THE 1990 HELMET EVALUATION
At the end of the '80, increased aircraft performances and air combat tactics increasingly exposed pilots to great accelerations. As a result, spinal problems and pain complaints were on the increase, with the weight of the pilot's helmet/mask combo playing a significant role.
The request to procure helmet-mask systems with the lowest possible weight, optimum center of gravity and good wearing comfort instead of the existing equipment arise. The goal was not to exceed a total helmet/mask weight of 1 Kg.
The combined technical testing and troop trials had the following main objectives:
The review and assessment of the new available helmet/mask systems design;
The assessment of their weight and center of gravity position;
Compare them with the system already in use at the Swiss AF;
Evaluate them during operation and air combat in terms of protection, comfort and safety requirements;
Analysis and comparison of the technical differences between the three systems, including their impact on handling and protection;
Based on the results, select a system; assess its technical maturity and suitability for troops use with subsequent application for type procurement.
Three helmet-mask set from three different manufacturers were available for the tests. Two set intended for flight evaluations, one for laboratory testing. The three helmet models were:
The TITLIS (CH) type TFC with Dräger 787665-667 oxygen mask;
The GUENEAU (F) type ZEUS C with EROS MP90-7 oxygen mask;
The GENTEX (USA) type H/ATS with HA-LP G010-2000-02 oxygen mask.
Additionally, one ea. GENTEX HGU-55/P (the helmet already in service with the Swiss AF) available for benchmarking purposes.
To be carried out, field of view measurements and impact penetration test.
The tests to be performed were:
Flight tests regarding comfort, handling, safety and protection;
Evaluation of technical compatibility with F-5 E/F; Mirage III S/RS; Hunter; Hawk and PC-7;
Measurement to determine the field of view restriction with the helmet worn;
Noise attenuation measurement and impact penetration assessments to be performed at the EMPA - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
(Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology) in Dübendorf;
Troop use suitability tests.
At some point, it is not known on what basis, but possibly, as the SAF was looking also for a specific helmet to be allocated to instructors operating the Hawk Mk.66, a Gueneau prototype provided with an EROS MP-91 oxygen mask (probably after manufacturer's input) was also taken into consideration.
Those Helmets and mask were integrated into the evaluation program, identified as S001/002/003, the number referring to a helmet and not to a helmet's configuration.
During the flying tests, performed for 220 missions, all helmets developed problems solved in cooperation with the manufacturers. Nevertheless all three types still had some, unacceptable, shortcomings.
Gueneau ZEUS -
The system was generally rated positively, with one exception. The visor too close to the eyes, so people who wear glasses could not wear the helmet due to lack of space.
Titlis TFC -
The helmet-mask system no longer included in the "light helmet" category due to its weight and size. Noise attenuation was deemed unsatisfactory;
Due to the oxygen mask hose routing, a certain determent to turn the pilot’s head to the left.
Gentex H/ATS -
The system was a development of the HGU-55/P already in use and had only a few advantages.
Gueneau proto "S00x" -
The noise protection and noise reduction deemed insufficient;
Possible jamming of the ejection seat handle with the visor control handle;
The attachment of the mask with 3 fitting points difficult and time-consuming, especially as the helmet with its 3-piece shell had no defined fit;
The nape strap not ideally positioned - the helmet pushed forward when head tilted backwards.
Possibly with the exception of the Gueneau S-00x (in fact not "officially" part of the evaluation and had the above significant number of problems), none of the three system tested reached the mass requirement of max. 1 kg weight.
In comparison with the HGU-55/ HA-LP/PPB oxygen mask, which weights around 1.6 kg, there was no decisive gain for the user.
The "light helmet project" was terminated at the end of 1990, as none of the three evaluated systems achieved the desired requirements.