“Gonna be a fine Airborne day for some Airborne, hooah Airborne?!”,
“AIRBORNE!” the Army personnel shouted back enthusiastically,
“Hoo-yah” said the too cool for school Navy EOD guys un-enthusiastically,
“Hoo-fucking-yah” said the PJ’s, CCT’s, SOWT’s, SERE Specialists and TACP’s of the Air Force,
“GayPorn” said the Marine Corps Recon and MARSOC guys which blended in with “Airborne” perfectly.
We stood in the sweltering humid heat, courtesy of the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Sweat soaked our uniforms and our issued mix of MICH and ACH helmets trapped the heat radiating from our heads. It was miserable and was near impossible to keep ourselves hydrated due to the amount that we were sweating. It was a prelude to having trouble staying hydrated in much more austere and hotter conditions, but for many it was a first.
I’ve worn many helmets over the years. From the MICH to the Ops-Core Maritime. For many the Ops-Core is ideal. With the ability to mount peltors on the rails you can easily cool yourself off by clicking them out and folding your peltors back allowing the sweat to dissipate. The main part of your dome is still covered by a helmet but it’s a vast improvement to wearing peltors under your helmet. It wasn’t too long ago that I had the opportunity to finally test out a Crye Airframe. I’d seen the helmet in the past via pictures being used on a somewhat limited basis. I’d heard precious little about it except for second-hand-accounts of it’s performance.
The first thing to note about the Crye Airframe is that the sizing is odd. For some it fits very well, for others not so much. I typically wear a medium helmet, however the medium never fit me despite trying the thinnest pads I could find. Because of this I had to move to a large. The Crye Airframe is tall and wide, these things coupled together made the already large shell feel much larger. The helmet height is due in some part to the fact that it uses two separate shells.
The two separate shells allow for a breeze to get to your head. And it feels awesome. I constantly angled my helmet into the wind to cool myself off. It’s much like wearing a bump helmet where the vents allow passive or active cooling if there is a breeze. Coupled with attaching peltors to the rails and flipping them up and you have a very comfy setup. Unfortunately for me, because I had to go to a large shell, the peltors when rail mounted were too far down on my ears which led to an insufficient seal for hearing protection. Consequently, I had to resort to wearing my peltors underneath my Crye Airframe. The good news is that due to the two shell design the headband fit in very easily and was very comfortable compared to a MICH.
The Crye Airframe is easily upgradable much like other helmets. I ended up adding a Team Wendy Cam Fit retention system which helped with stability. The pads that came with it were more than sufficient and made for comfortable extended use. You may need to play with the pads more than you’re used to, to get the fit perfect on the Airframe compared to some other designs that I’ve used.
The Crye Airframe has some other problems that prevented me from fully committing to the setup. Namely the ballistic protection. The Crye Airframe weighs 2.30 pounds (approx with pads and suspension system) and is rated below NIJ IIIA protection. In order to get NIJ IIIA you need to move up to the Crye Airframe ATX which weighs in at approximately 3.70 pounds. Adding over a pound of weight may not seem like much, but wear that for extended periods of time and your neck will feel it. More pain, less situational awareness. More weight could possibly lead to issues later on down the road. Weight is something that you should definitely consider. Compare that to newer offerings such as the MTEK ballistic (2.2 pounds) and Safariland Delta X (2.22 pounds) both of which offer NIJ IIIA protection and you can see the problem. I want to point out that the Ops-Core Maritime FAST has a similar level of protection to the Crye Airframe and both of these systems have made saves in theatre. There is no doubt that both helmets including the Airframe perform well. However I believe that there are newer offerings for around the same price point with better weight savings which might be a superior option.
I’m aware that no system has a ventilation system like the Crye Airframe. However the height, width, weight, and odd sizing have put me off from the system over the course of time that I’ve used it. With the right head shape I have little doubt that the Airframe is likely the coolest (in both ways) helmet that you can own. However if you’re looking for weight savings with a higher ballistic rating you may want to look closely at other newer helmets which have been released. As with everything do the research and come to a conclusion based on evidence and solid data that you see. And don’t get shot in the head.