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SPECIAL REPORT

Next Generation Helmet Mounted Lighting Solutions for Modern Military Operations The HEL-STAR™ Family of Helmet-Mounted Lighting Systems Helmet Lighting Market – Key Factors to Consider Helmet Lights – The Next Generation Lighting the Way Integrating Lights into the Next Generation of Helmets

Sponsored by Published by Global Business Media


SPECIAL REPORT

Next Generation Helmet Mounted Lighting Solutions for Modern Military Operations The HEL-STAR™ Family of Helmet-Mounted Lighting Systems

NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

Contents

Helmet Lighting Market – Key Factors to Consider Helmet Lights – The Next Generation Lighting the Way Integrating Lights into the Next Generation of Helmets

Foreword 1 Tom Cropper, Editor

The HEL-STAR™ Family of Helmet-Mounted Lighting Systems

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CORE Survival Inc. Sponsored by Published by Global Business Media

In the beginning…. The Next Generation…. HEL-STAR 5®

Published by Global Business Media

HEL-STAR 6® – First & Second Generation…

Global Business Media Limited 62 The Street Ashtead Surrey KT21 1AT United Kingdom

HEL-STAR 6® Gen III… A Big Move Forward

Switchboard: +44 (0)1737 850 939 Fax: +44 (0)1737 851 952 Email: info@globalbusinessmedia.org Website: www.globalbusinessmedia.org

What’s Next…?

Publisher Kevin Bell

HEL-STAR F²® – A Whole New Ballgame

Helmet Lighting Market – Key Factors to Consider Tom Cropper, Editor

Assessing the Market

Business Development Director Marie-Anne Brooks

New Threats

Editor Tom Cropper

Advances in Technology

Senior Project Manager Steve Banks

Helmet Lights – The Next Generation Outdated Technology

Production Manager Paul Davies

Constant Development

The opinions and views expressed in the editorial content in this publication are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent the views of any organisation with which they may be associated. Material in advertisements and promotional features may be considered to represent the views of the advertisers and promoters. The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily express the views of the Publishers or the Editor. While every care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, neither the Publishers nor the Editor are responsible for such opinions and views or for any inaccuracies in the articles. © 2016. The entire contents of this publication are protected by copyright. Full details are available from the Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. Cover image - HEL-STAR 6© MFF compliments of Complete Parachute Solutions

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Jo Roth, Staff Writer

Advertising Executives Michael McCarthy Abigail Coombes

For further information visit: www.globalbusinessmedia.org

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A New Generation

Lighting the Way

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James Butler, Staff Writer

Rapid Development Adapt and Evolve

Integrating Lights into the Next Generation of Helmets

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James Butler, Staff Writer

Futuristic New Helmet Designs Technology for Night Vision Lighting the Future

References 14


NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

Foreword T

HE DEMANDS placed on modern militaries is

sophisticated devices tailored to the needs of modern

changing rapidly – and as they do, so too does

military personal.

the equipment they wear. When it comes to helmet

Elsewhere, we’ll look into the background. We’ll

mounted lights, soldiers often had to make do with

assess the state of the market and how it is influenced

bulky flashlights or strobes crudely attached to the

by issues such as the changing military landscape and

side of the helmet with a bit of duct tape. This was

also the more constrained financial environment the

inefficient, clumsy and in some circumstances

army finds itself in.

outright dangerous.

Jo Roth will also look at some of the prevailing trends.

As our lead article from lighting manufacturer CORE

As he discovers, the army has a habit of moving

Survival illustrates, the dangers can sometimes

slowly as long as the technology is deemed good

be life threatening. In 1998 a military pararescue (PJ)

enough. Now, though, they are trying to become more

died when his riser snagged on the strobe which

proactive and delivering technology which, not only

had been attached to his helmet. In response, the

caters to present demands, but also the future.

military began the search for lighter and more flexible

Finally, we’ll have a look at what that future might

designs which could reduce such risks. The article

bring. Combat helmets are being revolutionized

describes how the technology has evolved to create

in terms of the technology at their disposal. This

units which are smaller, lighter and capable of a far

creates a range of challenges for manufacturers of

superior performance.

accessories such as lighting, as they work to ensure

Later in the Report we’ll take a closer look at CORE

their technology stays ahead of the curve.

Survival’s key product – the HEL-STAR™ series of helmet mounted lights. We’ll see how manufacturers are working with the army to produce increasingly

Tom Cropper Editor

Tom Cropper has produced articles and reports on various aspects of global business over the past 15 years. He has also worked as a copywriter for some of the largest corporations in the world, including ING, KPMG and the Zurich.

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NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

The HEL-STAR™ Family of Helmet-Mounted Lighting Systems CORE Survival Inc.

The unambiguous dual tactile switching configuration borrowed from HEL-STAR 5® gave the user the ability to uniquely confirm which function was operating at any time, in the blind, with a gloved hand. No guess work or memory required HEL-STAR 4© & HEL-STAR 5©

In the beginning…. Long past are the days of strapping chemlights and a strobe to a military parachute helmet. That method worked until it didn’t – killing a USAF Pararescue Operator (PJ) when his parachute riser snagged on the strobe that was bonded to his helmet. Since that incident off of the coast of Japan in 1998, the military free fall (MFF) community has worked to define safer approaches for MFF helmet lighting. In 2004, representatives of the United States Air Force Special Operations (AFSOC) community approached CORE Survival to develop a low profile, snag-free, break-away lighting solution for High Altitude High Opening / High Altitude Low Opening (HAHO/HALO) parachute helmets. The result of that collaboration, which included input from active duty PJs and representatives from helmet manufacturer, Gentex Corporation, led to the development of HEL-STAR 4® – the first light of its kind designed and purpose-built to fit the contours of military helmets. This original two2 | WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM

function HEL-STAR™ allowed users to replace their chemlights with a device that opened the door to multiple functions and selectable visible and infrared operating modes.

The Next Generation… HEL-STAR 5® By mid-2009, end users were asking for more functions in an effort to further reduce the number of devices needed to meet mission requirements – and to reduce weight, bulk, and cost. HEL-STAR 5®was developed to do just that – replacing the functions of chemlights and boxy strobes by providing three selectable functions or combinations of functions including green, green with white strobe, and infrared. Later versions of the HEL-STAR 5® added red and blue to the userdefined color options and improved robustness. As awareness of HEL-STAR™ grew, other user groups beyond military free fall began seeking new lighting options that would increase visibility, flexibility and functionality. CORE again went to work with key user groups to create a


NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

HEL-STAR 6® GEN III

helmet light that surpassed the capabilities of all helmet-mounted lighting devices that were currently available.

HEL-STAR 6® – First & Second Generation… Besides HEL-STAR 4® and HEL-STAR 5®, the military community had by now several of choices for military helmet lighting. However, with the rapid changing landscape of the war fighter, nothing completely fit the bill. CORE was asked by a user group to step in and develop something totally new that would meet their specific requirements, as well as cover a broader reach of other user groups within their organization. Incorporating successful features that had been developed in the earlier HELSTAR 4® and HEL-STAR 5® products such as the waterproof design, multiple overt/ covert functions, curved mounting base, highintensity LEDs, and dual sliding switches, HEL-STAR 6® Gen I emerged as a compact, high visibility and extremely flexible device with a total of four discrete functions and/or combinations of functions that could be user-defined in terms of emission (white, red, blue, green, amber and IR), steady operation or variable flash rates with variable intensities from dim to intense. The unambiguous dual tactile switching configuration borrowed from HEL-STAR 5® gave the user the ability to uniquely confirm which function was operating at any time, in the blind, with a gloved hand. No guess work or memory required. HEL-STAR 6 ® went into production in December 2011. While gaining early acceptance,

it missed the objective of waterproofness at 66 feet. HEL-STAR 6® Gen II was introduced in mid 2012 which provided the necessary improvements that ultimately exceeded this standard which has been verified in open sea tests to 130 fsw, and SCUBA equipment laboratory tests to 300 feet. Other testing confirmed that the unit surpasses the FAA 3-statute mile requirement for parachute operations at night. The use of HEL-STAR 6® spread through the SOF community and combat SAR units in the United States and several NATO allies. Like its predecessors, the HEL-STAR 6® is also listed on several “approved-for-use” and “safe-to-fly” lists including the U.S. Navy ANU and the U.S. Air Force Approved for Use. HEL-STAR 6® is innovative in a number of respects, but one of the most important is visual security when operating in infrared. Most LED lighting devices operating in the NIR spectrum have a significant visible “red” component that can be seen with the naked eye in full dark conditions. HEL-STAR 6® was designed with infrared LEDs that emit almost no visible “red” – increasing the security of the wearer while still providing excellent response with current military night optical devices. HEL-STAR 6® maintains a strong military freefall component providing a break-away, Velcroonly attachment means to prevent injury to a parachutist if the device were to be snagged by lines or risers during chute deployment. As the horizon of use expanded from MFF to ground operations, it became necessary to add WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM | 3


NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

HEL-STAR 6® maintains a strong military free-fall component providing a break-away, Velcroonly attachment means to prevent injury to a parachutist if the device were to be snagged by lines or risers during chute deployment

a level of security to the helmet attachment to help prevent loss. To solve this problem, CORE developed the “Attach Patch” series of semipermanent helmet attachment security means for the HEL-STAR 6® utilizing a unique Velcro/ bungee retention system. The Attach Patch is available in self-adhesive versions for mounting directly on the helmet shell, as a sew-on for fabric helmet covers, and tie-off versions for particular styles of helmets and covers.

HEL-STAR 6® Gen III… A Big Move Forward CORE recently introduced a third generation of HEL-STAR 6® with a number of product improvements including a slightly smaller, redesigned package, integrated tie-downs, improved light intensity, longer battery life and perhaps most important, the ability to re-program the four operating functions in the field. The user is now able to tailor HEL-STAR 6® Gen III emission functionality to meet specific and changing training or tactical requirements on an ad hoc basis. The field re-programming capability is an option that requires a handheld Program Interface Module (PIM) and a laptop. The PIM includes downloadable driver software for the laptop and an easy to use graphical user interface (GUI) that allows the user to select any or all of the four operating functions for reprogramming. Once the PIM is re-programmed through the GUI, it is able to re-program any number of HEL-STAR 6® devices to the new functions, and to return those devices to the original factory settings without the need to interface again with the laptop.

WIRELESS PROGRAMMING (PIM)

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HEL-STAR F²® – A Whole New Ballgame Identification-friend-or-foe (IFF) requirements were voiced by the users in the early days of the HEL-STAR 6® development, but were shelved for the moment in the interest of solving the helmetmounted marker light requirement first. Although “passive” IFF marking had been available, users wanted more capability while carrying less gear. HEL-STAR F²® was conceived to be, and has become, a combination overt/covert marker and “active” IFF device that again consolidates the functions of several pieces of kit into a single unit – replacing chemlights, handheld or gearmounted strobes, and now IFF patches. The IFF requirement was based on making the HEL-STAR F²® responsive to the interrogation of a weapon mounted laser. The first and most important response was to alert the operator who initiated the laser-interrogation that the wearer of the HEL-STAR F²® was a “friendly”. This was accomplished by HEL-STAR F²® receiving the incoming laser signal and responding in a pattern that would be recognized by the operator/interrogator as confirmation of a “friendly” combatant. The second response of the HEL-STAR F²® to the incoming laser interrogation signal was to provide a tactile warning response to the wearer of the HEL-STAR F²® that they had been interrogated, giving the wearer the opportunity to take appropriate action/response per training protocols. HEL-STAR F²® has far exceeded the user’s requirement for omni-directional IFF signal acquisition and response at long range field tests conducted by the users.


NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

HEL-STAR F²® WITH IFF

HEL-STAR F²® draws on the successes of the HEL-STAR™ product line while continuing the march to provide more capability in a small package which will stand reliable for the user in the most remote and demanding of environs.

What’s Next…? The HEL-STAR™ family continues to expand, improve, and keep pace with the user community’s needs, changes in the battlefield environment, and advances in host equipment. The HEL-STAR™ family is positioned for integration into the next generation of helmets and compatibility with advances in visual augmentation along with improvements in battlefield marking, combatant discrimination, and IFF security for our war fighters. On the more immediate horizon is an omnidirectional, higher-visibility version of HEL-STAR 4® and HEL-STAR 5®, and a new generation, more robust HEL-STAR 5 ® device with

an upgrade from three to four functions, improved switching, easy battery access, and a smaller footprint. In addition to helmet lighting and IFF, CORE continues leadership in innovative lighting products in support of the MFF and aerial delivery communities including parachute and parachutist lighting systems and drop zone/ wind direction markers. The HEL-STAR™ family of purpose-built military helmet-mounted marking and IFF devices is the direct result of end-user/operator requests, requirements, and ideas. There would be no HEL-STAR™ products without their inspiration, whip-cracking, and feedback – particularly when things went wrong. Our thanks to the few whom we have been privileged to work with in development and testing, and our thanks to the many who have used our products in the field and provided invaluable feedback and support throughout the life of HEL-STAR™.

On the more immediate horizon is an omni-directional, higher-visibility version of HEL-STAR 4® and HEL-STAR 5®, and a new generation, more robust HEL-STAR 5® device with an upgrade from three to four functions, improved switching, easy battery access, and a smaller footprint

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NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

Helmet Lighting Market – Key Factors to Consider Tom Cropper, Editor

Evolving threats and challenges – how helmet lighting must adapt to a new military environment.

To cope with these new challenges, the technology underpinning helmet mounted lighting is evolving fast

T

HE ARMY has always been torn between upgrading to the latest technologies or sticking with what has worked in the past. Both represent a risk. Upgrading might involve a cost, while there’s no guarantee it will do the job. Sticking with the status quo also represents a risk, as outdated equipment can fail or let soldiers down at vital moments. In a high risk environment such as combat, the consequences can be deadly.

Assessing the Market When it comes to helmet lighting, the market has moved on considerably. In place of bulky strap on flashlights, we have slim, light multipurpose LEDs capable of operating in a range of models and colors. These are smaller, lighter, more flexible and far more powerful than anything that has gone before. However, as the range of choices expands, choosing between them becomes increasingly difficult. One of the key factors which influences choice is the evolving state of the market. For the past few years overall spending has been in decline. In the US, the 2011 budget control act cut $487bn from projected defense spending over the course of a decade1. The majority of NATO powers have seen defense spending flat-line or decline. As engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq came to an end, and as governments sought to control spending, large military budgets appeared fertile ground for savings. In such a climate, it’s reasonable to assume the market for military accessories – such as lights – might take a hit. However, there are signs that this trend may soon reverse. IHS Janes, in their annual review, predicted world-wide defense spending to climb from $1.65 trillion to $1.68 trillion by the end of 20162. Soldiers also continue to buy premium accessories as they look for upgrades over and above the equipment on offer as standard issue. This change of direction has come about because the threats are changing. The army 6 | WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM

is simultaneously in a constant state of action, evolution and preparation. It has experienced 15 years of continuous action in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and continues to deploy in Syria and elsewhere as it counters the rising threat of ISIS. An increasingly aggressive Russia, meanwhile, has the US deploying resources with partners around the world, and the US pivot to the Pacific has it rubbing up against a more assertive China. The nature of warfare has evolved constantly throughout the Afghan and Iraq deployments as the threat evolved. In the early days, equipment struggled with the sand and heat, while the enemy changed and became more mobile. Now, as it prepares for future conflicts, strategies will be evolving once again. As the US army vision for 2025 states. “Guided by our professional ethos, our leaders and units will continue the Army’s transformation into an agile, expert, innovative, interoperable, expeditionary, scalable, versatile, and balanced force that can provide additional strategic options for civilian and military leaders in future crises.3”

New Threats They must change because the landscape the military faces is evolving: •R  ise of non-state actors: Groups such as ISIS are increasingly acquiring sophisticated technology and equipment, which allows them to acquire state-like military capabilities. •H  ybrid threats: Challenges are increasingly interconnected and related such as terrorism, migration, ethnic conflict and weak or failing states. These will require a more proactive and connected strategy. •M  ajor powers: Military aggression from Russia and an increasingly assertive China present a range of challenges to the traditional order. These power struggles will play out in a variety of different ways forcing the army to be more agile and adaptable.


NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

48TH RESCUE SQUADRON WITH HEL-STAR 6®. U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY STAFF SGT. ADAM GRANT

•U  rbanization: Urbanization is spreading in the developing world and could be characterized by mass ungovernable urban sprawls close to existing cities. These could create a haven for terrorists and other enemies, which in turn means a complex and dangerous operational environment for troops. Maintaining visibility among the group and effective friend or foe identification will be crucial to the safety of troops. The army must adapt to address these new challenges, and that starts with the equipment it uses in the field. Personnel may find themselves operating further from bases and in far more complicated warzones. Lighting will need to be clear, high performance, mobile and reliable. These will be the demands which shape the future of helmet mounted lighting in the 21st century.

Advances in Technology To cope with these new challenges, the technology underpinning helmet mounted lighting is evolving fast. Working closer with end users, manufacturers are constantly developing and upgrading their latest designs. Each one offers greater flexibility and more features than the one before. So how does a buyer decide between them? The latest lighting technologies offer improvements across the board. They can

operate at a higher brightness level for longer. They are designed specifically to meet users’ demands by providing superior lateral visibility, for example, or addressing covert illumination to allow visibility in infra-red (IR) only. Controls have been designed to be more usable for operators in the field. They are more intuitive to use and easy to access while wearing gloves; they are sturdy enough to cope with ongoing use in harsh environments; and require less maintenance, ensuring they can continue with optimum operating capacity for longer. Casing materials are coming down in weight, thanks to the development of advanced polymers. These are designed to offer maximum durability even in harsh environments while weighing in at only a few ounces. Every ounce saved reduces the burden on a soldier’s body and makes it easier to move. Simple additions such as easy clip-on attachments or Velcro can make it much easier to fit and position a unit, while also offering swift detachment in case of snagging. Some of these improvements are incremental, especially for those who already have more recent models. What they represent is an attempt to refine the technology according to the changing demands of the soldiers. These are shifting constantly so the technology needs to be nimble to keep up.

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NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

Helmet Lights – The Next Generation Jo Roth, Staff Writer

How the next generation of helmet mounted lights are revolutionising the experience for soldiers on the ground.

Today, the most cutting edge manufacturers are producing lightweight, resilient, high performance lighting systems which meet the key requirements of soldiers

I

T’S THE kind of story the newspapers love. It contained everything – the army, nuclear weapons and severely outdated technology. The headline said it all: “US nuclear force still uses floppy discs”. A technology that went out with the 70s was responsible for running the USA’s nuclear arsenal. It was a story that points to a serious issue within the military: legacy systems are in desperate need of being updated.

Outdated Technology According to the report, the USA’s ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft run off an IBM Series 1 Computer – a 1970s operating system. The reason – because as a Pentagon Spokesman said “it still works,” and this is an attitude which holds back development across the army. Because an existing system performs well, it’s difficult to justify expenditure. It often leads to soldiers taking matters into their own hands. In 2003 a report found that more than half of British soldiers (55%) and 42% of officers had used mail order services to update equipment on their own account4. The army said that their standard issue equipment was perfectly adequate, but soldiers simply want the best. Many years later, the problem remains. Speaking to Stars & Stripes, Sean Matson, a former Navy Seal who had become CEO of a military equipment supply company, recalled that he and other soldiers had clubbed together to buy more advanced ballistic helmets. Although he’d been measured several times for a new helmet, commanders had not settled on a solution. Therefore, he went directly to a specialist and bought a helmet which could house the lights, communications devices and batteries he needed5. When it comes to helmet mounted lights, the army has for many years taken a ‘good enough’ approach. Soldiers have been using flashlights

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and xenon strobes which, in some cases, have been in use for decades. But the old chemical lights and bulky strobe lights were not nearly up to the demands of modern warfare. They were heavy, lacked battery power and lighting options. They may have performed adequately for many years, but the technology was now moving forwards. Today, the most cutting edge manufacturers are producing light-weight, resilient, high performance lighting systems which meet the key requirements of soldiers such as improved maneuverability, covert illumination and friend or foe identification. Soldiers need a device which is less likely to interfere with other equipment and impede their movement; something which can operate for prolonged periods of time in remote locations and which can offer real visibility for them and their colleagues.

A New Generation The result is a new generation of clip-on lights. There are many manufacturers offering a range of devices. Competition is driving innovation and new models of the more advanced units are becoming available continuously. Many of these upgrades tend to be minor developments. For example, older models might click onto the side of a helmet with a fixed mounting, while newer models will offer 360-degree rotation. Advanced polymers are being developed to provide a much lighter casing. The latest models come in at just a few ounces in weight including a battery. They are also being designed with better ergonomics in mind. Units will be tiny and fitted flush to the helmet. Most are also designed to be level with the bottom rim of the helmet so it can be laid down flat against the ground. Lights will be stronger, clearer and longer lasting and with an increasing variety of options. You might see a switch between white, blue or red light and infrared. The white light can


NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

AIRMAN HOISTS EXPLOSIVE DETECTION DOG. HEL-STAR 5Š. USAF SGT. STEPHENIE WADE

offer various lighting levels which, in turn, offer different lifespans. The most advanced units also offer an option for infrared light, which can only be picked up through IR sensitive devices such as the night vision goggles. These allow units to operate in complete darkness – undetected by the enemy but with the advantage of being able to locate one another.

Constant Development The army itself is responding and developing advanced upgraded combat helmets capable of delivering a range of high performance technologies directly to the troops in the field. These have space for lights, cameras and other equipment to make life easier for troops on the ground. This includes a universal helmet mounting system to ensure that

troops can tailor the equipment to their requirements. They are also developing helmets themselves to create futuristic designs capable of providing enhanced protection and functionality. Bringing all these technologies together in one place shows that what is possible extends considerably further beyond what is currently in place. Despite the budget cuts, the army has to continue moving forwards and develop new technologies capable of improving the effectiveness of fighting forces and the safety of personnel on the ground. Small details such as helmet mounted lights can sometimes be overlooked, but when it comes to events on the ground it is often those tiny details that make the difference and give forces a crucial tactical edge.

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NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

Lighting the Way James Butler, Staff Writer

How the latest generation of helmet mounted lights is continually evolving to meet the needs of troops.

The days of old fashioned, clunky lights which fitted onto the helmet with a piece of duct tape are gone

T

ODAY’S COMBAT helmets are evolving. They are becoming more than just pieces of protective equipment and are housing a range of equipment which places a huge amount of information at the hands of soldiers. Modern advanced combat helmets come with increased protection against bullets and blunt impact, as well as capacity for more and more equipment. Soldiers already have space for cameras, lights, night vision goggles and much more. In the future they may be supplementing this with a host of advanced and sophisticated devices such as virtual and augmented reality displays which help them communicate more effectively with their home base and other troops.

Rapid Development All this is spurring development in the equipment which fits onto a tactical helmet, including the mounted lights. The days of old fashioned, clunky lights which fitted onto the helmet with a piece of duct tape are gone. In their place are sleek LED based devices offering multiple modes of operation, which are fitted snugly onto the contours of the helmet. A major step forward came with the development of the HEL-STAR 4® helmet light from CORE Survival Inc. Originally, this was intended as a snag free multi-purpose light for parachute operations. The single strobe fitted on top of the helmet and replaced bulky strobe lights and the chemical light-sticks. Instead of multiple, cumbersome lights, they now offer a single unit flexible enough to fit onto any surface. It operated in a variety of modes including white and colored LEDs – both flashing and constant – which can be both visible and invisible to the naked eye. Its lower profile and lightweight design meant it was easier to carry and reduced the risk of snagging other equipment, while its powerful LED lights provided clear visibility in all lighting conditions. The lights were also designed to be intuitive and flexible for users in the field. Solid feeling switches 10 | WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM

can easily be operated by gloved hands in zero light, while the battery can be simply replaced in the field. Flexible programing allows users to tailor the unit to their own requirements with user defined flash-rates or codes. The result was something a world away from products existing at the time which were heavy, limited in their range and cumbersome. It was a system designed around the way in which soldiers operate in the field, and since then it has continued to develop. New updated versions have been released – the HEL-STAR 5© and HEL-STAR 6®. The HEL-STAR 6® was first produced back in 2011 and was developed to specifically address key requirements of the military. Since then, there have been two more generations with the third being released in 2015. Sliding switches have been enhanced to provide a more intuitive feel and operation. The design has become more robust – capable of continuing to operate in extreme conditions and to withstand heavy impact. It has been tested to exceed the FAA’s three statute mile visibility requirement and is both shock and vibration resistant, waterproof in open sea and dustproof. It also comes with a permanent Velcro interface enabling it to be positioned directly onto the helmet.

Adapt and Evolve Perhaps the most notable change, though, is the improvement of invisible IR lights. Even among so called covert systems, there is often a small red component of the light which remains visible to the naked eye and so can be detected by enemies. That is no longer the case. CORE Survival claims its lights remain virtually invisible to the naked eye. As it moves into the future, the HEL-STARTM series is also set up to adapt and evolve with new technologies, and this could be crucial to long term success. Technology is evolving, and commanders are adopting new strategies, all of which will impact on the way in which soldiers operate on the ground. Plenty of work has gone


NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

HEL-STAR 6® PARACHUTE EXHIBITION. Compliments of CHRIS STARK, GOLDEN WINGS PARACHUTE TEAM

into predicting the future course of events. The British army, for example, has the Army 2020 project6, a response to the Strategic Defence and Security Review, published by the government in 2010. It sets out a vision of how the army will develop into the future. The US also has its own Vision for 2022 in which it lays out its own plans. However, that future is uncertain. It is difficult to predict budgets, or the number of soldiers available, how technology will be incorporated into modern combat situations, or what challenges future wars will present. The experience of Afghanistan and Iraq threw up a number of situations commanders were unprepared for. Incorporating future technologies, therefore, requires considerable flexibility and adaptability. The HEL-STAR™ lights were a game changer for the military. For the first time a system could fit flexibly across the top of a helmet. It was stronger and more durable, and allowed soldiers the option of switching between a variety of modes and choosing between white, colored and infra-red. Since then more operators have joined in. Any search on the internet will unveil a host of products, from a variety of manufacturers for different functions. Products from ACR Electronics, Adventure Lights, Cejay Engineering and S&S Precision compete with HEL-STAR™ in the helmet mounted marker light arena. Other helmet mounted gear are also keen on maintaining a small footprint such as the Surefire flashlight which offers significantly reduced

weight and improved function over and above the current issue flashlights. It can fit onto the side of the helmet and can rotate 360 degrees and offers various levels of brightness, long battery life and operation both in the visible and IR spectrums. This has been designed with lightness and flexibility in mind. The full size flashlight weighed in at less than a D-Cell battery used in conventional flashlights, but they have since gone further and slimmed down the technology into a mini light designed specifically to fit onto the side mounting of a helmet. This is lighter still and offers a similar power output in a much smaller package. The key to all these new products is ease of use, durability, long battery life and snag free operation. As LED technology evolves, it is capable of producing brighter and higher power beams which can offer many hours of battery life. They can easily function at different levels of intensity allowing operators to vary the brightness and battery life. Today’s soldier, therefore, has one thing he did not have in the past: choice – and the evidence can be seen across the internet and YouTube as people take to discussion forums and post YouTube videos detailing the latest equipment and explaining their own preferences. Competition is high, which is driving innovation. The landscape is also evolving rapidly; no sooner is one new product unveiled than the next one is in the development stage. The future holds out the prospect of products offering more functions, lighter weight, tougher bodies and easier use.

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NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

Integrating Lights into the Next Generation of Helmets Tom Cropper, Editor

Every piece of equipment is becoming high tech. Integrating advanced helmet lighting systems will be a major challenge for the future.

U.S. ARMY RANGER WITH HEL-STAR 6®. U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY PFC. RASHENE MINCY

Technology is developing rapidly across the board, but if new systems are not compatible with one another that will simply mean a huge amount of money invested on a system which is of limited use

A

RMY EQUIPMENT exists in a perpetual state of development. Even if today’s troops are given the best technology money can buy, the search is on for something which can improve operations while making their lives a little easier. So, although modern helmets have come a long way in terms of sophistication and the protection they afford, they are also turning their eyes towards the future – tomorrow’s futuristic helmet designs are already in the pipeline. However, there is a problem. Technology is developing rapidly across the board, but if new systems are not compatible with one another that will simply mean a huge amount of money invested on a system which is of limited use. This is the challenge facing the developers of helmet mounted lighting. It’s one thing to develop a range of the latest lighting options, but they have to be compatible with current and future helmet designs.

Futuristic New Helmet Designs One new helmet design currently being tested by the equipment manufacturer Revision has excited the media with descriptions liking it variously to the helmet from the Halo Games Series and the Stormtroopers of Star Wars. It has been in development for the past few years and is part 12 | WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM

of an ongoing attempt to address the high rate of head injuries during the Iraq and Afghan wars. Alex Hooper, Vice President of Global Sales for Revision Military said the new kit was effectively Gucci for the fighting man. “We are trying to make it sexy,” he says, “as more often than not, soldiers want sexy kit.” That may be true, but of far greater importance is the technology underpinning the helmet. An ultra-lightweight polymer is bulletproof at its core and weighs just 42 ounces. The traditional shape is gone, replaced instead by a mouth protector giving it the appearance of an extremely sophisticated motorcycle helmet. Soldiers can also wear eye protection, which filters out harmful UV rays, keeps out the desert dust and is even said to be capable of withstanding a shotgun blast from five meters. The helmet also has extensive provisions for night vision with a mount for night vision goggles as well as helmet mounted cameras and lights which can record video and send it back to commanders. Visual augmentation is also developing rapidly. For example, researchers at the University of Wisconsin recently secured funding for the development of a new project – curved surfaces for night vision goggles. These create a much larger field of view for combat personnel and have


NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

U.S. ARMY RANGER 75TH RANGER REGIMENT WITH HEL-STAR 5©. U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY PFC. RASHENE MINCY

been made possible thanks to breakthroughs in semi-conductor material. Until now constructing a viable curved surface for night vision goggles had been considered challenging, as materials needed to be both highly photo-sensitive but also pliable. Silicone used in sensors is not good enough, so the university’s solution has been to use germanium nano-membranes.

Technology for Night Vision In a separate project they are also developing a military surveillance imager which can create a much more detailed night vision image. Previously, imagers have worked by taking an image with visible light and another with infra-red and combining the two. These new imagers work across multiple spectra and can combine both IR and visible images7. Other researchers at the University of Texas are also developing advanced semi-conductor technology which can make night vision goggles more affordable to use in everyday life. In tur, this has the potential to make equipment much more affordable for the military8. Development is taking place across the board and around the world. For any manufacturer developing the latest generation of helmet lighting, the big challenge is making sure their product can adapt as new technologies come into play. The latest helmet lighting systems are being designed firstly to be compatible with the latest helmet designs, but also to incorporate new technology in the future. In designing equipment for the future soldier, the army is placing emphasis on systems which can not only make soldiers safer and better protected, but are also more mobile. That means units which offer lighter weight. Such is the amount of technology available to the modern soldier that the load they carry has increased exponentially

over the last few years. The average US soldier now carries approximately 60lbs of weight9. Research has shown soldiers suffering muscularskeletal injuries and also, according to a recent report from Tel Aviv, damage to their nerves10. To maximize operational effectiveness while also reducing the load, the onus is on every piece of equipment to reduce weight and bulk. Compared to lighting systems from a few years ago, today’s technology has been slimmed down immensely thanks to advances in design and new materials, and they continue to evolve.

Lighting the Future Tomorrow’s lights will have to integrate with ever more advanced combat helmets, increasingly sophisticated visual augmentation technology and friend or foe identification. It will be a much more complex and technologically sophisticated landscape – one in which the best technology will offer a significant tactical advantage in the field. As the leading manufacturers work to update and improve their product offerings, many of these changes will appear relatively minor. Battery access might change to become easier, switches will become sturdier and casings will become that much lighter. New functions will be added to further increase the available options for front line soldiers. However, they mark a gradual evolution which sees the technology continually updating to the requirements of men and women on the ground. With all of these developments, end user collaboration will be crucial. The most successful and popular products are those which have been developed with input from the people who will be using them in the field. As the needs of those soldiers evolve, that is likely to remain a crucial factor for years to come. WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM | 13


NEXT GENERATION HELMET MOUNTED LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR MODERN MILITARY OPERATIONS

References:

Is it Time to Increase US Defence Spending: http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/it-time-increase-us-defense-spending-16369

1

2

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/defence/12055228/NATO-defence-cuts-set-to-end-as-security-worries-boost-spending.html

3

4

NATO Defence Cuts Set to End:

US Army Vision for 2025: https://www.army.mil/e2/rv5_downloads/info/references/the_army_vision.pdf

Soldiers Having to Buy Their Own Kit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2664349.stm

5

Lacking Basic Gear: http://www.stripes.com/news/lacking-basic-gear-special-operators-stuck-buying-their-own-equipment-1.396109

6

Army 2020: http://www.army.mod.uk/structure/33449.aspx

7

Advances in Night Vision from Cow Country: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/01/10/advances-in-night-vision-from-cow-country.html

8

New Technology Could Improve Night Vision Thermal Imaging: http://phys.org/news/2015-03-technology-night-vision-thermal-imaging.html

9

What do Soldiers Carry: https://protonex.com/blog/what-do-soldiers-carry-and-whats-its-weight/

10

Heavy Backpacks May Damage Nerves: https://protonex.com/blog/what-do-soldiers-carry-and-whats-its-weight/

14 | WWW.DEFENCEINDUSTRYREPORTS.COM


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Defence Industry Reports – Helmet Mounted Lighting Solutions for Modern Military Operations  

Defence Industry – Special Report on Next Generation Helmet Mounted Lighting Solutions for Modern Military Operations

Defence Industry Reports – Helmet Mounted Lighting Solutions for Modern Military Operations  

Defence Industry – Special Report on Next Generation Helmet Mounted Lighting Solutions for Modern Military Operations