May 17th, 2010
02:31 PM ET

Army recalling 44,000 combat helmets

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The U.S. Army is recalling 44,000 Advanced Combat Helmets (ACH), some of which are being used by troops already deployed in combat zones in Afghanistan, because of a concern they do not meet ballistic and other standards required by the Army.

The Army recalled the helmets, which are standard issue for all soldiers, last Thursday after receiving ballistic test results that showed the helmets did not meet the services requirements, according to Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, chief of testing and buying equipment for soldiers. Watch CNN's Chris Lawrence's report on the recall

The recall was triggered after the Army was told by the Department of Justice of an ongoing investigation into the company that makes the helmets, ArmorSource LLC, formerly Rabintex USA LLC.

"There is evidence that ArmorSource and Rabintex ACHs were produced using unauthorized manufacturing practices, defective materials and improper quality procedures which could potentially reduce ballistic and fragmentation protection," according to an All Army Activities message released May 14 to soldiers around the world.

After the Army's notification by the DoJ the Army conducted ballistic test on the helmets which failed the services standards. It is unclear why the helmets failed during these tests but passed the initial tests when the Army initially contracted with ArmorSource in 2006.

The Army also has 55,000 additional helmets in storage that have not been handed out. Those helmets are also part of the recall and will be destroyed to ensure they are not distributed, according to Gen. Fuller.

The Army refused to accept another 3,000 from the company, bringing the total of problem helmets to 102,000, Fuller said.

Each helmet costs $250 and Fuller said they are attempting to see if they can recover the money paid to the company.

At a press conference at the Pentagon Gen. Fuller told reporters he was not aware of any injuries or deaths related to the recalled helmets.

The 44,000 recalled helmets had been sent to locations all over the world for distribution. Some 24,000 of the 44,000 were sent to a distribution center that gives them to other services as well.

"We don't know where they are, so they could be on a soldier's head in Iraq or Afghanistan," Fuller said of the 44,000 helmets.

"We are seeing some getting returned in Bagram (Afghanistan)," Fuller said.

Army officials acknowledge that there are some helmets probably in Iraq as well.

ArmorSource posted a statement on their website saying the Army had not told them about what was going on.

"ArmorSource was not informed of this recall before we saw the press release on Friday evening. We have not heard from the Government regarding the recall and have no additional information," according to the statement.

Army officials said they were not required to tell the company because the service owned the helmets.
Gen. Fuller said the Army had already broken the contract with ArmorSource earlier in the year because of other problems with the helmets.

Army officials could not discuss details about the problems with the helmets because of the DoJ investigation, but said the ballistic tests showed the helmets would not protect a solider against a "worst case scenario" strike on the helmet.

Gen. Fuller said general ballistics tests showed that while a bullet would not penetrate through the helmet, the test still failed stringent Army requirements and "fell short of the required ballistics test."

Four companies make the ACH including ArmorSource, according to the Army and replacement helmets are already begin distributed, according to an Army statement.

The Army started contracting with ArmorSource in 2006 and received the first helmets in 2007. In November of 2009 concern surrounding paint chipping off of the helmets led the Army to eventually end their contract early with ArmorSource earlier this year, according to Gen. Fuller.

The recall makes up about 4 percent of more than one million ACHs in the Army's inventory, according to Army statistics.

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