Currently, the Us Marine Corps (USMC) has a requirement for 7,000-65,000 hearing enhancement devices over the next three years to be used in conjunction with, or in lieu of, the current Combat Arms Earplugs Marines already wear. The goal is to protect Marines’ hearing while increasing their situational awareness through a suite of devices. The systems can be circumaural (headset) or intra-aural (inner ear) but must include versions that are both communications enabled and versions that are not communications enabled. Regardless, they must work with Marine radios and the Enhanced Combat Helmet.
Consequently, the Marines have issued a Request for Information (RfI) to industry. In a press release, Steven Fontenot, Project Officer for Hearing, Eye Protection and Loadbearing Equipment in Program Manager Infantry Combat Equipment (PM ICE) at Marine Corps Systems Command explained: “Marines have the earplugs and they do provide protection, but sometimes they choose not to wear them because they want to be aware of their surroundings at all times. The new headset we want to acquire will allow Marines to wear hearing protection, yet still provide the opportunity to communicate and understand what is going on around them.”
He also explained that in February they seeded sample headsets to 220 infantry, artillery, reconnaissance and combat engineer Marines to ask their opinions on fit, form, function and comfort. Testing was conducted at the Air Force Research Laboratory and during live fire exercises with the Infantry Training Exercise 2018. Recon Marines also took headsets to Norway to conduct cold weather training and were pleased with the performance.
Based on the RfI, PM ICE plans to evaluate additional systems from industry, with procurement of systems beginning in 2020.