NEW DELHI: For the first time ever, each and every jawan of the Indian Army will be equipped with a world-class helmet, an essential piece of kit that can be the difference between life and death during military operations, that an Indian company, the Kanpur-based MKU Industries has been contracted to manufacture 1.58 lakh helmets in a deal worth Rs. 170 and 180 crore, and the production of the new helmets is now beginning. This is the first large scale order of helmets by the Army in more than two decades. The new helmets will be delivered within three years by MKU Industries, which is a world leader in the manufacture of body armour (bulletproof jackets and helmets) which it exports to armed forces around the world. The new helmets are designed to bear the impact of 9 mm ammunition fired from a short range. This meets the global standard for protection among leading armed forces. They are also designed to be comfortable and many of them can be integrated with communications devices. More than a decade back, the Indian Army’s elite para special forces were equipped with an Israeli OR-201 helmet made of Glass Reinforced Plastic. However, regular soldiers in infantry formations had to make do with heavy domestically-made helmets which were not comfortable to wear during combat situations. A unique and often preferred solution for Indian Army soldiers, particularly during counter-insurgency operations, is wearing a bulletproof ‘patka’, though these have severe limitations since they offer protection only on the forehead and the back of the head. In addition to this, they weigh more than 2.5 kilograms. In March last year, the government signed an ’emergency contract’ to purchase 50,000 new bulletproof jackets from Tata Advanced Materials Limited after a delay of more than 10 years. This is a stand-in acquisition – the Army is in the process of evaluating far more advanced jackets which can provide soldiers a greater degree of protection from enemy bullets or shrapnel in the battlefield.