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Just over a year after announcing a much-needed update to the 15-year-old Advanced Combat Helmet, the Army is testing out an even stronger and lighter combat helmet that officials claim offers rifle protection comparable to current ballistics options at a 40% reduction in weight

  • Officials from the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) showed off the new prototype during Close Combat Lethality Tech Day at the end of May alongside the Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops (PAGST) helmet and Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) systems.
  • Made from ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene rather than the traditional Kevlar, the NSRDEC prototype helmet weighs just 3.25 pounds, well below the original ACH’s 3.5 pounds and the Integrated Head Protection System’s (IHPS) 3.25 pounds (and 5.77 pounds with ballistics mandible).
  • The prototype helmet “demonstrated a new capability for increased rifle protection at about 40% reduced weight,” NSRDEC public affairs chief David Accetta told Task & Purpose, adding that the system also demonstrated “the same protection level as the current [IHPS] without the modular applique worn over the helmet shell.”
  • The prototype combat helmet comes as the Army looks to reconcile a need for improved body armor load weights with efforts to produce traumatic brain injuries with programs like the IHPS, scheduled a planned battlefield debut of 2020. As NSRDEC’s Richard Green told Army Times during a recent showcase of the new prototype helmet:“There’s kind of a competition between increased threat and weight.”

Look, the NSRDEC combat helmet prototype probably won’t keep your brain safe when it comes to your next Carl Gustaf party, but it still beats the hell out of any tacticool facemask you can score on the Internet.

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UPDATE: This article previously characterized the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center prototype helmet as the most recent iteration of the ACH Gen II rather than a distinct project. We regret the error. (Updated 6/13/2018  4:10 pm EST)