The Navy has been developing a new hearing protection helmet for flight crew working under extreme noise conditions, and is expected to begin fielding the new gear this month.
The HGU-99/P Hearing Protection Helmet aims to facilitate crew communication and curtail hearing loss by including additional hearing and impact protection, according to Amie Blade, a spokesperson for Naval Air Systems Command.
“The key differences in the new HGU-99/P helmet provide three levels of increased hearing protection, which include the in-earcup speaker, foamy ear plugs and helmet edge seal to reduce bone conductivity of sound, as well as improved impact/bump protection liner [and] face-to-face communication with speech intelligibility noise-filtering,” Blade said in an email to Navy Times.
The Naval Aircrew Systems program office told Navy Times it spearheaded revisions after fleet assessments from 2020 determined that the HGU-99/P Communication Ear Plug helmet variant now in use could not keep up with sailors and Marines as they put on and took off their helmets multiple times a day during high tempo flight operations.
“Based on the data collected from our fleet assessments, we have been able to further refine the communication capabilities, which will enhance operations tempo on the deck,” Capt. Carey Castelein, program manager for the Naval Aircrew Systems program office, said in a Navy news release.
Fleet assessment recommendations also influenced the design process, although the in-earcup speaker is similar to what is currently in use.
The helmets come in three different variants: a basic one that doesn’t include radio communication; a version supporting a boom mic with radio and cockpit communication for the F/A-18, EA-18G, and the F-35 fighter jets; and another supporting a cup mic sound-powered phone.
All the variants use communications systems tailored to various noise levels, and use the same battery for additional compatibility.
The Navy is planning to field the helmets as part of an upcoming aircraft carrier deployment, and distribution will continue through fiscal 2027.
“Fielding of the HGU-99/P Helmet will begin with the next scheduled deployment of CVN and their attached air wing as determined by [Commander, Naval Air Forces],” Blade said. “All required qualification testing has been completed during the research, development, test and evaluation phase, and the Delta Fleet Assessment human testing and surveys completed from December 2022 through August 2023.”
The Navy did not specifically say which carrier would host the helmet’s debut, however, aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, based in Norfolk, Va., concluded its Composite Training Unit Exercise in July and is expected to deploy later this year.
The Eisenhower’s air department and F/A-18 air wing also participated in fleet assessments for the helmet in 2022 and 2023.