The trend to reduce the weight of the individual equipment worn by soldiers is well known. Minimalistic-style plate carriers, lightweight but durable laminates or laser cutting instead of classic webbing are things now. The problem is still the weight and durability of ballistic plates and helmets – reaching an appropriate balance between these extreme parameters is a great challenge for engineers and users.
Sometimes users put engineers to tasks that are impossible at first glance. So we will look at whether the Revision Military proposal – the Caiman helmets family can address this issue.
We presented the history of Revision Military in more detail in the article about the Viper P4 series helmets in FRAG OUT! #20, so without further ado, we’ll go straight to presenting the Revision’s submission for the US SOCOM SPEAR Family of Tactical Headborne Systems (Coxswain Helmet System).
In 2017, USSOCOM announced that they were looking for a modular head protection system for their combat boat crews, the Coxswain Helmet. The initial news that USSOCOM was looking for new helmets to current Ops-Core FAST MT (aka Maritime, now referred to as Super High Cut – you can read about these helmets in FRAG OUT!#01), for the first appeared in documents around 2015. The program was called Next Generation Helmet, and the phase of technical dialogue lasted from July 2016. Revision was then awarded a development contract for the delivery of the first test batch of new helmets. It is worth mentioning that the name Coxswain Helmet seems to be a little confusing, because the desired helmet is a helmet which will become a new helmet for all SOF units and will replace all the current bump and ballistic helmets.
The requirements set out in the program are as follows: the basis is to be a bump non- ballistic protection helmet with the possibility of providing ballistic protection by attachment of ballistic appliques, with additional accessories such as mounting rails, night vision mounts, visors, and mandibles (ballistic and anti-impact). It is to maintain full compatibility with current 3M Peltor Comtac communication headsets, gas masks, and other equipment. The winner of the tender will receive a five-year contract worth up to $95M.
The concept of ballistic appliques, which might seem daring to some, was known a little bit earlier. A similar design with modular construction of helmets can be found in Russian ballistic helmets and in the concept Team Wendy X2 Scalable Helmet. It is worth noting that the additional front shield for the helmet itself remember the times of World War I, when they were used on steel helmets, in order to provide protection against rifle rounds in conditions of positional war.
Revision Military revealed its proposal for a FHTS solution during AUSA 2016 in Washington D.C, and it aroused a sensation, especially as competitors were still long overdue in presenting their solutions (Ops-Core officially did it during DSEI 2017). The manufacturer also announced that it would offer its system to other customers as Battlskin Caiman.
The Caiman system offered for SPEAR FHTS is based on the Caiman Hybrid High Cut helmet (also known as Carbon Bump) with optional ballistic appliques: front (larger, covering almost ¾ of the side surface of the helmet, and covering almost the entire helmet in a top view, profiled in the area of night vision mounts) and rear (smaller), directly attached to the shell via industry grade hook and loop. Modular design provides greater flexibility because, depending on the tactical situation or user preference, Caiman can be used in a non-ballistic version or its ballistic resistance can be tailored for a specific operation – the appliques can be ‘worn’ as a set or in the form of the front one only. It makes it possible to use one solution in many scenarios. The Hybrid High Cut helmet is perfect for situations where ballistic protection is not required, e.g. for training, mountain or water ops, as a stable and lightweight platform for night vision goggles for patrol operations where the helmet, even if very light, would cause discomfort if used for a prolonged period of time. A modular helmet also prevents situations when a ballistic helmet would have to be carried in a backpack (it would have to be pulled out only after reaching the objective), where it would take up valuable space. The ballistic appliques do away with additional weight and take up much less space after packing.
Ballistic Appliques, are fixed to the shell with the use of durable Velcro. In addition, the rear applique is stabilized with a horizontal strap to the side rail screws. There is hardly any need to worry that any of the components will become detached on their own, even during parachute jumps.
The shell of the Caiman Hybrid helmet is about 5 mm thick and has ten slits for ventilation. The carbon fibers offer high resistance to mechanical impact and crushing, hence their choice as a base. With the addition of modular appliques, the High Cut helmet becomes a ballistic helmet that provides resistance to 1.1 gram of fragments moving at 670 m/s and to 9 mm Parabellum, 44 Magnum, and 357 SIG rounds (NIJ 0106.01 Level IIIA). T this is not the highest possible level of ballistic protection, but such requirements have been set by USSOCOM for the FHTS program since it is about maintaining an appropriate balance etween weight, area of protection, and mobility and comfort.
Another member of the family is Caiman Ballistic, a fully-featured ballistic helmet, with the shell of same shape as Caiman Hybrid, but is made of ballistic polyethylene, most likely reinforced with carbon or glass fiber (the manufacturer does not officially disclose information about the composite of which the shell is made). Caiman Ballistic ensures full ballistic protection in accordance with the US Army ACH helmet standard, but with the additional ballistic appliques, it can be increased to protection level allowing to stop 7.62 x 39 AK rounds. This applique was demonstrated during AUSA 2016.
The simplest version of the Caiman family is Caiman Bump with lightweight glass-fiber polymers shellDue to the lower rigidity of the shell and its resistance to impact only, it may be used only as a bump helmet, and not as a base for appliques.
On the sides of the shells there are skeletonized polymer accessory rails. In addition to the possibility of installing lights or headsets on ARC adapters, O2 masks, and other components, the rails also have the ability to route power cables through them, to avoid the risk of loose cable entanglement in the surrounding elements (e.g. in the case of battery-powered night vision goggles placed at the back of the helmet), thanks to the use of three rubber loops. The rear of the rail, right behind the user’s ear, can be used to attach Revision Military ComCentr2 propriety headsets. Rails feature bungee cords with hooks to stabilize night vision goggles against vibration. The rails are fixed to the shells with four mounting screws.
In the front of the shells there is a WARCOM-standard 3-point Wilcox Industries L4 hybrid shroud, with the housing made of fiberglass reinforced polymers, and the insideart in contact with the arms (“rhinos”) is made of aircraft aluminum for increased wear resistance. The metal rhino is in contact with metal and not with polymer, which would cause its faster wear. The mount has several holes for attaching a hook to the ends of the bungees, and in addition to that, Wilcox is capable to attach an retractable safety lanyard
There are many parts of Velcro loops on the shell to attach S&S Manta or CORE Survival HEL-STAR 6 srtobe lights, MOHOC cameras, counterweights or night vision batter packs, badges, patches and – in the case of Hybrid helmets – ballistic appliques.
The Caiman system is available with Black, Neutral Grey, and Tan 499 color. In addition, or at least as part of the FHTS, they will be offered in Multicam, AOR1, and AOR2 camouflage patterns.
In addition to the lightweight shell, the carrier system has the greatest impact on user comfort. In the case of Battlskin Caiman, the choice was made to use adjustbale internal equipment for customer preferences and requirements.
The system used in the Battlskin Caiman is composed of a number of elements, and its base is an APEX impact liner from Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) internal cushioning pas with closed cells mounted directly on the inside of the helmet shell. It comes with adjustable cushion pads made of shock-absorbing material covered with a soft moisture- wicking mesh fixed to it. Inside, there are two large pads – a front one and 3-part back one. The middle pad can be removed if ear protectors with a headband are used.
The head fit is adjusted by pressing the headband, with an easy-to-use adjuster on the nape pad, which can be easily operated with one hand. There are soft, flat pads attached at the points of contact with the head of the users to the band. What’s interesting is that the headband can be set in one of three positions (actually, up to nine because you ca select three positions at the rear of the helmet and three at the front) or completely removed if required.
Next part of suspension are adjustable four-point H-shaped chinstraps. The headband and its adjustment system pass through a softly padded nape pad, which must be replaced by an additional pad after removal of headband. The straps are available for right-handed and left-handed shooters with different buckle positions. The chin pad was lined with leather to avoid chaffing.
Caiman helmets are currently available in five sizes (S-XXL), allowing you to find the most suitable helmet for your needs. According to the Revision Military reps, in the Medium size,, fully assembled helmets have the following weights: Ballistic – 1,124 grams, Carbon – 750 grams, Bump – 676 grams.
An FHTS-compliant accessory kit is available for Battlskin Caiman helmets and High Cut helmets. The accessories include:
Ballistic Mandible – a quickly disconnectable low-profile jaw guard made of UHMWPE, providing protection against fragments while minimizing problems with ventilation and communication. It is attached to the front of accessory rails by means of a fixed connection. It can be quickly unfastened from either side, while the elements connecting the guard to the rails can be folded for transport.
Bump Mandible – an almost identical mandible as above one, but providing protection only against impact. In contrast to the ballistic protection, it has small holes at the rear, for quick distinction.
Ballistic Visors – made of ballistic polycarbonate with additional OccuMax coating for increased resistance to fogging or scratching. They provide protection against fragments in accordance with ANSI Z87.1-2010, MIL-PRF-31013, and CE EN166 standards. They are available in clear and black options. Two models of visors have been developed: one is attached directly to the Wilcox L4 shroud with fixed metal arm, and the other is attached to the Wilcox L4 G24 arm. The visors offer two positions – open and closed.
NVG Splash Shields – these are transparent, eyepiece-side eye protectors that can be attached to night vision goggles oculars. Their task is to protect against dust, dirt, and splashes of water, which can be of great importance during operations on rough seas. There is also a variant that provides eye protection against laser illumination.
The suggested retail prices are $1,749 for Caiman Ballistic Helmet, $849 for Caiman Hybrid Helmet (without ballistic appliques), and $449 for Caiman Bump.