The Marine Corps is getting ready to field its new enhanced combat helmet. In the first quarter of fiscal 2014 the first of thousands of ECHs will be issued to Marines bound for deployment.
The new helmet results from a collaboration with the Army that dates from March 2009 when the Corps received an urgent requirement, stating that the Corps needed to produce a helmet with enhanced ballistic protection from selected small-arms ammunition and fragmentation. The Navy joined the program the following year.
Meanwhile, the ECH had to maintain all other characteristics of the Marines’ lightweight helmet and Army’s advanced combat helmet. The new helmet also had to be compatible with other components of infantry combat equipment such as body armor systems, protective goggles, night vision equipment and a camouflage fabric helmet cover.
The new requirement proved to be a tall order that was met several times, despite test protocol criteria made even more stringent as tests proceeded, according to project managers.
“This is the only helmet that has been tested and passed using [Director of Operational Test and Evaluation] protocols,” said Deidre Hooks, ECH team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command.
Halo said the final ECH, soon to be fielded, is a marked improvement over current headgear.
“This helmet is above and beyond,” she said. “It was tested and passed using the old standards as well as the new DOT&E protocols. The ECH surpasses anything we’ve had before.
“The ECH fully exploits the latest lightweight material technology, ultra-high molecular-weight polyethylene materials,” Halo said. “It provides increased small-arms ballistic protection above what is currently provided by the lightweight and advanced combat helmets.”