USAF HGU-2A/P, -22/P, and -26/P Helmet
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confusion surrounding the Navy PRK-37 shell is well-documented,
but another cloud of confusion surrounds the USAF HGU-22/P helmet
shell. The only difference is that many aren't even aware they
are confused-- most collectors just refer to the single visor
variant as the "22/P" and the dual visor helmet as the
Let's look at what USAF Technical Order 14P3-4-112 says, however:
"This technical manual describes the HGU-2A/P and the HGU-26/P
Helmet Assemblies comprised of a basic helmet shell Type HGU-22/P.....All
references hereafter will be referred to as the HGU-22/P shell
in lieu of complete HGU-2A and HGU-26/P assemblies.
In a nutshell, we can thank the USAF for most of the prevailing
confusion! This tells us that the single visor (HGU-2A/P) and
dual visor (HGU-26/P) helmets use the same basic shell: the HGU-22/P,
also sometimes referred to as "quarter helmet assembly".
This was delivered with chin and napestraps, but without any comm
gear. The original issue date of the T.O. was 1 May 1970, but
an earlier T.O. must have covered the HGU-2/A because Air Force
Manual 64-4 dated 30 March 1964 shows a picture of the HGU-2/A
with a single visor housing bearing the divided wing decal, six-lobe
lock knob, and plastic friction strips along the lock knob track
where the HGU-2/P had riveted silver metal ones. (This also means
that the HGU-2A/P was in use during the Vietnam War, although
there were also many HGU-2/P helmets in use there as well.)
The HGU-2A/P is described therein as "an approved version
of the HGU-2/P. The HGU-2A/P contains improved fitting pads, adjustable
nape strap, ventilation provisions, reduced weight, improved finish
[the finish of the HGU-2/P as delivered by Consolidated was so
poor that this was faint praise indeed], new and improved headset,
improved visor assembly and simplified maintenance."
The "improved headset" was a mixed bag. The MX-2088
earcups in the HGU-2/P were an improvement over the H-75
assembly in the P-4 helmets, but still fell short of effective
noise attenuation and comfort. The solution was the H-154 headset
which was installed by screwing the spring-arm mounted earcups
into the helmet shell. This was the last attempt to use springloaded
devices, in the spirit of the H-75 "tophat" variety
seen in the P-4, MB-4, and APH-5 helmets. The AFM-64-4 even mentions
that this may be installed in the HGU-2/P (replacing the laced-in
MX-2088) but I have not seen an example of this. (This certainly
doesn't mean it didn't happen-- one can find exceptions to every
"normal" setup imaginable!) The earcup shape and size
are almost identical to the earcups used on the HGU-7/P, and this
entire arrangement would have been a howling success if only everyone's
ears were installed the same distance from the front of the head.
Alas, this is not the case, hence the H-154A which uses string,
velcro, and foam pads to give more freedom of placement, and is
still in use today.
The most easily noticed feature delineating the HGU-2A/P single
visor helmet and the HGU-26/P dual visor helmet are the visor
assemblies, but this T.O. even shows and describes installation
for the ramshorn version of the dual visor assembly originally
used by the Navy. For those of you who are detail-oriented, this
manual approves the use of the one-piece and the three-piece ramshorns.
Why use Navy gear rather than wait on the availablility of the
side-actuated PRU-36 assembly? The Air Force documented several
birdstrike incidents in which aircraft were lost because the flight
crew was thus was blinded. Also, night missions required a clear
lens. The T.O. does not describe the removal of the Navy "wings
of gold" decal, but one can rest assured that was accomplished
before any blue-suiter was issued a ramshorn-equipped helmet!
Air Force veterans have told me that when wearing a dual visor
helmet, it was required that at least one visor be down at all
times. An interesting fact is that the PRU-36 side-actuated dual
visor assembly is not always a combination of clear and neutral
density lenses-- I have an assembly with a clear lens and a serial-numbered
laser protective lens.
The original versions of these helmets used single-slot bayonets
for the MBU-5/P oxygen mask. This tended to let the mask slip
down too much in high-G maneuvers, however, so the AFM 64-4 shows
T-bayonets in the "experimental" section. The dual-slot
bayonet also enabled the upper and lower areas of the mask to
be independently adjusted, thus a better and more comfortable
fit. From the date of the change in the T.O. it appears that offset
("J") bayonets made their debut in 1982, but it is difficult
to state anything conlusively in these matters, as there can be
years of testing and partial procurements before something goes
from being developmental to "standard".
Another little-known option for the HGU-2A/P and HGU-26/P helmets
was the HGU-17/P foam liner that replaced the fitting pads. This
liner was almost identical to that used in the HGU-9/P and the
HGU-16/P helmets. It was quicker, easier, and cheaper than the
custom-poured styrene liners, but imagine sitting in an open cockpit
in Southeast Asia with the canopy open and your head surrounded
by nylon-covered foam rubber!
So how can a collector identify an early single-visor HGU-2/A
from later ones? Look for the headphones on a spring-arm, the
visor knob slot with a blue plastic surround, sometimes a "splitwing"
decal, and three large cooling holes in the crown of the styrene
liner and shell which are not seen as the visor assembly hides
To sum up, there really isn't such a thing as an "HGU-22/P
helmet", just as there really isn't a "PRK-37 helmet".
Hopefully, however, the confusion has been reduced rather than