated pieces of equipment in the (Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity)," Mackiewicz said, who was project officer for the helmet. "To get an 85-90 percent approval rating is almost unheard of."

Testing lasted an extra year to work out glitches and allow time to compare the Army's new Modular Integrated Communication Helmet (MICH), he said.

"Both the lightweight helmet and the MICH were comfortable and higher rated than the PASGT, but the lightweight helmet was higher rated than the MICH," said Maj. Stuart Muladore, PM-ICE team leader. "As it boiled down, it was still the helmet of choice for us."

The helmet's shell is shaped like the PASGT, but new materials bring a 6 percent improvement in fragmentation protection as well as the ability to stop a direct hit from a 9mm round. Lab testing showed a 40 percent improvement in impact protection, which also means better durability. The manufacturer, Gentex Corp. in Carbondale, Penn., warrants the helmet for 15 years.

As the helmet's name suggests, the extra capability was designed with a corresponding weight reduction of about one-half pound. For comparison, a medium PASGT weighs 3.6 pounds vs. a medium lightweight helmet's 3.05 pounds.

"It's the same weight as the MICH but doesn't lose the area of coverage," Mackiewicz said. The MICH shell looks like a trimmed PASGT. "We could have made it as light as 2.8 pounds with a MICH-style cut. The MICH feels good but Marines said they didn't feel as protected wearing it."

Complaints have been voiced about the PASGT interfering with the Interceptor Body Armor, but the solution was more a matter of improving stability, not just reducing size, he said.

By incorporating a four-point retention strap, similar to the MICH, the lightweight helmet is seven times more stable than the PASGT so it won't rock back and forth or fall off. Although most Marines won't be jumping out of airplanes, it's airborne-certified.

Comfort is improved with soft black leather for the X-shaped nape pad, headband and border around a new breathable nylon mesh suspension pad, and black suede-lined chinstrap. Two buckles on each side of the helmet provide tensioning and centering of the nylon retention webbing.

The PASGT helmet's five sizes remain, but Marines can easily adjust headband circumference and height by one-half inch with the lightweight helmet's hook and loop fabric fasteners for a better fit.

"One reason we didn't go with a trimmed version is because you can have it sit too high," he said.

Both adjustments help accommodate Marines when they're wearing masks or hoods, or when any helmet-mounted displays or optics are attached.

Heat stress is similar to the PASGT, according to Mackiewicz, and in anticipation of wear and tear, each helmet is delivered with a replacement kit containing an extra chinstrap and two headbands.

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This page last updated on 28 February 2003.