The Air Force wants a lighter, “next generation” helmet for aircrews and it’s looking to entrepreneurs and private sector companies to create it.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Human Systems Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is in the early stages of acquiring next generation helmet for aircrews in fixed-wing aircraft with the exception of the F-35, according to a Wright-Patterson news release.
The Human Systems Division awarded $600,000 in grants to three companies to develop and present prototypes for the helmet by the end of May 2019, the release stated.
The team worked closely with AFWERX Vegas — an Air Force innovation hub specializing in engaging entrepreneurs and private sector vendors — to identify the pool of companies that could potentially develop the new helmet faster, more efficiently and with cutting edge technology.
“It (legacy helmet) is a 1980’s designed helmet that was not made to withstand and balance everything – technology – that we are putting on them,” said 1st Lt. Naomi Harper, a program manager with the Human Systems Division, in a statement. “If the weight is off, the center of gravity is completely off, which can cause neck issues and pain. Our goal is to find a helmet that is lighter, has more stability and is compatible fixed-winged aircraft and equipment.”
The division would like to select one of the prototypes and put that company on contract by Sept. 2019 for further development activity and future production.
Because of AFWERX Vegas, a process that in the past would have taken years to complete, will now only take months, which in turn will allow the Human Systems Division to field the helmets to aircrews faster.
“Innovation hubs like AFWERX are starting to spin up around the Air Force,” said Adam Vencill, a member of ATAC and a program manager by trade, in a statement. “A challenge the Air Force has is getting products on contract that comes out of these hubs. We (ATAC members) were tasked to create a business model that helps that transition process.”
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