US Air Force to Provide Installation Defenders With Next-Gen Helmets

The US Air Force has announced it will distribute the Security Forces NextGen Helmet 2.0 to defenders at its installations later this year.

The procurement of the ballistic helmets is part of an Air Force Security Forces Center (AFSFC) initiative to enable defenders to mount a wider variety of accessories.

Helmet 2.0 features a chinstrap extender for gas masks, a bolt-on accessory rail, and an adjustable/replaceable night vision goggle mount.

The protection gear’s functionality builds on the Security Forces NextGen 1.0 released in 2020 and is part of the center’s “replacement through attrition program.”

“In modern society, we’re all familiar with the urge to update our phones to the latest and greatest model, but this hasn’t translated to some of the most important things in our profession, like ballistic helmets,” AFSFC Master Sgt. John Sutherland said.

“As the world’s preeminent air power, we make great strides to update and upgrade airframes and other operational technologies, so it only makes sense to modernize the equipment used by those that defend them.”

Security Forces NextGen Helmet 2.0. Photo: Gregory Hand/AFSFC

Research and Fielding for Helmet 2.0

Before the fielding of Helmet 2.0, surveys were taken to determine the standards required by defenders.

“Feedback from the field is critical and is actually the reason that some of the characteristics for the 2.0 helmet were developed,” the program manager explained.

“No amount of testing or technical evaluations will cover everything because at the end of the day, only Defenders know what Defenders need.”

The helmets were also trialed during training that involved mounted and dismounted operations, low crawl/high crawl, and other air base defense exercises.

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“The best way to get feedback from the field is by putting our equipment through real-life practical scenarios that a Defender might face in every part of their career from year one all the way through retirement,” Defender Instructor Supervisor Tech. Sgt. Travis Hillard said.

“These helmets were soaked in sweat and caked in sand, and after hours of use each tester was fitted with a gas mask and jacket to ensure compatibility with the helmet,” he added.

Latest Equipment for Defenders

The consistent provision of new and updated equipment for installation defenders will allow the development of the elite weapon systems they need when operating in a modern operating arena, according to the force.

“Threats are increasing and evolving so it’s critical our team provides the enterprise with the latest technology to ensure mission capabilities aren’t hindered and our greatest assets are protected,” AFSFC Security Equipment Manager Master Sgt. Raymond Santiago said.

“In five years’ time, we may be fielding IPE (individual protective equipment) solutions that we’ve only seen in science fiction a few years ago.”