MICH helmet brings new level of user comfort and protection
A new helmet providing improved protection, utility and comfort will be issued to the Special Operations Forces next year.
The Modular Integrated Communications Helmet (MICH) began development in 1997 as part of the Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements program at the U.S. Special Operations Command. The MICH provides the Special Operations Forces the flexibility to tailor the communications capability of the helmet to the mission using one modular system.
“Preliminary users across the range have been more than happy with the helmet,” said Richard Elder, equipment specialist with the Special Operations Forces Special Projects Team at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick).
Although molded like the current, standard-issue Personnel Armor System, Ground Troops (PASGT) helmet in use since the early 1980s, the MICH trims away the edge for improved visibility, unobstructed hearing, reduced weight (less than 3 pounds without communication equipment) and easier integration with body armor.
“The fact that the edge of the helmet rides higher allows it not to impede with the combat mission. You can use it with all types of body armor without feeling clumsy by bumping into it,” Elder said. “You can shoot much easier in the prone position without the helmet slumping and blocking your vision. We can take away the soldier’s attention from equipment concerns so he can focus on the mission.”
He showed a MICH that had been shot several times during ballistics testing. Besides a half-inch indent, the helmet showed little damage.
Until now, there’s never been a helmet designed to stop bullets, said Elder. The MICH uses a different version of Kevlar combined with different bonding techniques to form a shell capable of halting a submachine gun’s 9 mm round in addition to protecting against fragmentation.
The current Kevlar helmet only protects against fragmentation and at most can deflect bullets.
“A direct shot to the head is a dead man,” Elder said. “That’s not the case with the MICH. The soldier could probably get back into the fight.”
What would allow the wearer to stay conscious is the innovative seven-pad suspension system. The current helmet uses a bolted-on nylon suspension with a leather headband that is fastened onto the inside headband. Many users would buy a circular pad to ease the weight stress on top of their heads.
The MICH suspension pads are composed partly of comfort foam where the pads touch the head and mostly of “slow-memory” impact foam with the resilience of a wrestling mat. The foam is like a shock tling mat. The foam is like a shock absorber against a striking bullet.
A black CoolMax cloth covering wicks moisture away and helps the user stay cooler. Lining the inside is a glued-on strip of Velcro fastener. Users can unhook and adjust the pads to create a custom fit.
Also remarkably different from the current helmet is the four-point instead of two-point chinstrap. The two-strap “pocket” at the chin remains the same, but instead of anchoring to the helmet over the ear, one strap in front and behind the ear on each side securely clamp down the MICH.
“You lose less helmets while jumping, and it’s more stable for everything we put on it, such as night vision goggles,” Elder said. “In all of the testing, no helmets have fallen off.”
Airborne operations are easier because the MICH requires no shock pad to prevent whiplash while descending or retention strap.
Two features of the MICH reduce logistics. It’s made in medium and large with different sized pads used to account for the vast majority of sizes in between, and the helmet cover is reversible for woodland and desert camouflage. The PASGT helmet uses separate covers and is issued in five sizes.
A communications subsystem designed to be included with the helmet is in the final stages of testing, and because of its modularity, the MICH can be configured to each specific group with or without the added equipment.
The subsystem is intended to provide aural protection and dual-channel communications capability. It offers features such as a low-profile microphone, microphone adapter for mask microphone, multiple radio and intercom adapters, and push-to-talk access. The headset may be worn alone or with the helmet.
“We’re representing the Special Operation Forces, but who knows where it could go from here,” Elder said.
The Marine Corps and FBI have ordered helmets for operational use and evaluation, and the MICH is being considered as the helmet platform for Land Warrior, the Army’s effort to create a revolutionary weapons system for the 21st century soldier.