Defense

September 9, 2013

‘HEaDS-UP’ at Natick for better helmets

Tags:
Bob Reinert
Natick, Mass.

army-helmet1
In their quest for better helmet technologies to keep soldiers and Marines safe on the battlefield, researchers at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center here are making a “HEaDS-UP” play.

Helmet Electronics and Display System-Upgradeable Protection, or HEaDS-UP, has been a four-year effort at Natick to provide mounted and dismounted troops with a more fully integrated headgear system. HEaDS-UP has focused on developing a Technical Data Package of design options and tradeoffs to build a modular, integrated headgear system. Some of these technologies include: improved ballistic materials; non-ballistic impact liner materials and designs; see-through and projected heads-up display technologies; better eye, face and hearing protection; and communications.

Two modular headgear concept designs emerged from the process. They will be officially unveiled in October during a demonstration at Fort Benning’s (Ga.) Maneuver Battle Lab, said Don Lee, project engineer in the Headgear Thrust Area of Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC.

“We’ll have mounted and dismounted Soldiers wear the two different concepts, performing a variety of tasks,” Lee said. “The event will be a VIP demo of Soldiers conducting training operations at mission speed using the helmet concepts.”

According to Lee, the advances resulted from the collaboration between NSRDEC and the Army Research Laboratory. Quarterly meetings kept dozens of involved personnel on the same page.

“The program was very successful due to the collaborative support from the different agencies,” Lee said. “Without that collaboration and support, it would have made the program more challenging.”

Lee said that the program looked at a variety of technologies.

“It was mostly like an 80-20 split – 80 percent material solution, 20 percent impact on the Soldier,” said Lee, “kind of setting the stage for the next evolution of headgear protection, which will look to swap that, doing more 80 percent impact on the Soldier and 20 percent material solution.”
army-helmet2
The modular prototypes were designed to allow warfighters to adapt the headgear to the mission and to work harmoniously “with other existing, fielded technologies – your body armor, your (hydration pack), your protective eyewear, and then being able to accomplish common skills and tasks – getting up, getting in a prone position, entering a vehicle, exiting the vehicle, sighting a weapon, and stuff like that,” Lee said. “We’ve done some cognitive studies, as well, looking at head-mounted displays, see-through displays, the integration factor of the display.”

Mounted and dismounted Soldiers have already worn the prototypes in “human factors evaluations,” from which data were collected, analyzed and applied.

“We were able to integrate the concepts during their normal training scenarios, and then following their training event, get feedback from them,” Lee said. “It was quite overwhelming, the response (we) received that every soldier that used these systems liked the prototype systems over their currently fielded system. So whether it was an (Army Combat Helmet) or a (Combat Vehicle Crewman helmet), they all like the prototypes over them.”

Lee predicted that soldiers will embrace the modular platform, from which parts can be added or removed in seconds.

“Being able to don that (mandible and visor) protection when needed or being able to remove it when not needed is the big ‘wow’ factor,” he added.

The mandible and visor provide fragmentation protection for the face, Lee said.

“Going by a recent (Joint Trauma Analysis and Prevention of Injury in Combat) report, of all the injuries to the head, 72 percent are to the face,” Lee said. “So that shows a technology gap there.

“Soldiers wear the (ballistic) eyewear, but everything outside the eyewear is open. This will be the biggest advantage to the Soldier.”

Vehicle crew members, in particular, should appreciate the headgear.

“One of the things I hoped to do with this program was reduce the logistic footprint of combat helmets for ground Soldiers,” Lee said. “Right now, mounted soldiers have two helmets. They have their Combat Vehicle Crewman helmet and they have their Advanced Combat Helmet. So, if they dismount from the vehicle, they’re supposed to swap helmets.

“I think we’ve proven through our program that there can be one helmet for both mounted and dismounted Soldiers, which, I think, is a big deal. I think the program’s proven that a one-helmet system for ground Soldiers, whether they’re mounted or dismounted, can exist.”

Crew members looking out hatches discovered an unexpected benefit during evaluations.

“When the soldiers wore the prototype systems with the visor and mandible,” said Lee, “it was the first time that they weren’t eating sand and dust and rocks going down the road.”

Ultimately, the program data will be transferred to Program Executive Office Soldier and the Marine Corps for decisions about what technologies should be fielded.

“We’ve come up with tradeoffs, ideas, designs that the soldier will benefit from in the end,” Lee said. “When these technologies impact the soldier in a positive way, that’s really the reward at the end of the day.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines January 23, 2015

News: Two Marines identified in deadly California helo crash - Two Marine Corps officers killed when their helicopter crashed during a training exercise in the Southern California desert were remembered Jan. 25 as talented pilots. Greek F-16 crashes in Spain during NATO exercise - Ten people died Jan. 26 after a Greek air force F-16 jet crashed...
 
 

News Briefs January 26, 2015

Navy wants to increase use of sonar-emitting buoys The U.S. Navy is seeking permits to expand sonar and other training exercises off the Pacific Coast, a proposal raising concerns from animal advocates who say that more sonar-emitting buoys would harm whales. The Navy now wants to deploy up to 720 sonobuoys about 12 miles off...
 
 
Air National Guard photograph by SSgt. Annie Edwards

ANG conducts air refueling training with NATO allies in Germany

Air National Guard photograph by SSgt. Annie Edwards A NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft approaches a Utah Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker for air refueling during a training flight over Germany on Jan. 13, 2015. Nearly 30 airme...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Armando A. Schwier-Morales

Ramstein Airmen train with French air force

Air Force photograph by SrA. Armando A. Schwier-Morales Two U.S. Air Force pilots and a French air force navigator discuss the route to the drop zone during a simulated low-level drop Jan. 21, 2015, at Orleans – Bricy Air...
 
 

Marines receive first F-35C Lightning II carrier variant

The first F-35C Lightning II, carrier variant, for the U.S. Marine Corps touched-down on the flight line at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 13, from the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas, to begin training in support of carrier-based operations. U.S. Marine Lt. Col. J.T. Ryan, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 501 detachment commander...
 
 

VA announces single regional framework under MyVA initiative

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Jan. 26 that it is taking the first steps under the MyVA initiative to realign its many organizational maps into one map with five regions to better serve Veterans. The new regions under the MyVA alignment will allow VA to begin the process of integrating disparate organizational boundaries into...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>