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We need your innovative solutions!

The USAF has allocated up to $20 million to redesign and replace the Fixed Wing (plane) helmet used by pilots and aircrew. Whether you make or design entire helmet systems or just components that are, or might be related, we’re challenging you to help us create the helmet of the future. 

This challenge is a new initiative for USAF and uses the AFWERX team and process to find people with the ideas, components, materials and technologies to improve the Fixed Wing Aircrew Helmet. Even if you aren’t sure your technology could be used in a USAF helmet still submit your ideas so we can engage with you.

The helmet of tomorrow needs to be lightweight, comfortable, stable, improved noise protection, have better thermal management and the ability to tailor the helmet for different needs.

Ultimately, our goal is to enhance aircrew performance, safety and satisfaction.


What’s in it for you?

  • Chance to participate in $500K + of prototype and experimentation funding

  • Chance to participate in a $20M + government contract

  • Potential SBIR funding, please ensure your company has a DUNS number for consideration

  • Potential invitation to attend the Challenge Showcase event in Las Vegas to meet peers and USAF customers

  • Official recognition for your company or idea

  • Peer and customer collaboration with industry and the government

  • You will be helping the USAF and improving the lives of the people that keep us safe


Who are we looking for with this challenge?

People/teams/enterprises/academics/government entities that:

  • Make, or have expertise in, one component of the helmet system

  • Make, or have expertise in, entire helmet systems

  • Make interfaces to external components

  • Integrate helmet components into helmet systems

You could have:

  • An idea

  • A prototype

  • An entire helmet system solution already being deployed and earning revenue

You could be in the US or other allied countries


What are the components of the helmet system?

  • The protective shell of the helmet

  • The lining of the helmet

  • Sound and communication within the helmet

  • The ability to interface with existing and future external systems

  • The overall design of the system for balance and center of gravity

  • Adapters that connect accessories to the helmet

  • Hearing and eye protection



What are the problems with the current helmet system?

  • Weight issues and lack of stability with multiple interfaces

  • Heat issues for the aircrew and a lack of thermal management

  • Lack of ability to efficiently customize fit

These issues are leading to fatigue and a lack of optimized performance


“The current helmet we have is functional, its just that we added a lot of additional equipment to it and made it a platform which it was not designed to be. We need a complete system solution that caters for the equipment but is also stable.”

“The current helmet we have is functional, its just that we added a lot of additional equipment to it and made it a platform which it was not designed to be. We need a complete system solution that caters for the equipment but is also stable.”

What does the helmet system need to do?

Provide improved form, fit, function and comfort:

Sound protection

  • Improved sound management and noise cancellation


  • Customization of helmet on head and attachments to helmet

  • Reduced weight load on the neck

  • Improved thermal management

  • Ability to wick perspiration from the skin

Balance/Center of Gravity

  • Improved balance, center of gravity and stability in both low and high G environments

  • Ensure the weight of the helmet is centered over the spine

Situational Awareness

  • Improve situational awareness and field of view

  • Improved communication


  • Improved protection from impacts and external environments

    • Ejection

    • Loud noise

    • Fire resistant


  • Improved maintainability

  • Adaptability to current and future external systems: Visors, display, night vision, oxygen, chemical/biological/nuclear protection


  • Ability to be used by multiple aircrew types, mission profiles and types of aircraft

  • Ability to cope with High-G and ejection

  • Ability to interface with future external helmet mounted systems

Ultimately aircrew satisfaction and adoption


Other factors that will be taken into consideration

  • Overall lifecycle cost of the solution

  • Adaptability and sustainability of the solution to other needs and future changes

  • No aircraft modifications are expected to be able to accommodate the new helmet


Who will be wearing this helmet system?

  • Pilots and other aircrew of multiple different types of aircraft from fighter jets to large transportation planes meaning different performance characteristics, G-forces and possibility of ejection

  • Both male and female aircrew of differing body stature and head shape/size and hair types


What will aircrew say about the New Helmet System?

  • "It’s so light and balanced I don't even notice I am wearing it", Matt, fighter pilot (5 years experience)

  • "I don’t have to continuously fuss with it and adjust it", Nicole, crew chief (10 years experience)

  • "I am not tired and sore at the end of the day", Kim, bomber pilot (4 years experience)

  • "My senses feel sharper and I am more aware of my situation", Jason, flight surgeon (15 years experience)


How long is the challenge and what’s next?

The challenge will be open from September 6 - October 8 (this challenge is complete)

  • This will be an open challenge to see who would be interested in participating in the New Helmet Project which could ultimately lead to:

    • Rapid prototyping funding

    • Long term multi-million dollar contract

    • Long term business partnerships

    • Recognition and USAF partnerships

The evaluation process of your idea will be twofold:

  1. Your idea will be evaluated by your peers and you will have the ability to vote, add comments and ask questions throughout the duration of the challenge

  2. You will be evaluated by a panel of experts from within the USAF including pilots, aircrew and acquisition experts

Those whose ideas are selected will attend a challenge showcase in Las Vegas November 13-14 (this challenge is complete)

  • Here you will meet individuals, teams and enterprises that were selected to attend the showcase event

  • During this event we will be finalizing the people that we will want to work with through the rapid prototyping and collaboration period

Selected teams will be given the chance to participate in some rapid prototyping from November - March prior to operational testing with USAF which could lead to a government contract

Some government contracting terms and conditions

  • Announcement of AFWERX events that are considered to have high potential for further efforts that may be accomplished via FAR-based contracting instruments, Other Transaction Authority (OTA) for Prototype Projects 10 USC 2371b, Prizes for advanced technology achievements 10 USC 2374a, and/or Prize Competitions 15 USC 3719, may be made at the  and/or

  • All announcements made at the and/or website(s) are considered to satisfy the reasonable effort to obtain competition in accordance with 10 USC 2374a (b), 15 USC 3719 (e) and 10 USC 2371b (b)(2). 

  • All FAR based actions will follow announcement procedures per FAR 5.201(b) accordingly.