The newest combat helmet to enter service with the U.S. spec ops community might have some issues.
The U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) chose Gentex Corporation to provide the Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements (SPEAR) Family of Tactical Headborne Systems (FTHS) — Coxswain Helmet System. The contract, which was signed in early October, is a five-year Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Firm Fixed Price (FFP) production contract with a maximum value of $95 million.
The FTHS Coxswain Helmet System is comprised of the Ops-Core FAST FTHS Carbon Composite Helmet with additional modular Ops-Core accessories tailored for its particular mission. These extra accessories include:
- Step-In Visors with clear and tinted lenses
- NVG Snap Shields
- FAST Ballistic and Carbon Composite Mandibles
- FAST Low Profile Ballistic Appliques
Tom Short, the vice president of Ground Systems, Gentex Corporation, said in a press statement that, “We’re extremely pleased to have been chosen to provide the Coxswain Helmet System for USSOCOM. The FTHS Coxswain contract validates our design process and helmet system innovations while bringing the FTHS Ballistic/Non-Ballistic and FTHS Coxswain Helmets together as one family of headborne systems with interchangeable accessories, common parts and simplified logistics.”
Furthermore, the FTHS Coxswain Helmet System can take a number of Ops-Core VAS shroud options (shrouds are found at the front of a helmet and serve as a base for NVGs, cameras, illuminators, and other accessories), helmet covers, ARCTM rails, pads, exterior Velcro. The helmet will be available in four sizes with a number of camouflage pattern options.
There are, however, some concerns when it comes to the FTHS Coxswain Helmet System, which is designed for operators involved in maritime tasks, for example, Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen (SWCC), Navy SEALs, Recon Marines, Marine Raiders, Coast Guard. The helmet doesn’t offer ballistic protection. Given the operating environment that the helmet is intended to be used in, that is, maritime, a non-ballistic helmet would make sense for it would make it neutrally buoyant. But SWCC operators, who are the main target audience for the helmet, are liable to be on the receiving end of enemy fire.
When it comes to headpieces, there is a delicate balance between protection and weight. Too much protection translates – generally – into a too heavy end product that inhibits operators. Conversely, cutting away protection to ensure a lighter product endangers the operators. And manufacturing companies also have to take into account the numerous vision-enhancing devices and miscellaneous gadgets that warfighters attach to their headgear.
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