Army recalls 44,000 helmets
(MILITARY TIMES) The Army is recalling 44,000 Advanced Combat Helmets amid concerns that they offer substandard ballistic protection.
Only 20,000 of those helmets have been issued to soldiers. The other 24,000 faulty ACHs were issued to the Navy and Air Force. All the helmets are made by ArmorSource LLC, formerly Rabintex USA LLC.
“There is evidence that ArmorSource and Rabintex ACHs were produced using unauthorized manufacturing practices, defective materials and improper quality procedures which could potentially reduce ballistic and fragmentation protection,” according to an All Army Activities message released May 14.
The Army-wide message orders an immediate inspection of all ACHs and the “immediate direct exchange of those ACHs manufactured by ArmorSource and Rabintex” through unit central issue facilities.
The exact risk to soldiers wearing the recalled helmets is still being determined, the Army said.
However, sample testing from a quarantined inventory revealed that the helmets did not meet Army specifications.
The matter is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the Army.
Army officials could not say where all the faulty helmets are, but it’s likely that some of them are in the war zone, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings said.
“No one has gotten hurt that we know of,” Cummings said. “We have sufficient numbers of helmets by other manufacturers in the Army’s inventory, and they are being issued to soldiers worldwide and units that are in possession of the recalled helmets.”
The Army recall constitutes 4 percent of 1.6 million ACHs in the Army’s inventory. The 44,000 helmets from ArmorSource are part of a 2006 contract for 102,000 helmets. The company had delivered 99,000 of the helmets when the Army complained of chipped paint. While only cosmetic, the Army considered the chipped paint a breach of contract and terminated the deal with the company in February.
Of the 99,000 ACHs, 44,000 were fielded and 55,000 are in storage. The Army is working with the Air Force and Navy to recall the 24,000 ACHs the two services received, Army officials said.
The service adopted the ACH in 2002 to replace the Personal Armor System for Ground Troops helmet. The ACH weighs about 3 pounds in size medium and is designed to protect soldiers from fragmentation and 9mm ammunition.
Currently, three other companies manufacture the ACH — Gentex Corporation, BAE Systems and MSA.
ArmorSource is based in Hebron, Ohio.
The manufacturer’s label is located on the inside of the helmet. Soldiers may have to remove one or more of the ACH pads to expose the label.
“If the manufacturer’s label is unreadable, the retention system hardware will be used to identify the manufacture,” the message states. “If the hardware matches figure 13, WP 0002-14 of the ACH operator’s manual, the helmet is an ArmorSource or Rabintex and must be turned in.”
The Army recalled 34,218 ACHs in May 2009. The company that manufactured the recalled helmets, Gentex Corp., told the Army it believed the four screws which attach the chinstrap and related parts to the helmet did not conform to Army contract specifications.
The screws failed the ballistics tests at temperatures of minus-60 degrees Fahrenheit and at temperatures above 160 degrees Fahrenheit. In those extreme conditions, rounds were fired directly at the screw heads. Gentex alleged a subcontractor had falsified certificates of compliance related to the type of steel screws it furnished.
Army and the Marine Corps are working on the Enhanced Combat Helmet, a new generation of helmet made of a high-tech plastic rather than Kevlar.
But the program, which relies on “ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene” instead of ballistic fibers such as Kevlar and Twaron, suffered a setback in January when all five of the test helmet models, made by four companies, failed in either ballistic or non-ballistic testing. The non-ballistic tests examined the impact of blunt force trauma to the helmets from blast waves, rolled-over vehicles and fragmentation.
The Marine Corps-led ECH effort began in 2007 when the industry presented samples of the highly durable, lightweight ballistic materials capable of stopping rifle rounds.
The Army’s initial requirement for combat brigades is 200,000 ECHs, but ultimately the service wants to issue one to every soldier.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
HOW TO CHECK YOUR HELMET
Here’s how to see if your helmet is included in the recall. If the manufacturer’s label is unreadable, retention system hardware will be used to identify the manufacturer, according to the Army’s recall message.
If the hardware matches figure 13, WP 0002-14 of the Advanced Combat Helmet operator’s manual, the helmet is an ArmorSource or Rabintex and must be turned in, the message states.
THE ADVANCED COMBAT HELMET
PEO Soldier fielded the Advanced Combat Helmet beginning in 2003 because it was lighter than the traditional Kevlar helmet, fit better and did not disrupt hearing.
Sizes: Small, medium, large, X-large and XX-large
Weight: 2.93 pounds to 3.77 pounds
Material: The helmet shell is made of Aramid fabric. The edge is finished with a rubber trim.
• Cotton/polyester chin straps and webbing. The chin strap has a four-point design allowing for quick adjustment.
• Polyurethane foam pads on a suspension system designed to protect the soldier from blunt-force trauma.
• Neck Ballistic Protective Pad adds protection between the bottom of the helmet shell and the top of the Interceptor Body Armor collar.