latest update 20 September 2007
APH-6 helmet discussions
The APH-6 series of helmets has been sadly neglected in
discussions so far, which to me is strange since the APH-6 series was the standard US Navy
fast mover helmet for almost two decades. This article seeks to remedy that situation but
is in no way the final treatise on the topic. Having had very limited access to official
documentation I have prepared it from military specifications and what you could term
'circumstantial evidence' - mainly Sierra and Gentex catalogues and observations from
actual helmets and photos.
APH-6Early APH-6 helmet made by Sierra as revealed by the
blue six-lobe visor lock knob. Click on the thumbnails to see
The APH-6 helmet seems to have been issued in 1961, at least the first traceable APH-6
specification (MIL-H-22995(Wep)) dates from 27 July that year. APH-6 helmets from this era
look very much like the APH-5. Its earphones are attached with a single screw through the
helmet shell, it has large padded earpads and fitting pads, all covered in tan-coloured
leather and a single visor housing with metal tracks, metal reinforced visor guides in the
visor cover, and the visor lens itself has a guide tracks in each side. The styrene energy
absorbing liner consists of three parts split longitudinally.
The only differences seem to be that the APH-6 has a thin rubber edge beading instead of
the APH-5 neoprene edgeroll, and then of course the APH-6 has its special racheted oxygen
mask receivers that take the so-called butterfly bayonets.
larger pictures. Left picture is copyright unknown, three pictures on the right
APH-6A and APH-6BAPH-6A helmet used by Lt.j.g. Kahle from VAW-11. The
white earphone adjustment discs stand out clearly on the
In the late 1960s the APH-6 helmet is issued in an improved single-visor version
designated APH-6A and a double-visor version designated APH-6B. (Federal Stock Number for
APH-6B size large assigned on 16 March 1968, size medium 13 April 1968). The main change
in the APH-6A seems to be a new type of earphone installation method where the attachment
screw is inserted through a plastic disc covering a larger hole in the helmet, thus
allowing more freedom of movement for adjusting the earphones to individual pilots. Other
changes include nylon visor tracks. The APH-6B has the same changes as the APH-6A but
features a ramshorn double-visor. Helmets produced by Gentex have three-piece ramshorn
visors and helmets produced by Sierra have one-piece ramshorn visors. It is noteworthy
that the change from APH-6 to APH-6A and -B was not spurred by a specification change.
orange background. The energy absorbing liner is still three-part and ear and fitting pads
are tan. Click on the
thumbnails to see larger pictures. Copyright unknown.
APH-6B helmets showing dual-visor setup. Both helmets have
oxygen masks with white hardshells used for nuclear
flash protection. Click on the thumbnails to see larger pictures. Three pictures to the
left © Downwind28, picture on
the right ©Milehigh.
At first glance a fine APH-6C but a closer look
reveals that this is in fact an APH-6A that has been modified with a
one-piece ramshorn dual visor and late type headphones. The three-part energy absorbing
liner is a giveaway. The
visor modification is revealed by the holes in the energy absorbing liner where the visor
housing screws went.
Usually the holes would have been plugged with styrene but not so in this case. A closer
look at the edge beading
around the oxygen mask receivers also reveals that the helmet shell was repainted at some
point. Pictures upper
row © eBay seller 'sgt.hulka'. Pictures lower row © Tomcat
APH-6A helmet modified with dual-visor, a special
energy absorbing liner made of light blue foam, and a front pad
of the same type as used in HGU-2A/P and HGU-26/P helmets. Another group member has a
with the same liner, and both helmets have the modification label shown in the upper
righthand picture. 'NAS NORVA'
means Naval Air Station Norfolk Virginia which today is just called Naval Station Norfolk.
This particular helmet
was used by a guy flying S-2 Trackers. At least two other helmets have been identified
with the same modification
including an APH-5. My theory is that the modification increased the noise attenuation of
the helmet, making it easier
for anti-submarine warfare sonar operators to hear the signals from the sonobouys through
the engine noise in the
S-2 Tracker and possibly also P2V Neptune rear compartment. Pictures © Tomcat
APH-6C and APH-6DAPH-6C manufactured by Sierra Engineering, hence the
one-piece ramshorn visor. Fitting pads are missing. Click
on the thumbnails to see larger pictures. © Chad Le Beau
On 25 April 1969 the MIL-H-22995(Wep) specification is updated to MIL-H-22995A(AS).
As a result two new versions of the APH-6 series of helmet, the APH-6C and APH-6D are
introduced, APH-6C being a double-visor version and APH-6D a single-visor version. The
main changes introduced were a new two-part styrene energy absorbing liner, smaller
earcups with plastic-covered earpads and smaller fitting pads. (Federal Stock Number for
APH-6C size medium and large assigned on 1 May 1970, for APH-6D size large on 18 February
1972, and size medium on 2 March 1972)
APH-6D helmets with single visor and retaped in
VF-301 'Devil's Disciples' artwork. The label at the rear only says
APH-6 but with the reference to MIL-H-22995A (AS) and a 1976 order date there is no doubt
that this is an APH-6D.
Click on the thumbnails to see larger pictures. © Tomcat
In the mid-1970s Sierra helmets appear with the designation APH-6DM and APH-6DL. They are
not new helmet types, the M and L suffixes simply reflect the size of the helmet, APH-6DM
being a size medium helmet and APH-6DL a size large.
The latest US Navy order for APH-6 helmets that I have come across was issued in 1979
(order no. N00383-79-C-0207 for a Gentex APH-6D), and I think it unlikely that many more
were ordered, unless of course for other users under the Foreign Military Sales programme.
In fact, in an August 1978 letter Chief of Naval Operations concluded that the APH-6
helmet combined with the A-13A (MS22001) mask "no longer meets operational
requirements". The HGU-33/P and HGU-34/P entered into service in 1981, but the APH-6
specification was not cancelled until 31 August 1992 with the MIL-H-22995A(AS), Notice 1,
"Cancellation of MIL-H-22995(AS) without replacement".
Custom fit APH-6s and other 'anomalies'
In the 1970s a number of US Navy pilots ordered custom fit APH-6 helmets from the company
Protection Inc. on a private basis. Sierra Engineering also offered this service. All the
Protection Inc. APH-6 helmets I have seen so far have cast aluminium oxygen mask receivers
of the same type as seen on HGU-2A/P, HGU-33/P and many other helmets. There are a few
examples of US Navy APH-6 helmets being custom fit in the field, retaining their ratchet
oxygen mask receivers, but in at least one other country, Singapore, it was done
Other APH-6 configurations were made to the customer's specifications, one such example is
seen below. It is equipped with a foam liner (most likely an HGU-17/P liner) and cast
oxygen mask receivers. The communications setup is remeniscent of the APH-5A helmet but
the label clearly identifies the helmet as an APH-6.
Four different custom fit APH-6 helmets. Squadron colours
from left to right are VF-51, VF-213, Grumman test
pilot Pete Tummillo, and VMA-314. Click on the thumbnails to see larger pictures. From
left to right pictures are
copyright Mirage, Milehigh, DocBoink, DocBoink, and Milehigh.
Custom fit APH-6C and APH-6D helmets in the colours of 143
Sqn, Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). The
edgeroll is a Sierra/Scott snap-on edgeroll like the ones in widespread use with custom
fit HGU-2A/P and HGU-26/P
but designed specifically for the APH-6 shell. Click on the thumbnails to see larger
pictures. Pictures © Phoenix143
APH-6A made to Australian order for use in DHC Beaver
aircraft on the Antartic. The configuration of this helmet is
so far removed from a standard APH-6A that only the label reveals what it is. Non-standard
items include the
communications system, sand-coloured rubber edge beading, cast aluminium oxygen mask
receivers, chin strap
with stud-and snap opening, and of course the HGU-17/P foam liner. Click on the thumbnails
to see larger pictures.
Pictures © Howard Jones