A recent research paper by the Navy has raised concerns over the new design for an advanced Army and Marine helmet. According to the Army Times, it showed that blast waves could bounce off the added components such as the visor and jaw protector and produce unexpected pressure.
USA Today reported that the Conformal Integrated Protective Headgear System, or CIPHER, prototype was tested from all sides during the assessment, conducted by the Naval Research Laboratory, and in all possible patterns which included helmet only, helmet and visor, helmet and jaw protection, and the full-face coverage of visor and jaw protector.
The findings, reported by the Army Times, showed that adding face protection did not equate to lessening blast-wave impact. Some of the results included:
• In a front-facing blast, pressures on the forehead were higher with the jaw protector, or mandible, in place and with the mandible-visor combination than they were with the helmet alone.
• Wearing just the jaw protection for a front-facing blast doubled the strength of the secondary shockwave pressure on the forehead from 2 atmospheres (one atmosphere is a little less than 15 pounds per square inch) to 4 atmospheres.
• In a rear-facing blast, pressures on the forehead were more than twice as high for the mandible-visor combination compared to the helmet alone.
All is not lost, according to the lead researcher. The tests could help designers moderate the pressure increases with minor structural variations to the helmet.
“The military actually has specific criteria that helmets have to meet to be certified for use in ballistic and blunt force,” said David Mott, an NRL aerospace engineer. “No such criteria exists for pressure because the medical community is still working on what the injury mechanisms are, and we don’t know where to set those desirable levels anyway, at this point.”
“It’s one of a series of tradeoffs designers must make,” Mott said. “To determine which areas to channel blasts away from, and balancing the need for blast-wave protection against other concerns. A soldier may want to wear the mandible or visor, even with elevated blast-wave pressures in some areas, to keep a bomb fragment from bouncing off his face.”
The prototype, which was designed under the Helmet Electronics and Display System-Upgradable Protection, or HEaDS-UP, is far from finished with testing.
Mott, along with colleagues Ted Young and Doug Schwer, published the findings with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Even though they do not suggest specific adjustments and improvements on the helmet, the research “makes us optimistic that we can find combinations of geometry, either for the accessories themselves or for the suspension, that may reduce that threat, reduce those pressure loads that we’re seeing,” Mott said.