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.

About the Author

Matthew Cox
Matthew Cox has been a defense reporter since 1998 and is an associate editor for He traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq numerous times from 2002 to 2008, covering infantry units in combat. Matthew was an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division.

33 Comments on "Marines and Soldiers Are About to Get a Better Helmet"

  1. Kinda wish it was cut like the Ops core helmets

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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?!

  7. 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

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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

  14. that is a great helmet .

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

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

  18. 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 .

  19. 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.

  20. 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?

  21. "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.

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

  23. 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.

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

    What about the other 600 to 700 thousand troops?

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

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

  27. 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

  28. 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

  29. 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.

  30. HAROLD lUCAS | May 20, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Reply

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

  31. Looks like the Israeli helmet.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

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