I'm considering creating a fictional multi-national black ops unit called S.W.O.R.D (Special Worldwide Offensive Resolution Division) designed in a highly organized and militarized manner such as you might find with Ancient Sparta... if the Spartans used tanks, guns and cutting-edge technology supplied by DARPA. Spartiates (soldiers under the command of S.W.O.R.D) wear futuristic fully enclosed combat helmets modelled after helmets worn by the real-life Spartiates with an incorporated skull motif and resembling scowling faces.

One such helmet includes the Corinthian-Type Helmet, which is worn by rank and file Spartiates. This helmet is vacuum-sealed and equipped with a variety of features such as large almond-shaped polarised lenses, small lights mounted to their lower halves and a pair of tubes connected to a re-breather in the wearer's armour. Just like their namesake, these helmets can be pushed up to on rest on the back of a Spartiate's head.

How practical would such a combat helmet be?

Visual References

Skeleton Warrior

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    $\begingroup$ Please, credit images you are using. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Apr 21 '18 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ Think about changing "resolving" to "resolution" in the organisations title, and perhaps "offense" to "offensive". $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 21 '18 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ Offense Resolving Division sounds indeed like a squad you send out whenever a troll on the internet pisses you off... $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 21 '18 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ If the designs were still practical, armies would still be using them. While "reality-check" goes down in flames, that's never stopped writers before... $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 21 '18 at 11:21
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    $\begingroup$ Helmets with easily rank recognising features are a no go. In modern day combat they are an easy target for snipers to take the high level officers. This was learned fast in the First World War by the Germans who entered WW1 with very nice shiny spikes on their helmets for easy targeting, named the Pickelhelm. $\endgroup$
    – D.J. Klomp
    Apr 21 '18 at 11:31

A heavy helmet makes it hard to turn your head

This might seem trivial, and it is in most situations, but if you don't need a heavy helmet, you shouldn't wear one. The more armor and electronics are packed into the helmet, the harder it is to move your head; that much is obvious. There is only so heavy a helmet can get, even on a Leonidas-neck. This is just something to keep in mind as you pack more and more gear into the helmet. The real helmets used by SpecOps are barely over 1 kg.

Why are you restricting the ability to breathe?

Do these soldiers expect to be attacked with chemical or biological weapons? Do they expect to go into the vacuum of space? If not, why would you so heavily restrict their respiration? I don't know if you've ever put a gas mask on, but if you run around in the desert with one one for a few days, it is very uncomfortable.

On the one hand, moisture and bacteria from your exhaled breath will build up in the helmet. This can have a deleterious effect on your lungs after a long period of time. On the other hand, your exhaled breath will also collect inside your helmet and make it generally hot and uncomfortable.

If you want a faceplate for protection, then consider making sure that there it is not sealed (all your pictures look sealed to me) so that there is adequate ventilation.

Is it hot?

Speaking of running around in the desert with a gas mask on, there is a practical vision problem with that, too. Sweat from your forehead is naturally deflected by your eyebrows to the side of your face, away from your eyes. But contact between your forehead and the helmet and/or condensation within the mask can allow seat to get around that and impede your vision. And if it is hot out, a dark colored can on your head doesn't help the sweating situation. Even Darth Helmet switched to khaki in the desert.

This one isn't immediately solvable by ventilation. Any faceplate will run into sweat concerns in high temperatures. If you do all your fighting in Norway, then this is probably not a big deal.

Don't differentiate by rank

That gets senior officers shot. Even in tank combat in WWII, tanks with radio antennas looked more important and got shot more. One helmet should fit all.

Can this mask stop anything important? Is it usable after one hit?

The point of a faceplate is to prevent damage to the face, presumably. Can this faceplate stop a bullet? Maybe 5.56, probably not 7.62 or anything larger (it all depends on angle of impact). No face plate lightweight enough to not stress your neck is going to reasonably stop such an energetic round.

So your faceplate is still useful for stopping shrapnel if you run into a lot of grenades. Do you run into a lot of grenades? Another thing to consider is what your faceplate looks like if you do stop a grenade. I imagine the see-through glass part is now completely damaged, and the helmet will have to be removed. This is the downside of a faceplate: a damaged helmet (penetrated, cracked, etc) is still mostly as useful as an intact helmet. A damaged faceplate that you can't see through is just deadweight.

The real reason for a mask is information

The reason the modern army would consider a faceplate is to put information right in front of the operator's face. SpecOps in particular may find themselves chasing bad guys around town while on the phone with satellite operators who are using powerful tools to track the bad guy's movement. This is a thing that happens in real life.

But here the faceplate damage thing comes to the fore. If you have a cracked faceplate, then you can't even wear it and use the information displays any more. If you depend on the information to do your job, this is bad. Better off to use something like Google Glasses and keep a spare in your pack. Cheap and lightweight means you have a backup option in place.


There is a reason that the modern military doesn't use such things. I can't see any reason to wear such a mask, given the downsides, unless there was an expectation of operating in an environment where you can't breathe (chemical weapons or space).

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    $\begingroup$ "hard to turn your head" "This might seem trivial" : It's really not, you know how German WW2 helmets had that semi circle chunk cut out the back above the neck? I never realized why until I spent some time with the TA & experience the UK helmet, it's fine stood up but lie prone & try to sight along your rifle with your helmet on, you can't because the back of your neck pushes it forward over your eyes (& if you're wearing a burgan it's worse), then the sergeant yells at you if you remove it so you can see to aim, poor helmet design really is non-trivial. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 21 '18 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore I agree. At USMC Boot Camp, they still put you in old WWII helmets that have the same problem (at least they did ~2002). Especially since recruits are bad at adjusting the chin strap, it was a common problem for the helmet to straight fall on your rifle as you were sighting it in the prone. Then there is a negligent discharge, and someone is doing eight-count body builders while 6 drill instructors yell and him until collapse... Hopefully the SpecOps Spartans do a better job adjusting their helmet straps. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Apr 21 '18 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ "Then there is a negligent discharge" try a new recruit having an epileptic seizure on the firing range with his finger stuck in a GPMG's trigger. was glad that one happened the week before I was there, though of course that might never have happened, could have just been the sergeants putting the frighteners on us. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 21 '18 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ "No face plate lightweight enough to not stress your neck is going to reasonably stop such an energetic round." Actually, it does not matter how strong the plate is - bullet impulse would break soldiers neck even if all energy is dissipated. $\endgroup$
    – Vashu
    Apr 28 '18 at 9:07

Since such configuration seems to strongly limit lateral visibility, its practicality strongly depends on the use case.

In group combat, where the soldier's sides are guarded by companions, it might not be a disadvantage.

In combat scenarios where the sides are unguarded, the blind points on them can prove lethal for the soldier wearing it.

  • $\begingroup$ Blind spots can be countered by on-screen displays, ideally combined with eye tracking. Given the helmets seem to provide multispectral vision, AR (or even full electroptical separation) seems pretty much necessary anyways. $\endgroup$ Apr 21 '18 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDvorak AR? Please explicate the acronym. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Apr 21 '18 at 11:54
  • $\begingroup$ Augmented reality = combination of physical reality and virtual reality. Either handled by a camera + display (think Pokemon Go) or by a transparent display such as MS Hololens. Set of cameras and two displays seems the way to go for these helmets. $\endgroup$ Apr 21 '18 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ @John Dvorak : I do hope they went for the transparent visor display or hardened the electronics sufficiently (& if hardened that it doesn't make the helmets too heavy & bulky for comfort with extended use), because I'm itching to throw a small nuke in to air-burst over the battle just to see how the EM pulse effects the helmets :) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 21 '18 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore Making military electronics resistant to radiation and EMP is certainly a good idea. Would wrapping one of those things we send into space in a Faraday cage do the job? $\endgroup$ Apr 21 '18 at 15:06

There are practical real world reasons to have your characters with obscured faces.

1. Save on animator time.

screenshot from Ruin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doteMqP6eSc&t=69s This is a fine short. The priority here is clearly action and loving depiction of the ruined city with luxuriant plant growth. But humans look at faces and cheesy halfassed renditions of expressionless faces would be a turd in this punchbowl. Solution: plausibly obscure the face. Likewise animating large groups of people is easier if you do not need to do a realistic, different face for each one.

2. Contrast for sexual effect. Anime, like pornography, often has hypersexual female heroines and faceless male participants. A good way to make sure your males are faceless is to enclose their heads in helmets. I was going to post an example image but was overwhelmed with choices.

3. Facilitate actor switch . If you have a live action show, you easily can swap in a stunt person for your actor if the action version of the character has a helmet on. The prime example is Power Rangers. This also facilitates using footage filmed for alternate versions of the show with different actors. The same stunt people / battle sequences can be used.

4. Dehumanize your villain. This is similar to #2. A mask makes a monster as personified by Darth Vader. When we look for a face and find something facelike but not a face it is creepier than seeing nothing.


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