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Aviation Specialties Unlimited, Inc., (ASU) has announced that it has delivered four prototype helmets to the U.S. Air Force at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. ASU was one of only three finalists selected by the AFWERX Fixed Wing Helmet Challenge in November 2018. More than 110 companies submitted helmet designs initially in 2018. In October 2018, the field narrowed to 38 companies and lastly to the final three.
“To be selected as a finalist by the AFWERX team is a tremendous honor,” said ASU director of business development Chad St. Francis. “Our team has worked on this project diligently for months to help solve the needs presented by the Air Force for the next generation of helmets.”
The AFWERX helmet prototypes delivered by ASU were designed to address improved comfort, safety, and ease of integration of future technologies. In addition to meeting the Air Force fixed-wing criteria, the team also ensured that the helmets met rotorcraft impact protection requirements for use in a variety of aircraft. ASU executives have developed, patented, produced, and delivered five separate systems to warfighters over nearly 40 years.
“Our helmets include the latest in impact, thermal, head-borne weight, and stability management,” said ASU chief technology officer Dr. Joe Estrera. “We took into consideration that the helmet needed to be comfortable to wear, yet rugged to protection for pilots and crew members. Our design represents a delicate balance of the two. We feel we were able to address the requirements using newer materials for manufacturing that were not available in older generation helmets. We also designed the prototypes to easily add new technologies that we anticipate will be integrated into the helmets of the future. This forward-thinking design mentality not only allowed us to address our current needs but also future enhancements. ”
ASU’s Light Aviation Stable Ergonomic Relaxed-Fit or LASER-Fit helmet concept is a collaborative effort with Paraclete Aviation Life Support. The solution proposed to improve the current U.S. Air Force fixed-wing helmet is designed to reduce neck load, improve comfort and stability, reduce neck injury, and seamlessly integrate with current and future technologies and attachments.
“Our collaboration with ASU on this project enabled our companies to produce an innovative solution that we believe will become the standard on the next generation of helmets,” said Paraclete Aviation Life Support owner and president Scott Hedges. “Between our expertise in aviation helmet manufacturing and ASU’s technical and program knowledge, we were able to produce the prototypes we feel will not only meet but exceed AFWERX expectations. As a retired military aviator myself, I know the importance of this project. This helmet can keep our men and women safer, more comfortable, and ready to take on their next mission.”
A team of experts from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Human System Division and the Advanced Tactical Acquisitions Corps. reviewed the helmets. The final decision is expected to be made in August 2019 on the final design. A production contract is expected to be awarded to the winner in the fiscal year 2021 that could be up to $20 million.
“ASU was founded by a retired member of the military, and today its employees comprise numerous active and retired members of multiple branches within the United States armed forces,” said St. Francis. “When we designed this helmet, we designed it from the experiences many of our pilots had while flying as well as feedback from the industry.
“Our team understands that every gram matters. They understand that forward integration matters. Ultimately, they understand that giving our pilots the best helmet possible to help them complete their missions is the goal. Offering a comfortable, stable, safer helmet platform fits the mission of ASU and the desire of every member of the company to meet the needs of our Warfighters.”