The U.S. Army’s next-gen helmets will offer high-tech communications, a heads-up-display and more ballistic protection…
The U.S Army is looking into new high-tech helmets that will feature state of the art communications, a heads-up-display and most importantly, more protection for troops on the battlefield.
With over 800 IEDs being found every month in Afghanistan, these make-shift bombs have literally become a soldier’s worst nightmare. And it’s not surprising; when an IED is detonated, it unleashes a shock-wave that travels around 1,000 feet per second, with a pressure of 100lbs per square inch.
These kinds of forces can easily cause brain damage, and while the Army’s standard-issue Kevlar combat helmet absorbs some of that force, it does not protect the face.
Research has shown that shockwaves still pass through the eyes, nose and mouth, and can still damage the brain. A software blast model developed by Institute of Technology aeronautical engineer Raúl Radovitzky and his colleagues, calculated that adding a face mask to a helmet could reduce the ballistic force by up to 80 percent.
One option already on the market, the Predator Facial Armor, does offer protection for the face, and it’s exactly that type of technology the Army wants to incorporate into its next-gen helmet.
Don Lee, the project officer of the “HEaDS-UP” Army Technology Objective, is currently developing shields for the face, as well as other helmet technologies, which they hope will be ready for review by 2013.
Another area where traditional helmets lack protection is support for the neck, movement and position of the head. Blasts often force soldiers off their feet, and this can jerk and twist the neck and head in ways that can and does cause damage.
That’s why other researchers are looking into customized shoulder harnesses to protect the head from being whipped forward, or side to side.
A similar technology is already utilized by NAS car drivers; however Army analysis shows that the system would be too restricting for troops.
Shawn Walsh and his team at the Army Research Lab are working on a design that won’t restrict movement, but will still offer the same kind of support. The team hopes to have a working model ready sometime later this year.
Although it may still be a few years before a next-gen helmet becomes standard-issue, it’s clear what the Army are working towards. Here’s a quick list of feature we can expect to find when they finally get deployed.
|U.S. Army's Next-Gen Helmet Concept Drawing|
Possible features of the U.S. Army’s next-gen helmets
Head up display – Would most likely by an updated version of the Land Warrior system. Inside the helmet is a transparent display where soldiers can view maps, track fellow soldiers and enemies and make use of computer-aided weapons sighting.
Communications – Special noise-reducing ear-buds could instantly reduce any noise louder than 85 decibels, this is considered a safe level for the ears. The ear-bud would also play incoming transmissions directly and covertly into the troop’s ear, and a microphone would relay outgoing transmissions to other troops in the network.
Face Shield and Integrated Mandible protection – As mentioned already, this would help deflect the shock-wave of the blast away from the eyes, nose and mouth.
Shoulder Mounted Exoskeleton - This would help reduce the added weight of a high-tech helmet. It would also prevent the head from being snapped or jerked side to side.
Radar System – In 2009 the Army announced that it was researching a helmet-mounted radar system that would provide a 360-degree field of view Moving Target Indicator. In other words, the system would be able to scan for, and warn the soldier of any threats lurking out of view.