Air Force Police Get New Ballistic Headgear

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Air Force Security Forces NextGen 2.0 Helmet.
Illustration of the Air Force Security Forces NextGen 2.0 Helmet. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Gregory Hand)

The Air Force announced last week it will issue a new ballistic helmet to security forces this year, updating the service's military police force with up-to-date headgear that has deep roots in the Special Operations community.

The Security Forces NextGen 2.0 Helmet features a "high-cut" shape that allows for better access to communications equipment; it also includes a bolt-on rail to mount accessories like a flashlight, an easy-to-replace night vision mount, and an extendable chinstrap to allow security forces airmen -- also known as Defenders -- the ability to don a gas mask.

The change comes relatively quickly for the service, which unveiled the 1.0 version of the helmet less than two years ago after switching from the outdated Advanced Combat Helmet.

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"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," said Master Sgt. John Sutherland, individual protective equipment program manager at the Air Force Security Forces Center, in a press release.

"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," he added.

Security forces airmen evaluated the helmet during "rigorous testing," according to a Sunday Air Force press release.

"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," said Tech. Sgt. Travis Hillard, a security forces instructor supervisor.

The NextGen 2.0 helmet is akin to the Ops-Core helmet -- a piece of headgear historically worn by United States Special Operations Command troops.

Over the last several years, the Air Force has been updating outdated protective equipment, according to the release. In this case, the helmet was adapted from the 1.0 version in what the Air Force calls its "replacement through attrition program."

The release also made mention of updating female protective body armor for Defenders, a problem that has plagued service branches since the integration of female troops, especially into combat roles. The Air Force signed a contract for body armor for female troops two years ago.

"These efforts ensure that Defenders can expect technologically relevant and high-quality gear no matter where they are performing their mission," Sutherland said of the improvement efforts.

-- Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at drew.lawrence@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @df_lawrence.

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