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The use of composite materials for military helmets and other armouring solutions differs in many respects from traditional structural composite applications.
(Published on May 2005 – JEC Magazine #17)
For optimum ballistic protection, the laminate has to be “suitably weak” in structural terms. This is achieved by optimizing materials and lay-up to allow absorbing the energy introduced by the projectile through delamination, failure of the fibre-matrix bond, and fibre breakage. Due to the three-dimensional shape of helmets, it is an extremely challenging task to optimise the laminate lay-up in a way that the ballistic performance is achieved all over the helmet area, whilst keeping the helmet weight at a minimum. In helmet production, numerically-controlled automatic cutting of each reinforcement ply is used to achieve high precision and quality. After pressing and water-jet cutting to the right shape, the helmets are sealed with an integrally manufactured edge in order to minimise moisture pick-up of the laminate.
High-performance aramid fibres for outstanding protection
FY-Composites’ helmets are made from high-performance aramid fibres and offer an excellent performance-weight ratio. In addition to protection against fragments, they also offer high protection against bullets. The standard combat helmet developed in co-operation with the Finnish Defence Forces offers a protection area of 0.12m2 and a protection level over 580 m/s against a 1.1-g fragment and 420 m/s against a 9-mm, 7.5-g FMJ bullet. The total weight, including the inner suspension, is only 1.1kg. The advanced design of these composite helmets provides the user with the following features: large protection area; possibility to wear ear protection; versatile options for attachment of other equipment such as visor, gas mask, headset, etc.; easy to clean, good weather and wear resistance; and inner suspension ensuring excellent support, comfort and impact absorption. Compared with traditional metal helmets, composite helmets offer considerably lighter weight combined with much higher ballistic protection.
Individually developed helmets
Typically, FY-Composites’ helmets are developed individually in close co-operation with the customers and tailored to their needs. Customers appreciate the in-house advanced analysis and design tools, as well as the thorough understanding of various composite materials and production methods, which is necessary to achieve lightweight and cost-efficient products while keeping development time short. The market for ballistic helmets includes armies, police SWAT teams and UN troops, amongst others. For instance, a special helmet model with a ballistic visor is used for mine-clearing operations. Other special models include tank crew and police helmets.