M87 Helmet

South Africa had begun to replace its steel helmets with more modern designs in the early 1980s, with paratroopers receiving a new helmet first in the form of the M83. The infantry followed soon after with a new Kevlar-composite helmet called the M87 that was designed by South African Pith Helmet Industries (S.A.P.H.I) of Rosslyn.  The design closely copied Israeli helmets of the era and featured a deep shape that came down over the ears, with a cut out at the front to clear the eyes. It was finished in a sand or tan coloured rough finish:

The helmet was normally seen covered with a helmet cover, initially in nutria brown and later in Soldier 2000 camouflage (we will return to the helmet covers in the coming month). The helmets were quite large on the head, but offered good protection, and were quickly introduced into combat as part of the ongoing Border Wars in Angola, as seen here with some SADF infantrymen in the late 1980s:

The helmet was made of resin impregnated Kevlar fibres that were then put into a high pressure mould to create the shell of the helmet before nine holes were drilled to allow the internal fittings to be attached. The liner was simplified from that used by the Israelis, however it still offered a good fit and allowed movement to minimise the effects of blast damage. A nylon webbing spider was fitted to the crown, with a black leathercloth sweat band known as a ‘Riddell’ style liner:


The chin strap used a three point system and a leather chin cup, with a plastic buckle to secure it (broken on this example):

A rubber rim was fitted around the bottom edge of the helmet, and damage on this example allows details of the construction to be observed:

The design was produced in large quantities for South African domestic use and is still in frontline service today. It was also produced as an export model for the United Arab Emirates. Some examples were modified to allow a visor to be attached for extra eye protection when on public order duties, although this seems to have been a local modification rather than something done at factory level. The design was clearly a reasonably good one as South Africa has continued to use the pattern for over thirty years and it is a reasonably comfortable, if heavy design by modern standards. The chin strap fastener is perhaps the weakest point of the design, with many examples being found with cracked or broken plastic fasteners. Replacement fasteners are available, and I do have one to repair this helmet with, however to replace the clip would involve unstitching the chin strap and then resewing afterwards which would not be the easiest task in the world.

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