I stumbled across a curious article today, about a much-needed upgrade for US Marines’ helmets. It seems that their current headgear does little to protect against the 7.62×39mm round favoured by Afghan insurgents, and AK-47-armed, Taliban-aligned militants are taking advantage of this flaw to take out marines at range with well-placed shots to the head.

However, I find two things odd about this report.

The AK-47 is inexpensive, reliable, durable and easy to use, major selling points for insurgents and commanders of brushfire wars the world over—the CIA even flooded Afghanistan with cheap, Chinese-made copies in order to dislodge the Soviet invasion. The assault rifle is not, however, particularly accurate.

Furthermore, the AK-47 has been in service worldwide for over 60 years—US troops have faced it in Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq, Somalia and Kosovo, not to mention a number of other, smaller and less well-known conflicts. Surely, then, something should have been done about the helmets’ vulnerability to the 7.62×39mm round before now?

What’s going on here, then? Is there some sort of failure of communication at hand? Has the Marine Corps simply been ignored this past three-score years? Or is the humble helmet the latest buckboard or ballistic vest to enrich industrialists back home, regardless of the effect upon troops at the front line?

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