Sunday, May 17, 2015

People's Republic of China Army/Navy GK-80A combat helmet


Is it bad that I still say Red China?
Old habits die hard, I guess.

Eschewing the trappings of centuries of colonial or outside influence, the Peoples Republic was happy to discard the Soviet Ssh40 steel helmet which characterized its participation during the Korean War (and other hot spots of the Cold War), for their very own, motherland-produced steel GK 80/A. This light gray model is worn by sailors of the People's Liberation Navy.


This Chinese manufactured helmet is simple, strong, asymmetrical, and ironically very similar the the M30-32 helmet of the Japanese forces that occupied China during WWII.

The shell is simple and straightforward, with a slight upward tilt to the raw rim running forward ending in a very modest visor. With good depth to the shell,
you can protect a lot of head with this helmet.

The profile of the rear skirt really brings to mind that Japanese number from the dark days.

From the top this helmet has a distinct ovoid shape, narrowing at the front.

The liner is the tried-and-true Riddell system pioneered in the US M1 helmet and copied by numerous nations.
The four chinstrap bails are affixed to the shell by four spot-welded hooks.

Using mostly cotton web, the suspension is very similar to the American M1 of WWII days. The band is a strip of vinyl backed with a soft rubber shock absorber. The space between the shell and the wearer's head is about three quarters of an inch, again similar to the American M1.

Adjustment is easy with a buckle in the rear...

and a tie at the top, an obvious copy of the M1 system,
 embracing the foreign to further the revolution.

The Y-yoke chinstrap does not unfasten but is completely adjustable with a cam-style buckle.

A rudimentary chin-cup is sewn into the strap.

Unlike an earlier production PLA helmet profiled here, this model does not have"A" washers, instead it has eight of these unique  studs connecting the suspension to the shell, and this reveals a weakness in this steel plain Jane.

Those eight studs communicate to the outside of the shell where they are machined flat, hard for the eye to detect (dimple at center of frame) but create weak points ballistically. 

This is an unissued helmet that came in the original factory packaging. Representing the next-to-last generation of the PLA steel helmet, this example is a nice first stab by China at establishing a unique look for its forces.


Overheard exchange:
Red Guard: China is not imperialistic!
Gunboater: Want ta bet?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Belgian m.1951 combat helmet - air force

Stick with me to the end on this one; you'll be glad you did.
This is the ensign of the Belgian Air Force.
This is the jolly king of Belgium - Albert II.  He's happy because he's just had breakfast.
This is a Belgian waffle...
and these are Belgian soldiers sporting some very nice M.26-31 helmets...
And this is the Belgian Air Force helmet from the 1970s and 80s.

It is, as we shall see, nearly identical to the venerable US M1 helmet. 


The rim seam is to the rear as on all US M1s manufactured after 1944.

A very nice decal of the Belgian tricolor is one the left side of the shell.

The liner strap served to hold the liner and shell together - no surprise to M1 enthusiasts - and the adjustment buckle it identical to its American cousin.

The liner, in sky blue with black rivets is very striking.

The liner has an insignia grommet as did the M1's prior to the 1960s.

The tricolor is repeated on the left side of the liner.

And note how this little flag, about the size of a commemorative stamp, is recessed
 into the surface. 
The Riddell suspension is no surprise, nor is the sweatband...


Unlike the US twin, the "A" washers are held in place with a spring clip washers.

The garter fastener for the liner strap is identical to the M1 as well, though the leather of the strap is a little thicker.

The manufacturer's mark is in the dome of the liner as well as the year it was made.
According to their website, Levior has been making helmets since 1904.

The chinstrap bails are the same as the M1...

as is the clevis-and-ball connector buckle.
Okay, so with all these references to the American M1, let's do a side-by-side.

The American M1, on the right appears a little deeper from the front...

and from the side...

though not from the rear.  I'm thinking that the camera angle must have influenced this.


Within she shell is an ink stamp bearing the maker's mark and the date of manufacture.

The Belgian NATO m.1951 is a very nice twin of the good old US M1.
And now, my very favorite Belgian of all:
 's her!