Infantry: The Star Wars Look


November 27, 2011: A popular (but unofficial) accessory for the current combat helmet is an attachment that provides full face protection. This comprises a ballistic (fragment proof) transparent visor and a continuous mouth-cheek protector below that. This BATLSKIN [PHOTO] device provides better protection to the face (where 30 percent of wounds occur these days) and more stable attachment of night-vision devices to the helmet. The BATLSKIN equipment includes a pad system for the standard ECH/ACH helmet.

The new ECH (Enhanced Combat Helmet) is just coming into service. The lighter (than previous helmets) ECH is even more resistant to bullets and fragments than the current ACH. When ECH was tested to see how well it could resist high-powered rifle bullets, it was found that in most cases it would stop anything fired from a sniper rifle. Overall, it was calculated that the ECH was 40 percent more resistant to projectiles and 70 percent stronger than the current ACH helmet. ECH is about eight percent lighter than the 1.4 kg (3.1 pound) ACH it replaces.

The ECH is made of a new thermoplastic material (UHMWP, or Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene). It is lighter and stronger than the Kevlar used in the ACH and earlier PASGT and, it turned out, provided much better protection as well. The ECH costs $600 each, twice as much as the ACH. If unofficial items like BATLSKIN prove popular, they may show up as official accessories, and use some of the high tech protection that went into the ECH.



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