US Army’s new helmets and body armour will make soldiers lighter, faster, and even harder to kill

U.S. Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, clear a building during a live fire exercise on Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Jan 23, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Rashene Mincy
  • The new helmet offers 100 per cent more blunt impact protection over its predecessor while weighing less.
  • The new body armour is also lighter than the previous model, providing high-quality protection and greater mobility to troops on the ground.

US Army soldiers will soon begin gearing up for battle with new, lightweight body armour and helmets that can take a serious beating, the service revealed this week.

The Army’s new Soldier Protection System – which includes the Integrated Head Protection System, Modular Scalable Vest, and Blast Pelvic Protector – provides better protection and mobility than previous systems, and it will be delivered this month to soldiers in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

“We’re going to do our best to provide you the equipment that you need to go out there and fight and return,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, the head of PEO Soldier, said at an event Monday. At the event, a soldier who had been shot in the head in Afghanistan last year was reunited with his life-saving helmet.

“I want our equipment to make our soldiers invincible,” Potts said.

The helmet: Integrated Head Protection System

The new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, is displayed at Fort Belvoir, Va., March 4, 2019. The helmet is a component of the new Soldier Protection System. US Army/Devon L. Suits

The IHPS, developed by Ceradyne Inc., is defined by its improved blunt force protection. While the helmet has the same ballistic protection as its predecessor, it is significantly more capable when it comes to absorbing energy after a round strikes.

“It’s less force on the brain,” Alex DeGroot, the lead engineer for head protection, explained to “It’s a tremendous increase for us.”

“It’s actually one of the things that makes this helmet considerably better than the current helmet,” he added.

The IHPS offers 100 per cent more blunt impact protection over its predecessor while weighing less, according to Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, product manager for Soldier Protective Equipment.

The IHPS is an improvement over the current Enhanced Combat Helmet

Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019. US Army/Devon L. Suits

Less effective than the IHPS, the current helmet, the 3.3-pound ECH, is decidedly durable. It can definitely take a hit, as one lucky soldier demonstrated.

The helmet in the above photo belonged to Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment. He was shot in the head with a machine gun round at a distance of about 20 feet during an insider attack in Afghanistan last year.

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The bullet hit him in the back of the head and knocked him off his feet. McQueen said it felt like being kicked by a horse, but he survived the September attack.

“Before this incident, I thought the helmet was cumbersome, and it was overkill,” McQueen said. “I was sorely mistaken. This helmet works, and I’m a living testament to it.”

The ECH is good. The IHPS is better.

Rails on the side of the helmet can be used to mount equipment like lights without relying on holes that diminish the helmet’s protectiveness. US Army/Devon L. Suits

The new IHPS, slightly larger than the ECH, features a boltless retention system, so the Army was able to eliminate the holes where the chin-strap was previously bolted in place.

“The challenge with drilling holes in the helmet is that you weaken the material,” Whitehead told “With this new helmet, we have gotten rid of the four holes drilled in the side.”

There is still one hole in the front of the helmet for soldiers to mount night vision devices, like the Army’s new binocular goggles with the ability to connect to the sights on a soldier’s service weapon, allowing them to shoot from the hip and around corners.

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The Army, according to Defence News, is working on a Universal Helmet Mount for such devices that will eliminate the final hole, allowing future helmets to offer even greater protection. Night vision goggles are not the only available add-on though.

The removable rail sections on the sides allow for the mounting of lights and other relevant accessories. The bigger helmet also offers more space for comms devices, and protective additions such as a visor, motorcycle-style mandible guard, and ballistic applique are also possibilities.

Body armour: Modular Scalable Vest and Ballistic Pelvic Protector

The new Soldier Protection System, or SPS, includes a modular scalable vest, a ballistic combat shirt, and a ballistic combat belt, along with the new helmet. US Army/Devon L. Suits

Roughly five pounds lighter than the current Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV), the Modular Scalable Vest weighs 11 pounds without ballistic plating and around 25 pounds when equipped with the armour plates, reported.

The Army, Defence News reported, is currently evaluating materials for a new, lighter Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, which offers improved protection at 20 per cent less weight.

The vest is also accompanied by an optional Blast Pelvic Protector, gear which reportedly offers additional protection for the groin and upper thigh. The soldiers at Fort Bragg will be receiving the vest and optional armoured groin protection along with the IHPS this month.

There is also an accompanying Ballistic Combat Shirt, which is replacing the Deltoid Axillary Protector, is designed to better protect soldiers from 9mm rounds and shrapnel, but this piece of gear is expected to be fielded this summer.