The US Marine Corps (USMC) will induct the new enhanced combat helmet (ECH) in the first quarter of fiscal 2014, following successful completion of stringent tests.
The enhanced combat helmet has been developed by the USMC, in collaboration with the US Army and US Navy, following an urgent requirement initiative in March 2009 to produce a helmet capable of providing enhanced ballistic protection from selected small-arms ammunition and fragmentation.
Compatible with other components of infantry combat equipment including body armour, protective goggles, night vision equipment and a camouflage fabric helmet cover, the ECH will maintain all other characteristics of the marines' lightweight helmet and the army's advanced combat helmet.
Marine Corps Systems Command's (MCSC) ECH team lead Deidre Hooks said the ECH has undergone testing and successfully passed using director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) protocols.
MCSC Infantry Weapons Systems programme manager colonel Mike Manning said: "We provide value for the taxpayer by only buying helmets for the soldiers being deployed."
Featuring the latest lightweight material technology and ultra-high molecular-weight polyethylene materials, the ECH will provide enhanced small-arms ballistic protection when compared to current lightweight and advanced combat helmets.
ECH lead engineer Kathy Halo said: "One of the biggest challenges was the change in statistical methodology in the midst of the helmet testing."
The equipment's successful first-article testing leads to a contract award that starts initial production, which will then lead to full-rate production with successful acceptance testing and fielding.
Image: enhanced combat helmet being fitted on to a marine. Photo: courtesy of Jim Katzaman.