Marines and Soldiers Are About to Get a Better Helmet

The Marine Corps and Army have tapped Ceradyne Inc., to make the first of the new Enhanced Combat Helmets, ending a five-year search for a brain bucket capable of stopping rifle rounds.

The Marines and Army have given the green light to Ceradyne to build 8,600 ECHs, which will be split between the services. Fielding won’t begin until after the services approve the ECH for full-rate production, a decision scheduled for May, according to a recent press release.

The ECH is a protective helmet consisting of a ballistic protective shell, pad suspension system and four-point chinstrap/nape strap retention system. This helmet fully exploits the latest lightweight material technology, Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene materials, to provide increased small arms protection above what is currently provided by the Marine Corps Lightweight Helmet (LWH) and the Army Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH). This material provides a higher degree of ballistic protection than Kevlar and Twaron, fibers used in both the LWH and ACH. It also provides enhanced protection against fragments.

In 2007, the Army and Marine Corps began looking into how to make current helmets stronger without increasing weight. Both could withstand a direct hit from a 9mm pistol round and some bomb fragments, but senior officials in both services wanted improved protection against rifle shots.

The contract award comes after the Ceradyne ECH suffered failures in the First Article Test process early last year. I guess we’ll have to trust that the problems were resolved. The Marines are expected to receive 38,500 helmets, while the Army will buy a total of 200,000 helmets. The Navy is expected to procure 6,700 helmets as well.

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Matthew Cox
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  • Doc

    Kinda wish it was cut like the Ops core helmets

    • JP2336

      So… have less protection? Smart choice. The MICH/ACH is a fine balance. If your worried about looking cool and wearing a ballistic yamika go that route or play airsoft/dress-up elsewhere.

      • galloglas

        The bump cap?
        That looks like a flight deck helmet.

  • Matt

    One of the best new pieces of kit to come in a while. This should also help with making even more advances.

  • Dan Gao

    Sounds great. Greatly improves protection, but still just as light and slim as a current ACH. Hopefully some similar breakthroughs can be made with body armor as well, could lighten up loads quite a bit.

  • Lance

    This is PC crap no helmet can stop most combat rifle rounds same was said about Kevlar helmets in the 80s but that was proven wrong. A 7.62x54R or 5.45mm round can punch threw any Kevlar and ballistic material helmet made. Even if it stopped it the force of it would break the neck of the victim anyway. This is more feel good stuff to make politicians and families happy. And it looks the same as the current helmet anyway.

    • Boot

      How could bullet have enough energy to break a neck?
      Bullet has same force or less than buttstock hitting your shoulder.

      • Lance

        Sorry When a bullet hits your vest and cracks or brakes a few ribs what do you thin it will do if it hit you about your neck.

        I doubt this would stop a rifle bullet anyways though.

        • Not-troll

          Lance: If you punch somebody to the side of chest you might be able to break a few ribs; but it is completely impossible for you to break somebodys neck with a punch. The reason is simple–neck is both sturdier and more flexible than chestcage.

          Boot: Obviously comparison to shooting a bullet is somewhat flawed, while shooting the bullet accelerates in the whole lenght of barrel (around 20″). When stopping to a cheramic chestplate the bullet deaccelerates in the lenght of the bullet (less than 1″). So the hit is like 20-fold higher.

          This is also the reason why there is an air gap between the helmet and head–to have some more space for deacceleration. And indeed in the case of layered structures (read: most composite materials) and low impact angles (read: the shape of the helmet), the bullet is not stopped at the point of impact; it is let to slide to halt between the layers–a further increase in the stopping distance.

          Obviously, the helmet will (almost certainly) not be able to stop a direct hit from point-blanc-range by riffle, but it will most likely stop a riffle bullet hitting at an angle* and fired at some distance.

          * i.e. not hitting to the centre-line, but to left, right, or up from that.

          • Lance

            I can agree that a good helmet can stop a ricochet or bullet fragments but some claims they can stop a direct hit is a lie to solders.

          • defensor fortissimo

            this sounds like a question for mythbusters ;)

    • Matt M.

      Boooooo. What is up with the, “The Army and Marines are lying to people.” crap. Why sir?
      1) There is no lie to soldiers, there has been extensive testing and these helmets actually excelled way past the original standards which were: A) Better Frag Protection and B) The capability to stop a 7.62×39.
      2) You CAN’T tell the protective capabilities of a helmet FROM THE SHAPE!!!! It’s all about the composition of the ballistic materials that make up the helmet, the fact that it uses the same shape as an ACH has nothing to do with it.
      3)Yes it is possible for a bullet, stopped by a helmet, to break your neck, however there are features in place to severely decrease the possibility/prevent that from happening. I.E.- What Boot said. (Gap and the way the material stops the bullet.)
      4) I highly doubt that Ceradyne would let the Marines and Army field one of their products it they knew it was inferior to its standards. They are a top-tier company and many people are alive now due to the fact that they were wearing a Ceradyne plate.


      There have been several cases where the helmet stopped a 7.62×39 round. The first time was in Grenada when a trooper from 82AB got hit in the head. The helmet is now in the 82 AB museum.. Regardless of how much it hurts the person being shot, it’s still better than having your brains blasted all over the place.

    • Sorry, Lance but you could not be more wrong. I had a Soldier who took an AK round just to the left of his NVG mount in Paktika, Afghanistan in 2007 or 2008 (I forget which year). The core of the bullet was stopped, but a few pieces of bullet jacket penetrated the helmet (standard ACH). His scalp was cut up a bit and he had a hell of a headache, but he is alive and well today. I was shot at an oblique angle just to the rear of my temple area dn the bullet was stopped with just a piece of bullet jacket striking me behind and above my right eye. The guy who shot him was less than 100yds away and was dispatched by some of my other Soldiers. This is NOT PC crap…it is science that is saving soldiers lives.

  • Neal

    So what if it is a lie? It’s not like anyone is going around asking to be shot in the noggin. If the alleged protection factor is false, it may still help somebody shake off the jitters and react more quickly and efficiently in combat, keeping them from taking the chunk of lead to the head. Obviously I’m not saying that soldiers should be lied to, but maybe a little exaggeration can be a good thing. The main threat to our forces right now is explosives and fragment, rifle rounds are secondary and exactly how many untrained Afghans have the marksmanship to make a head shot?
    As to the neck-snapping issue, the helmet, while snug, is still separate from your head. When hit, it will slide and deform and compress, and that’s good. More room to slow down the round. The issue is to keep it from cracking or splitting. The straps will fail before the bucket dents your head without splitting.

  • TheDude

    Well. if your average plate-vest can stop .300 WinMag nowadays, developing a bullet-proof helmet isn´t too far from being possible, is it?!

  • Doc

    Hey just so you guys know the current helmets we have now will stop standard AK rounds as long as they are not straight shots seen it happen four times in one day alone. So I’m sure they can make one that will eventually stop straight shots from a rifle maybe even from a Dragonov

  • Alex

    Do they have a rating for what rounds can be stopped?

    • somebody

      I read that it was rated at NIJ level III which would be 7.62x51mm m80 ball (147 grain .308 bullet at 2800 feet per second) so most non armor piercing rifle ammo.

  • Darrel

    Marines won’t like it because it doesn’t have a front brim. Give it a brim to keep the sun out of their faces and let them use their old covers, and it’ll be good to go. Hopefully the suspension isn’t god awful.

    Who gives a **** if it stops pistol rounds? What rag-head is carrying a pistol and shooting at US troops with it? They know our armor doesn’t stop 7.62, and that’s what they’re going to continue to use.

    • Darrel

      Wait, never mind. I wasn’t thinking. If it stops 9 mm bullets, of course it can stop 7.62 :D I do agree that it could cause your neck some strain if you were actually hit, but wearing a neckbrace is better than being dead!

      • Neal

        9mm = less velocity and worse penetrating characteristics than 7.62 Soviet.
        115 grains in a wider silhouette at 1300 FPS just doesn’t do the same job as 123 grains (possibly AP) in a longer thinner bullet at 700 FPS faster.

    • galloglas

      Give a Marine a cover/helmet with a brim and he will wear it backwards.
      Cannot have that!
      Next thing you know Marines will be putting their hands in their pockets!

    • Well, we have seen several green on blue attacks where Afghan Police have used pistols to Shoot us. Happened twice on my last deployment.

  • JTMedic83

    I’m pretty sure that if this is proven and goes through you’ll see ops-core and the like style helmets with the same protection

  • Johnny 2-Rag

    Even if it stops a round, 9mm, .45, 5.45, 7.62 whatever, the soldier is probably going to be out or dead, depending on the range and if it was a direct hit or deflected. Sure the bullet may be stopped, but the concussion from the hit is going to cause a TBI or death. You’d need a helmet the size of The Great Gazoo to be affective.

    • slag

      Or Dark Helmet (Space Balls)

    • galloglas

      The blow will be the same as shooting a rifle with the buttstock against your helmet.
      The rifles kick is equal to the blow of the bullet energy wise, the bullet just hits a smaller area and the stock spreads the blow out.

  • Need to add a faceplate and eye protection, with a catcher like chin-neck plate.

    Momentum of the rifle round is mass x velocity. If the helmet is rigid, its change in velocity will be small if its mass is higher. If the helmet can flex, it can stop the bullet more gently.

    I would also like to see some shoulder plates (Pauldrons) to protect the neck from the side.

    • You have to be kidding me? Shoulder plates? Have you ever been on a patrol with all the shit we have to wear already? We took of the DAPS, Neck and Groin protectors simply because mobility was more important that protection.

  • Alf

    Really should have thought about reducing the weight first and having the option of a modular rifle attachment much like Crye’s Airframe…


    that is a great helmet .

  • RON

    Why want it be a lie,they gave us the M16 in nam and said it was better than the M14.

  • Steve

    Just a stat: a 7.62×51 standard ball round can penitrate 22 inches of solid oak, which is a natural form of composite. Visit the Springfield Mass. Armory sometime it will give you a wakeup call as to the power of a standard ball round.

  • Top “C”

    Why award the contract so early when the ECH failed the initial tests?? I say make them “prove” it’ll do what they say it will with followup testing! What’s the rush? I don’t like the idea of our Marines & soldiers’ lives depending on a Contractor’s “word” it will protect them from rifle fire etc without further testing to prove it, period!

  • R. Larsen

    What makes you think that bullets are the main cause of battle deaths ? Don’t vote for the heavier helmet unless you feel like the helmet is your security blanket . I always felt the helmet was the most damaging piece of gear we had to wear . I personally found it to be so uncomfortable that it would affect my mind while loaded down with necessary gear . It is a small umbrella that causes sweat to constantly drain into the eyes. I believe that it it makes a person to feel constantly bothered with very uncomfortable gear .

  • CF

    Sure lets bog down a soldier like a knight from old in a full protection body condom so he can just wade into battle but not be able to move or run or even get up if he falls down. People die, soldiers die, there is a balancing point between practical and stupid. Shoot, Move Communicate, Kill! Keep your heads down pay attention to detail and move! That’s what keeps you alive.

    • Ralph Larsen

      That should help protect from the ears up .

  • Claude

    If this turns out to be a turd-in-the-punchbowl, this company would suffer a capitalist fate worse than that which would be suffered by the soldiers wearing the equipment. Every new item goes through some growing pains, but eventually turns out to be effective for what they were designed for.
    The M-16 was a genuine POS when it first went to Viet Nam, but with modifications over the years, the M-16/M-4 family has turned into a very good weapon system. I wish the rounds did more damage, but that will happen at some point.
    My real question is this: When are they going to start issuing the Storm Trooper armor?

  • Dave

    “The contract award comes after the Ceradyne ECH suffered failures in the First Article Test process early last year. I guess we’ll have to trust that the problems were resolved.”

    How thoughtful !!!!! (sarcasm) Stupidity in its fullest!!!! Good luck with this “new and better” ECH.

  • Ralph

    Taking a hit in the helmrt still has to be a real bell ringer ! This should be a improvement for cyclists .

  • Darren

    Actually, Ralph, it probably won’t make any difference for cyclists. Different type of force, unless you fall off your bike onto a bullet. A helmet designed to slow down and contain the energy of a point impact may not work as well when trying to diffuse a larger surface-area hit like skull v. pavement.

    Never make long-term bets against materials science. Ten or twenty years from now helmets may be composites of epitaxially-deposited diamond and Lord knows what, some layers hard enough to shatter a bullet like ceramic and others to catch the spall. There WILL be a truly bulletproof and lightweight helmet at some point, until the materials sciences folks make a better bullet.

    • Ralph

      Well thought out and expressed Darren, I really never thought about the type brain bucket would be needed for cyclists . In WWII when many motorcyclists were used in the military there wasn’t any different head gear than the tin pot .

  • mitch

    Awesome. 8600 ECH’s on order for both the Army and Marine Corps. Cool.

    What about the other 600 to 700 thousand troops?

    • Pete

      They have a standing order to “Keep your head down”.

  • Jordan

    Force and MARSOC development group for us, and the same for whoever tests gear for the Army.

  • Mik

    getting shot in the head without your helmet on would be somewhat like crashing your car without your seatbelt on, no?

    • galloglas

      It will produce more localized damage.

  • Robert

    Knights had greater mobility than you think. A 16th century suit of armor weighed 50-60 pounds and had near full mobility. Compare this to the weight of today’s modern plate carriers and other personal protective equipment that people use and its nearly the same if not lighter. I always found something strangely futuristic about the streamlined style of Renaissance era full plate Armor, it represents a peak of Technological achievement of personal protection, just in time for it to become obsolete altogether by the introduction of firearms to the battlefield. I wonder if it can have any modern applications. Metal plates replaced with sleek projectile stopping ones yet to be invented and light enough to be feasible.

    This is a fascinating Lecture about common misconceptions, of how it was done back in the day, Showcasing the capabilities of the full plate armor, it shows sprinting, and getting off the deck from laying down. Skip to 35:00 to get an idea

  • R2

    What does it matter when troops are brain-dead enough to go to war for lies already? Even Bush admitted Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and the Taliban offered to turn over Bin Laden for trial in a neutral country if we just provided proof of his complicity in 9/11, which he denied and our own FBI admitted, in effect, by never including it in his “Most Wanted” poster. He readily and proudly admitted his part in the Kenya embassy bombing and other acts against the U.S. so why would he not claim that big feather of bringing down the WTC?

    “Military men are dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns for foreign policy.” Henry Kissinger, quoted by Bob Woodward in The Final Days, 1976

    • John Bush

      The newest private/E-1 in any branch of the military is worth far, far more than a gutless pseudointellectual like you. And I dare you to call my 18+ years of service, MENSA membership, bachelor’s (political science), and incipient law degree, the trappings of someone who is brain dead. Anytime, anyplace, any weapon.

    • galloglas

      Thank a soldier for your ability to use free speech to make this anal comment.

  • artymgysgt

    The last good helmet I had you could remove the liner and use the metal shell as a wash basin. Idealy helmets will stop some shell fragments or deflect a glancing bullet hit, but stopping a projectile traveling at several thousand feet per second without consequences for the wearer is just plain B.S.


    Agree 100% Lance, Don’t think they will ever build a Helmet to stop 7.62 rounds.

    • R. Ryan

      Well you’d be dead wrong since they ALREADY HAVE, this helmet in fact. Honestly it annoys me when people that clearly have no grasp of science and don’t do a spec of research talk like they knew crap. All this “you’d be brain dead” or “it would break necks” nonsense for why rifle proof helmets “can’t be made” just highlights people’s gross ignorance. The simple fact is a bullet is fast, but it ain’t very heavy and it has very little momentum, so stop penetration stop injury.

      Strong kicks and knees from trained fighters and produce 1,500 to 2000+ pounds of force on impact. These CAN in extreme cases kill, but normally only with repeated blows to vulnerable areas without any additional protection. A 7.62X54 rifle round has something like 2,500 foot pounds at the muzzle at a reasonable combat of 300 meters it’s down to 2,000ish at impact. Thus it’s raw force is the range of a powerful blow by a trained fighter, but not a blow that would be instantly lethal even to an UNPROTECTED HEAD.

      The helmet is padded AND will take some of the energy itself, so if penetration is prevented the force of impact to the skull is even lower still. The forces involved are completely survivable. It would certainly be like being smashed by a heavyweight fighter, and maybe you’d even get concussions and stuff, but SO WHAT? Option B is a supersonic projectile in your F’ing BRAIN. Even if it causes concussions, even if in some extreme cases it results in brain damage, if the alternative is virtual certain death… WHO CARES?

      Really I have to ask what all you whiners suggestion is instead? “Oh it might merely reduce an instant fatality to a disability discharge? What a waste of time…” I suppose we shouldn’t even bother unless .50 cal rounds are glancing off it like a light rain? I have to wonder where exactly the fact that the point of armor is to REDUCE injuries somehow slipped out of so many peoples heads and somehow only “complete immunity with no lasting effect at all” became the standard.

  • IAC

    Looks like the Israeli helmet.

  • galloglas

    For sure it’s good they are thinking about the men and women who must stick their heads up or out to engage the enemy, that being the only part of them other than a forehand and arm holding a weapon it makes sense to make it as impenetrably as possible to a wide variety of projectiles, both direct and fragmentary.
    The old GI steel pot was good for fragments, pistol rounds and a good blow by hand.
    Rifle rounds would go through hot knife through butter.
    The wash basin usage has been long replaced by the baby wipe. Using steel helmets as a cooking or coffee pot weakened the steel so it was less effective against frags and bullets. The MRE has replaced this event.
    This is a good move and the military high command should e commended for it’s work to save our men and women’s lives.
    Now, if they can just improve the toilet paper situation and lack of it at times they are batting a thousand.

  • artymgysgt

    I n Vietnam I did not mind patrolling with a bush hat and on major operations helmets were required and eventually helmet and flak jackets became normal and if you received some incoming the first thing you did was put on your helmet and flak gear. Sort of a little security blanket.