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Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems news release (Dec. 10, 2004): Army and industry working overtime to supply improved tactical headsets for troops in Iraq.

The Army is scrambling to acquire sufficient quantities of improved tactical headsets (ITHs), which are designed to protect soldiers' hearing and to allow them to communicate in the high-noise environment of the M1114 up-armored HMMWVs (High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles) and other light tactical vehicles being used by the Army in Iraq. The ITHs are manufactured by Bose Corporation under a subcontract with Northrop Grumman Corporation. The hurdle is that the improved tactical headset is a completely new, revolutionary design that is being rushed into production to satisfy the Army's needs in Iraq.

"The Army had not planned on needing the new headsets until sometime in late 2005," said Maj. Ron Claiborne, the Army's assistant product manager, vehicular intercommunication systems, with the Project Manager, Defense Communications and Army Transmission Systems. "But we have soldiers in Iraq who need these headsets now, so Bose is working with us to produce ITHs on an accelerated production and delivery schedule."

Speaking in December 2004, Claiborne said there were "around 2,000" ITHs fielded--all in Iraq--and that Bose was able to produce between 125 to 400 a week. "Our goal is to get production and fielding up to between 500 to 700 ITHs per week by the end of January," he said. "Then after we satisfy all requirements for M1114 HMMWV headsets in Iraq, we hope to be able to field them to the rest of the Army beginning in July 2005."

Designed to fit under the standard U.S. Army personnel armor system ground troops helmet and the newer advanced combat helmet, the ITH provides hearing protection through both active and passive noise reduction technologies and enables soldiers to communicate in the high-noise environment (up to 95-plus decibels) that is typical of the M1114 up-armored HMMWV. Soldiers can wear the ITH for extremely long periods without discomfort because of the reduced clamping force on their ears and its light weight (only about 16 ounces). Bose also has a special patent on ear cushion material, which further increases comfort.

Claiborne said that the ITH will be replacing nearly 15,000 emergency-issue interim headsets and older models currently in use. "The emergency issue interim headset doesn't provide any hearing protection from the noise in the M1114 HMMWV," he explained. "The Army's goal is to replace every interim headset with the new ITH so that the soldiers have adequate safety and protective equipment, and reduced hearing loss medical claims."

Also, he said, the new ITH can be put on or quickly removed without requiring a soldier to remove his or her helmet. "This is an absolute requirement for soldiers who might have to quickly dismount from a HMMWV for combat or security operations," said Claiborne.

Claiborne said that he has feedback from Maj. Matt Paige, the project leader for the M1114 Up-Armored HMMWV, who was on temporary duty in Iraq. "Paige said that every soldier he spoke to had only positive things to say [about the ITH]," said Claiborne. "One M1114 crew told him they were wearing the ITH when a tank was operating nearby, and not only was the M1114 driver able to keep in constant contact with the gunner through the headset, but the headset canceled out almost all of the background noise from the tank. Before getting the improved tactical headset, the driver or vehicle commander wouldn't have been able to communicate with the gunner in a safe manner because of the tank turbine engine noise levels."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The effectiveness of the ITH's active noise reduction technology was supported by a study completed in early December 2004 in the engineering psychology department of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. by cadets Edward "Flip" Klein and Jon Wertz, under the leadership of research coordinator Maj. Dan Smith. They studied the effect of noise cancellation on sound localization, comparing use of the interim headset with the improved tactical headset.

"The study supported our hypotheses, which were based on signal detection and sound localization theory," said Wertz, "that the improved tactical headset allows soldiers to better localize the direction of exterior sounds, although there is a degree of typical front-rear confusion."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"In practical terms, this means a soldier wearing the new ITH headset has a better chance of identifying the direction of incoming sniper fire than a soldier wearing the older interim headset," said Claiborne.

For information about availability or technical characteristics of the improved tactical headset or vehicle intercom system, contact Maj. Ron Claiborne at (732) 532-5415 or ronald.claiborne@us.army.mil.

Stephen Larsen is the Public Affairs Officer for the PEO EIS at Fort Monmouth, N.J.
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Title Annotation:In the News
Author:Larsen, Stephen
Publication:Defense AT & L
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:769
Previous Article:Army news service (Dec. 7, 2004): emerging technologies form futuristic uniform.
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