Evolution of the US Military Helmet
If you were to ask anyone who is relatively involved in the military or combat industry about the evolution of the Military helmet, they will gladly speak about how far this piece of protection equipment has come. From the 1915’s Brodie Helmet to the MICH/ACH Helmets, the helmet has transformed from a hazard to a piece of protection, to a vital piece of equipment for safety, visibility, and communication reasons. Needless to say, it’s a good thing that the United States’ military branches are no longer walking around with a Brodie helmet anymore!
In this blog post we will be reviewing not only the evolution of the military helmet but also highlighting a video that speaks to future advancements that have arrived and are being put to use today, as well as the modern technological advancements that are promised to come for this vital piece of equipment in the future.
Bringing it Back to the Start, The Brodie
When it comes to a soldier’s equipment, many would argue that a helmet is one of the most important pieces to help promote a soldier safety and security. So, it’s interesting to note that back in the day, during the combat fights of World War One, that a helmet was known and said to not do much.
Don’t believe us? Just Google it. A great deal of the current articles available online that speak to the beginning of the helmet mention that they “were more of a hazard” or “only stopped rocks.” Alluding to the fact that this piece of equipment was not advanced enough to do what it needed to for the soldiers during combat, which was to protect them and stop bullets from harming them.
Now, helmets have been around for over 100 years, and before we breakdown the evolution and progression of this equipment piece, we want to highlight what the very first helmet looked like… So, here we go.
The United States began using and issuing their soldiers helmets just before the start of World War One in 1917. These helmets, as we mentioned above, were known as the Brodie Helmet, or were also referred to as the Mark One.
These helmets were shallow and had a wide brim (mimicking that of a hat) and was not even designed to help stop bullets from hitting a soldier. Instead, the main purpose of this helmet was used to keep artillery debris and any other sort of debris or dirt from flying up into a soldier’s face, either injuring their face or eyes, or causing them to look away from the enemy or situation at hand.
The helmets weighed about 1.3lbs and were made out of Hadifield steel that was quite thick, but not thick enough to not be formed in a single press. Given their material, the helmets were said to be relatively comfortable, thanks to the liner and strap system that was embedded into the helmet’s design. By the end of World War One, it was said that 7.5 million of this style of helmet was produced and given out to soldiers.
So how do we get from a steel, brimmed, helmet to something utterly comfortable and well fitted? Let’s find out.
Year Over Year; The Evolution of the Helmet Design
Like most Military equipment, designs and processes typically change quite quickly, as those present in combat or aware of the situation work to advance whatever they can, making it easier for the soldiers to complete their missions. Helmets do not differ from this situation as it appears that almost every few years, new designs and advances were being released. Take a look:
M1 Helmet; The Vietnam War
The M1 Helmet was designed by Major Harold G. Sydenham and were manufactured by the end of World War II. These helmets were very similar to the Brodie Helmet, in the sense that the ballistic capability of the helmet was quite small. At this point in time, the M1 could handle a .45 caliber pistol round (as long as it was fired at 10 feet and at 600fps) along with some fragmentation protection.
While this may seem like a small step in terms of helmet development, keep in mind that the original; the Brodie, was only able to protect the soldier from flying dirt and debris. So, while it may not seem like a lot, this was actually quite the advancement.
The helmet was made up of an outer steel shell with a hardhat liner and of course the liner and strap system that the Brodie featured. It was comfortable enough for the soldiers, even though it was made out of Handfield Manganese Steel and weighed more, sitting at a total of 2.85lbs.
The M1 Replacement; Meet the PASGT Helmet
The next evolutionary change for the helmet was to start making them out of ballistic fibers instead of alloy. This came with the launch and creation of the PASGT Helmet.
The PASGT Helmet had a great deal of advancements compared to the transition of the Brodie to the M1. For example, one of the biggest things was that this helmet was rated to the NIJ IIIA protection level, meaning that the helmet would be able to stop, and protect the soldier from a .44 magnum pistol (from 10 feet away), along with fragmentation protection.
Now, with the additional advancements, and the capability of the helmet being able to stop a .44 magnum, the weight of the helmet increased. You’ll remember that the M1 sat at 2.85lbs, however this helmet started at a weight of 3.1lbs. Over the years, more and more adjustments have been made in order to advance the technology of the helmet as well as make the helmet more comfortable.
For example, there is now a suspension system and an adjustable pad system that help soldiers achieve their level of desired comfort and fit. These advancements have increased the weight of the more modern helmets, making it so that the helmet could weigh all the way up to 4.2lbs.
Luckily, the additional features work to make the helmet more comfortable, therefore the additional weight is not a huge loss.
The Advancement to the MICH/ACH Helmet
As the years go by and technology increases, it’s only fair that the technology for the helmet, as well as the use for the helmet increases simultaneously. We see this with the launch of the MICH/ACH Helmet and its capability to accommodate and use communicate devices.
This helmet was originally created for special forces and initially was exclusively used by SOCOM. That is until other branches and units realized the potential and benefit that this design and device could have for all troops. Once it caught wave, it was introduced as the standard helmet for soldiers.
In terms of NIJ Protection level, this helmet did not advance from the PAGST, as the rating remained the same at NIJ IIA, being able to stop a .44 magnum pistol round at 10 feet, I addition to fragmentation protection. However, the helmet was updated to feature a closer fitting shell that had ear “bumps” which allowed for communication devices to be used while wearing the helmet.
Given that this was the start the technological advancements for helmets, there were quite a few drawbacks. For one thing, the communication devices were not always adequate to use, given the close fit with the ear bumps, in addition they have subpar pads which makes wearing the communication pieces with the headset extremely uncomfortable.
To note, without the communication devices, the helmet was set to be extremely comfortable, more so than the PAGST and only weighed from 3lbs to 3.6lbs. Plus, this helmet also came ready with a night vision shroud and accessory rails. We can start to see here where the technological advancements really started to speed up.
Above the Ear Cut; Welcome the ATE High Cut Helmet
And lastly, we finally make it to the ATE high Cut Helmet. With natural evolution it only makes sense that the next helmet to be developed was one that did not have ear bumps, allowing for communication devices and other accessories to be beneficially used.
This helmet has the same NIJ IIA Protection rating, in which it can stop a .44 magnum pistol at 10 feet away, with fragmentation protection. However, with the ear cut outs, it’s important to mention that side coverage and safety has been lost.
With the ear cut outs and former issues resolved, this helmet is set to be extremely comfortable, and easily supports communication accessories and other devices. Weight has also dropped for this element, bringing the total weight down to 2.2lbs to 3.0lbs total, and that is with side rails and NVG shrouds attached as well.
2022 and Beyond; How Will Helmets Advance Now?
It’s safe to say that in the later year’s helmets began to become more efficient, comfortable, and technologically advanced. From including NVG shrouds to night vision googles and side rails, as well as communication devices, it became apparent that helmets were becoming more of a tool rather than just a small item for safety.
So, with it being 2022, many wonder where exactly helmets will go and how they will develop. Will they increase in the NIJ protection level, or will they evolve to include more accessories to better help and support the team?
While we can’t say for sure, some creators and industry professionals have called out and highlighted some of the advanced helmets that are starting to make their way and make waves in the industry. Check out this video below to learn more and get a glimpse at what the future may have in store.
As always, if you’re looking for helmets or the latest and greatest in military and combat gear, our store is readily available with a ton of options in terms of brands and varieties. Click here to check out our available helmets today.