The US Army’s New Protective Lenses Can React Immediately to Changing Light, Transitioning in One Second or Less
- The US Army has updated its authorized protective eyewear list (APEL) to include new transitional lenses that can withstand ballistic fragmentation and adjust to light changes, the Army announced this week.
- Unlike commercial transition lenses that take several minutes to change, the Army’s Transition Combat Eye Protection (TCEP) lenses can transition between indoor and outdoor lighting in one second or less.
- The new TCEP lenses are a subsystem of the Soldier Protection System, a suite of protective equipment designed to offer increased protection at reduced weights.
The US Army’s protective eyewear features lenses that can not only withstand the intensity of combat but can also react instantly to changes in light with the help of built-in sensors that respond to visible light rather than UV rays.
The service has updated its list of approved protective eyewear with new transitional lenses — the Transition Combat Eye Protection (TCEP) lenses, the Army announced this week.
Unlike commercial transition lenses that can take 5 to 10 minutes to transition, the TCEP lenses can transition between indoors and outdoors in one second or less, giving US soldiers increased situational awareness over that of other lenses.
The transition capability can be triggered with a simple button push or set to occur automatically. “It’s not like your transition lenses that you get from your doctor that change as you go in and outdoors,” Capt. Michael McCown, assistant product manager of head protection at PEO Soldier, said. “It’s electronic.”
The new TCEP lenses, which are available for unit purchase, are part of the Soldier Protection System (SPS).
The SPS, a collection of wearable equipment designed to provide increased protection at reduced weights, consists of four subsystems: Torso and Extremity Protection (TEP), Vital Torso Protection (VTP), Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS), and TCEP.
There are several other systems included in some of the various subsystems.
In addition to the TCEP lenses, the Army announced it has also added a cold-weather goggle that will not fog up in cold conditions to its list of acceptable eyewear.
The Army updates the authorized protective eyewear list (APEL) every couple of years with new products that have been thoroughly tested and have been proven capable of providing ballistic fragmentation protection. The various products are tested at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, the product manager for protective equipment at PEO Soldier, said he has seen “horrific injuries” as a result of a soldier’s poor decision to wear unapproved eyewear, with roadside bombs in particular.
There are 27 glasses and goggles that have been given the Army’s seal of approval.
With approved protective eyewear, the soldier’s face has been “all chewed up,” but the “skin is intact around their eyes,” he explained, adding, “You know without a doubt that eyewear saved their eyes.”