The first piece of equipment of the Soldier Protection System has entered the production phase this month.

The Army’s next generation Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) system is intended improve the warfighter’s lethality, mobility and modularity by optimizing Soldier protection while effectively reducing weight with the latest technologies and managing all lifecycle aspects of personal protective equipment.

The new system is an overhaul of the current body armor used by the U.S. Army. The SPS provides many upgrades that have never been seen or used on the battlefield. The torso and extremity protection upgrades are mostly weight reduction but the helmet and eye pro have become much more advanced.

The Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) is one of the six components of the SPS, providing a larger area of protection for the head, face, and a system to measure head trauma.

It includes numerous accessories, including a mandible, visor, night vision goggle attachment device, rails and modular ballistic applique.

The new eye protection, Transition Combat Eye Protection (TCEP), is capable of transitioning from light to dark and dark to light in less than one second, providing a 10 percent increase in fragmentation.

Ceradyne was awarded a contract for the Integrated Head Protection System, which is supposed to be entering production early this year along with the Transition Combat Eye Protection.

Ceradyne, a subsidiary of 3M, has delivered more than 120,000 enhanced combat helmets (ECH) to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps since 2014, in addition to 2 million body armor plates to date.

“The SPS program represents the highest level of lightweight technology to date. Our focus from the onset has been to meet the Army’s stringent specifications for the SPS, and that will continue as we move into initial production. As a leading science company, 3M has deep expertise in advanced lightweight materials, which, combined with our proven production history, differentiates our defense offerings,” said Cheryl Ingstad, a business manager for Advanced Ceramics Platform – 3M Defense, in a press release on Monday.

The helmet system began its design process with a contracts awarded to Revision and Gentex just over three years ago.

Gentex has been a helmet systems supplier to the U.S. Government for over 60 years, with contracts such as the helmet for F-35 pilots, Army’s ACH helmet and the Marine’s LWH helmet.

“The helmet’s optimized shell design contours the shape of the wearer’s head, increasing their area of coverage and protection while reducing system weight and unneeded space,” according to a statement released by Revision.   “The system weighs less than existing combat helmets and includes upgradeable mandible and visor protection. It also features an innovative retention and netted suspension system with dial-in comfort settings and high-impact ballistic padding. The suite includes modular ballistic armor plates that can be applied to the helmet’s exterior for an increased level of protection.”

The Army is expected to field 7,000 systems to a Brigade before moving to full rate production for fielding widely across the force.

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