WASHINGTON, D.C. -- 44,000 Advanced Combat Helmets have been recalled by the U.S. Army amid concerns that they offer "substandard ballistic protection." In other words, according to Army sources, they won't deflect a bullet.
All the helmets in question have been manufactured by ArmorSource LLC, formerly Rabintex USA LLC.
The Army-wide message orders an immediate inspection of all ACHs and the "immediate direct exchange of those ACHs manufactured by ArmorSource and Rabintex" through unit central issue facilities.
The exact risk to soldiers wearing the recalled helmets is still being determined, the Army said.
However, sample testing revealed that the helmets did not meet Army specifications. The matter is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the Army.
Army officials could not say where all the faulty helmets are, but it's likely that some of them are in the war zone, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings said.
"No one has gotten hurt that we know of," Cummings said. "We have sufficient numbers of helmets by other manufacturers in the Army's inventory, and they are being issued to soldiers worldwide and units that are in possession of the recalled helmets."
The recall constitutes 4 percent of roughly one million ACHs in the Army's inventory.
Army officials would not comment on how they found out about the defective helmets and are still unsure how long the faulty helmets have been in the inventory.
The Army adopted the ACH in 2002 to replace the Personal Armor System for Ground Troops helmet. The ACH weighs about 3 pounds in size medium and is designed to protect soldiers from fragmentation and 9mm ammunition.
Currently, three other companies manufacture the ACH - Gentex Corporation, BAE Systems and MSA.
ArmorSource is based in Hebron, Ohio.
The manufacturer's label is located on the inside of the helmet. Soldiers may have to remove one or more of the ACH pads to expose the label.
"If the manufacturer's label is unreadable, the retention system hardware will be used to identify the manufacture," the message states. "If the hardware matches figure 13, WP 0002-14 of the ACH operator's manual, the helmet is an ArmorSource or Rabintex and must be turned in."
The Army recalled 34,218 ACHs in May 2009. The company that manufactured the recalled helmets, Gentex Corp., told the Army it believed the four screws which attach the chinstrap and related parts to the helmet did not conform to Army contract specifications.
The screws failed the ballistics tests at temperatures of minus-60 degrees Fahrenheit and at temperatures above 160 degrees Fahrenheit. In those extreme conditions, rounds were fired directly at the screw heads. Gentex alleged a subcontractor had falsified certificates of compliance related to the type of steel screws it furnished.