Defense Contractors Ready with Lighter Weight Helmet Shells

By Valerie Insinna

Even though military officials have repeatedly called for lighter soldier equipment, executives from the protection industry say troops remain without the next-generation technology already available off the shelf.

Revision Military in January released two new helmet shells — the Batlskin Viper P2 and Batlskin Cobra P2, which are 20 percent lighter than the Army’s current Kevlar shells.

But because the Defense Logistics Agency is likely to continue buying heavier helmets, Revision may have to wait for a major Army procurement contract to have a chance at a large-scale buy, Revision CEO Jonathan Blanshay told National Defense.

 “We keep hearing about how they want to reduce the weight off soldiers, but we can reduce helmet weight by 30 percent tomorrow, and yet DLA doesn’t seem to want to require that,” Blanshay said. “So there seems to be a disconnect between what the publicly stated desires and requirements are, and then what DLA actually seems to actually want to buy.”

One opportunity may be the soldier protection system’s (SPS) helmet component, Blanshay said. The Army plans to use the SPS program to procure new full-body equipment protecting everything from a soldier’s head to his extremities.

Blanshay said he expected the Army to release an invitation to tender “any day now.”

The Army will award development contracts to three companies that will have about a year to deliver production samples. Low rate initial production would begin in late 2014, he noted.

Both the Viper P2 and Cobra P2 are made of polyethylene, which is capable of about 35 percent better ballistic performance at the same weight of aramid materials such as Kevlar. Companies can sacrifice some of that improved ballistic capability in favor of making helmets lighter, Blanshay said.

“We went for a combination [of] better ballistics and lighter weight: 20 percent lighter weight at 15 percent better ballistics,” he said. “That was the tradeoff. Based on talking to customers, that was where we felt the sweet spot was.”

When bought in large volume, aramid helmets cost anywhere from $225 to $275 per helmet. Polyethylene helmets will likely cost double or even triple that amount because of the raw materials cost, Blanshay said.

The Army will “almost certainly” require polyethylene shells for SPS, he added.

Photo Credit: Revision Military

Topics: Combat Survivability, Advanced Weapons, Land Forces

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