The new Superwide Ballistic Side Armor attaches to the ARC Rail and gives you plenty of room for ear pro.
The new Superwide Ballistic Side Armor attaches to the ARC Rail and gives you plenty of room for ear pro.
Findings confirm custom earplugs are significantly better at preventing hearing loss for military
Carbondale, PA, April 12, 2017. Gentex Corporation, a global leader in personal protection and situational awareness solutions for defense forces, emergency responders, and industrial personnel announced today findings from an independent study conducted by Virginia Tech Auditory Systems Laboratory regarding its Aegisound CTE30X custom earplugs. The study, funded by the Office of Naval Research, found the custom earplugs significantly outperformed the foam earplugs used in the testing.
Researchers at Virginia Tech examined the performance of commonly used roll-down foam earplugs and Aegisound custom-molded earplugs without training, with training, and 21 days after training. The custom plugs outperformed the foam plugs under all test conditions, and were preferred by the test subjects for ease of use, quickness of fit, and relative confidence in hearing protection offered. One of the most notable outcomes of the study was that the attenuation performance of the custom plugs did not degrade after training, 21 days later, whereas the foam earplugs did. This data point illustrates that foam plugs can be difficult to use reliably, whereas custom plugs offer consistent performance over time.
“Our Aegisound products provide precise intelligible communications and long-term hearing health for military personnel on flight decks and flight lines where some of the loudest occupational noise environments exist,” said L.P. Frieder, president, Gentex Corporation. “This recent study by Virginia Tech validates these and other benefits of choosing custom molded earplugs over foam.”
For Aegisound custom fit hearing protection products, custom ear canal molds are digitally manufactured to exacting standards, which allow the earplug to precisely fit the ear canal to achieve optimal comfort and superior hearing protection in extreme noise (105 to 150 dB(A)), such as those found in military and industrial environments.
John G. Casali, Ph.D., CPE, and Kichol Lee, Ph.D. of Virginia Tech presented findings from their study at the National Hearing Conservation Association’s annual conference on February 24, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas. View the full presentation at this link.
From any angle, they look the same. Both have the same shape, same suspension system, and same accessories. However, the TBH-II is an aramid ballistic solution and the FAST relies on a Polyethylene solution. The TBH-II offers 9mm protection at 1400 fps and the FAST offers 9mm protection at 1200 fps, so fairly similar balllistics. The real differences are in weight and cost. The TBH-II weighs in at about 2.5 lbs while the FAST helmet is 1.5 lbs, both as configured. Now is the biggest factor for many agencies; the TBH-II is $599 and the FAST is in the $1400-1500 range.
If you’re looking for mission configurability, and the cool guy factor, but are willing to accept higher weight, then you may want to consider the Gentex TBH-II MC.
There was a time when helmets were only worn by SOF for airborne operations. Now, it’s standard practice to wear both helmet and body armor in both live-fire training as well as operations. Similarly, when I joined the Army in the mid-80s, the only eye pro were crappy Sun, Wind and Dust Goggles. By the late-90s, effective eye protective glasses and goggles were standard issue and wear in garrison, as well as deployed. The same can be said for active hearing protection. While it’s still not universal, most service members have access to hearing protection with active noise reduction features in addition to their ear plugs. We’ve adapted to the realities of the threat environment and driven technology solutions to the point of protecting head, eyes and ears. Now it’s time to get serious about protecting our service members’ respiratory system.
I first saw the Special Operations Tactical Respirator in the Gentex booth at Warrior West and was immediately impressed. There is no active requirement for this product. Gentex saw an unstated need and spent internal R&D Dollars to create a solution. I have a lot of friends with heavy metal poisoning from years of operating in threat environments as well as training in shoot houses. You’ll pick up a lot of lead just breathing during training, but being deployed exposes folks to a lot of residual, environmental threats as well. In the case of heavy metals, they collect in your body and left untreated, poison for the rest of your life. Naturally, it’s best to avoid altogether, or at least mitigate exposure. That’s where the SOTR comes in.
Adapted from technology created for use in the F-35 Lightning II Program (also known as the Joint Strike Fighter Program) and leveraging over 35 years of other experience in the development of oxygen masks and CBRN equipment for aircrew and aircraft maintainers, Gentex Corporation designed its first respirator for ground applications, the Ops-Core Special Operations Tactical Respirator (SOTR). The new half-mask respirator will provide protection against a wide range of oil and non-oil based particulate contaminants encountered by Special Operations Forces, tactical operators or specialized law enforcement officers.
The half-mask respirator filter offers at least 99.7% filtration efficiency against airborne particulates including lead, asbestos, lubricant mist, and explosive gunfire residue. If it catches on, I can see future development of a filter for use against riot control agents and even CBRN threats for in-extremis use.
Key customer input driving the development of the respirator was that existing respiratory masks were excessive for the current threats they faced and that they did not integrate well with helmets or weapons systems. Employing their streamlined systems approach to design, Ops-Core developed the new respirator to provide protection without interfering with operator’s tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP), and to seamlessly interface with weapon systems for optimal effectiveness.
Other key features of the low profile half-mask respirator include a microphone, compatibility with standard ground communications headsets, two exhalation valves for easier breathing, easy-to-adjust suspension straps for both helmet worn and helmetless wear, a flexible and lightweight silicone face piece to enable fit to a large variety of facial types, front mounted inhalation valve and cartridge ports for enhanced field-of-vision, and a quick, one-handed filter change. In addition to the strap seen here for stand-alone use, the SOTR will also attach to the FAST helmet in a similar fashion to the O2 mask used for MFF parachuting operations.
Available in early 2017, the Ops-Core Special Operations Tactical Respirator was developed at the company’s facility in Rancho Cucamonga, California, which is dedicated to the research, development, and manufacture of respiratory protective products for military and law enforcement professionals.
First available in early 2015, the Ops-Core Sentry and ACH Mandibles and Visors are now more broadly available through Ops-Core’s ecommerce website. Using a unique system design, the mandible and visor combine to provide full-face protection for Ops-Core Sentry Helmets, and ACH style helmets, including certain Gentex Tactical Ballistic Helmets (TBH) using an Ops-Core Upgrade Kit. Unique features of the mandibles include a front vent that prevents fogging and a folding mechanism for easy storage.
Ops-Core Sentry Visor and Mandible shown separately as well as on an Ops-Core Sentry Helmet.
Development of the Ops-Core Sentry Mandible and Visor started as a response to a U.S. government solicitation in 2013. The Program Office was looking for a Maxillofacial System (MFS) that could be worn in conjunction with a visor for complete eye and face protection. The Ops-Core Design Team learned from user feedback trials that dismounted infantry would resist adopting a rigid mandible due to the impediment it created to rifle sighting. This drove the Design Team to pursue two MFS paths: a flexible mandible for dismounted infantry that allowed for rifle sighting (the Ops-Core Gunsight Mandible) and a rigid mandible for mounted infantry manning turret guns (the Ops-Core Sentry Mandible and Visor).
While there wasn’t an Ops-Core MFS product at that time, the Ops-Core Design Team did obtain user input on competitors’ MFS products, which revealed tremendous frustration with existing solutions. Rigid mandibles were typically a one-piece static design that did not allow for exhaled breath to be vented out of the system. This consistently caused fogging on the visor and therefore rendered the product ineffective. In addition, these one piece static designs were typically as wide as a helmet and difficult to stow in a ruck sack.
The Ops-Core Design Team responded to these issues by creating a hinged MFS system that provided two benefits: 1) the hinge at the front of the mandible provided a critical exit for exhaled breath and a critical intake for inhaled breath so that the visor would not fog up; 2) the hinge allowed the mandible to fold up so that it could be easily stowed in a ruck sack and take up as little storage space as possible. The Design Team took MFS thinking one step further by creating a visor that attaches edge to edge on the mandible to create a sealed system, protecting the user from dust and debris.
From its inception, the use of the Ops-Core Sentry Mandible has matured and expanded beyond what the Ops-Core Design Team had originally intended. Designed for defense and law enforcement use, the Sentry Mandible is ideal for exposed vehicle crewmen. When used in conjunction with the Ops-Core Sentry Helmet, the Sentry Mandible creates a full-face ballistic helmet. The Sentry Mandible meets RTP 9mm protection requirements at 1400 FPS and the 17grain V50 requirement at 1800 FPS.
The Sentry Mandible is also a great choice for crowd and riot control. In 2016, the Sentry Mandible was chosen from a broad field of competitors to protect law enforcement at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The design quickly gained confidence and traction with the user community, so a second version was produced that fits ACH style helmets, once an Ops-Core Upgrade Kit is added. The Upgrade Kit includes Ops-Core Accessory Rail Connectors (ARCs), which allow for the addition of components such as mandibles and visors. Ops-Core offers almost identical mandible and visor configurations for ACH style helmets, the key difference being the different geometry between Ops-Core Sentry Helmets and the ACH.
Mandibles and visors continue to gain popularity with users based on their mission requirements. Not every user will want a rigid mandible because of the rifle-sighting impediment, but innovative solutions like the rifle stock that Sig Sauer has created to work with the Ops-Core Sentry Mandible strives to address this deficiency. The geometry of the rifle stock is shaped to go around the front of the mandible so that the rifle can be correctly sighted.
Given the success of the Ops-Core Sentry Mandible and Visor, different variations of them are currently in development, such as the mandible for the Ops-Core FAST Carbon Helmet, which is expected to be available in early 2017.
I know a lot of you have been asking for it, and now Gentex has added the RAC Communications Headset to the Ops-Core website for direct order. They are in stock and ready to ship. In fact, during a recent visit to their factory in Manchester, New Hampshire, I watched them assembling the RACs in anticipation of this move.
RAC consists of outer earcups, wireless earbuds and a boom microphone. It is a delicate balance between protecting and enabling hearing. From the beginning, Ops-Core wanted to offer an internal earbud, which greatly increases hearing protection. For example, with just the earcups, RAC offers 20db protection. By adding the NFMI earbuds, that protection is increased to 32 db. Adding RAC’s wireless earbuds isn’t analogous to adding foamies, which would block the Situational Awareness advantage. Additionally, wired inserts aren’t the answer because wires get in the way of pro masks, balaclavas, etc. Some systems use one form of RF signal or another but, that raises security issues due to encryption.
Instead, Ops-Core decided to use a magnetic system. It’s battery free and wireless. The audio signal stimulates a coil which becomes the transmit antenna. Because it uses a magnetic field to work, you must keep the coil contained in the earcup close to the earbuds. For instance, you can open the earcup slightly to vent, but you can’t move it to the rear in the storage position because the earbud won’t receive the signal.
The RAC features an interesting 3D hearing, Situational Awareness capability, made possible by the integration of what is essentially an artificial ear, combined with electronics. The intake for ambient noise is at an angle, like your ear, rather than flat across the front like on other systems. Inside the intake, the SA microphone is located at the top to avoid the effects of wind, and to help water drain down, after immersion.
Additionally, the external boom microphone is immersible and noise canceling. To swap sides for the boom microphone, you remove the plug and swap it. Although the earbuds are wireless, the earcuos are commected via a cable which is attached to the helmet via Velcro. Various cables are available for connection to comms systems.
Compatible with the Ops-Core FAST and Sentry Helmet Systems, RAC is designed to attach directly to the ARC Rail. RAC mounts to the lower, angled section of the ARC rail. This keeps it out of the way, leaving room for other accessories on the upper section of the rail.
The earcups are mounted on a gimbel to fit a wide variety of ear and head shapes, but one of the most unique features is that RAC has a built-in storage ability. The earcups rotate back to the rear of the helmet when not in use, creating a very low profile. In fact, the earcups aren’t visible from front view when stowed.
RAC is offered in Urban Tan, Foliage Green and Black. However, RAC accpets dipped patterns very well. Additionally, RAC can be purchased with the NFMI earplug capability or without. RACs purchased without the NFMI system are not upgradeable.