Batlskin Caiman™ Special Operations Forces Helmet Suite: Accelerated Iterative Design and Direct User Collaboration

Batlskin Caiman™ Special Operations Forces Helmet Suite: Accelerated Iterative Design and Direct User Collaboration


Galvion’s Batlskin Caiman Helmet System suite, unveiled at SOFIC in May 2017, is a unique multipurpose helmet line that breaks new ground in the rapidly-advancing special operations helmet industry. The Caiman suite consists of a conformal hybrid helmet system, a ballistic helmet system, and a bump helmet system, all of which have been engineered to quickly and efficiently adapt to mission requirements. To realize this forward-thinking vision, Galvion enlisted the assistance of Special Operations Forces (SOF) users, banking on their vast, diverse in-the-field experience and incorporating their feedback throughout the thorough-yet-fast-paced development process.

As is typical for Galvion, this development process was taken to the extreme: Galvion set ambitious goals for performance and innovation, brought a wide-range of SOF contacts and allies to the table, worked within a narrow timeline, and built these helmet systems from the ground up. The end result of a year-plus of design, development, and extensive review and testing is an immensely versatile, cutting-edge suite: Galvion’s Batlskin Caiman helmets are engineered for full-spectrum use, providing elite protection and performance across coastal marine, riverine, maritime, high-altitude, and ground maneuvers. Galvion has also developed a new set of Caiman accessories specially-designed to enhance this scalable helmet systems for boat, vehicle, and HALO/HAHO, as well as mountain, river, and direct action operations. The skeletonization of all system components has significantly reduced the overall weight, and the neck load burden, compared to currently fielded helmet systems, and emphasizes scalability and mission-specific accessories for highly dynamic operations. Galvion’s Caiman Hybrid Helmet is particularly unconventional in that can be ballistically-enabled—add-on armor appliques attach to the top, front, and back for ballistic, blunt-force, blast-force, and fragmentation protection.

Caiman Head System suite —a Ballistic System (left), a Hybrid System (middle), and a Hybrid System with Ballistic Applique— are lightweight and scalable, and are tailored for the intense demands of Special Operations missions

Being a scalable, highly adaptable solution, the Caiman Head Systems support use by Green Berets, Navy SEALs, MARSOC (Marine Special Operations), the Ranger Regiment, Air Force Special Operations (AFSOC), PJs (Pararescue Jumpers), Combat Controllers, and SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman) Coxswain, among others. The system is optimized for use across the global spectrum of special operations forces—humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping, counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency, low-intensity conflict and full-scale war, military freefall, maritime interdiction, combat swimming operations, search and seizure, and long range patrol (maritime and ground platforms)—and across a wide range of extreme and volatile conditions—day or night, tropic or arctic, arid desert or open ocean, points in-between, and beyond. Beyond these SOF applications, the resourcefulness of Caiman head systems also makes them ideal for any international forces—law enforcement, paramilitary, peacekeeping, and beyond—seeking this unique combination of agility, protection, and scalability. This new head system, built from scratch and tailored to the feedback of SOF users, epitomizes Galvion’s forward-thinking, holistic-rather-than-triage approach.

Galvion’s Batlskin Caiman Head System suite includes a variety of accessories including two visor variations (left – fixed arm, right – NVG arm) and two mandible guards (left – ballistic mandible guard, right – bump mandible guard).


A singular and complex undertaking such as the Caiman helmet development project was truly cross-functional, with numerous moving parts, phases, and iterations before a final product was reached. While this in itself is not unusual for a high-profile Galvion project, the development of Caiman was unique in its speed and the scope of involvement. This program set a particularly fast pace as compared to high-value undertakings from years past. And, Galvion called upon a considerable network of SOF contacts and connections, amassed throughout years of interacting and building relationships with this crucial community. A select cohort of active duty operators and former service members provided vital feedback throughout the development process in the first-half of 2016, shedding light on how best to tackle and target each innovation challenge, and helping guide and refine Galvion’s solutions at each stage.

Galvion’s energized and strengthened manufacturing capabilities also factored heavily into the development of the Caiman suite. Since 2013, Galvion’s Newport, Vermont facility—Galvion’s primary helmet manufacturing hub—has expanded by 16,000 sq. ft., and the number of employees that work at this facility has more than doubled. In parallel, Galvion has made substantial investments in new molding presses, added preform presses, increased chilling capacity, new molds, and increased cutting capacity. This supports an increase in overall polyethylene manufacturing capacity. In the last few years alone, Galvion has successfully delivered on significant contracts for UHMWPE products with both U.S. Military and international customers.

A Batlskin Caiman helmet is assembled in Galvion’s Newport, Vermont facility

The design, development, and project management teams also took full advantage of Galvion’s significant rapid prototyping capabilities. This allowed Galvion to quickly produce, analyze, and hone designs and prototypes, and feed these updates to key contacts for feedback, ensuring the direction of the Caiman development path perfectly aligned with the specific needs of operators, especially those engaged in extreme, unstable missions. Galvion looked at this as a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with users directly, getting full-size prototypes in their hands, delivering sketches, videos, and ideas, and receiving immediate feedback. The end-result truly reflects this intensive, collaborative effort.


Every aspect of the suite was scrutinized and trialed, often with multiple ideas vying for inclusion, then weeded out upon review from users. Some components—such as the new mandible guard, with the ability to swing out; less rigid, open-cell comfort foam; and the five-size comfort fit—were improvised on-the-fly, stemming organically from the user responses the team received. The revamped helmet sizing is a particular highlight of this head system that will ensure that users have a comfortable and secure helmet for superior performance and protection. Five sizes (as opposed to the standard four) ensures users are wearing the smallest, lightest helmet that optimizes the fit/performance/comfort ratio. The Caiman development team zeroed-in on this change through comprehensive analysis of 3D printed prototyping and a database of head measurements. Through this improvement, the team projected that 40% of users would wear a lighter helmet than with a traditional four-size helmet. This is a prime example of how the development team got from point A to point B through a systematic progression of conception, designing, sketching, rapid-prototyping, and feeding this into the user feedback loop until it was perfected.

Galvion has never been content to simply repurpose and repackage an existing product, so the Caiman program was taken as a challenge to think big and to realize the game-changing aspirations of the Company. The Caiman project management team put in a lot of legwork corresponding, Skype-ing, and meeting with key contacts and stakeholders, delivering schematic representations, videos, and prototypes, and absorbing direct, unfiltered feedback. This collaborative, iterative process allowed the team to wholly eliminate guesswork and address all head system functions in real time. Crucially, SOF users can feel real ownership of the end-product, knowing that their demands were addressed and readdressed continuously. This is not a head system created in a vacuum: The very real vision of users is alive in Galvion's Caiman helmet suite, unmediated and undiluted.

Galvion’s pioneering Batlskin Caiman Head Systems suite is an especially noteworthy development in terms of total head system integration. Caiman helmets are fundamentally different helmet solutions, emphasizing scalability and mission-specific accessories. Moreover, Caiman helmets are expressly designed to incorporate electronics, headsets, and other SOF equipment needs. Galvion’s integrated systems approach has always been developed from the individual operator outwards and focused on human factors and operational outcomes. In Galvion’s ongoing efforts to create the most effective, responsive equipment possible for troops in the field, the company is innovating from converging directions: creating helmet systems that are engineered to accommodate headborne gear and tactical headsets, and creating headborne accessories designed to work perfectly with the most advanced modern helmet systems. And, Galvion’s lithium-ion Nerv Centr batteries and power management systems provide centralized power for a variety of fielded devices and headborne equipment.