Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Ballistic Helmet Markers

             With the use of high speed and high altitude aircraft during WWII, the need to identify between friend or foe became increasingly important. Especially after a number of friendly fire incidents. These came in numerous different forms, and today we see them from IR patches to cryptographically secured transponders. 

              When it comes to ballistic helmets though, there are a number of IFF marker options ranging from a simple ChemLight to a dedicated strobe that you can affix. They aid at the ground level for troop to troop identification, all the way to up to air to ground and sea to sea or sea to ground identification. This quick article will give a brief overview of what's available to outfit your own ballistic helmet. 

               Keeping it simple! One of the easiest IFF markers in a pinch and also great for hand singles on patrol with NVGs is an Infrared ChemLight. It's quick and easy to fashion a tape pocket out of riggers tape and attach it to the top of your FAST helmet or MICH helmet. You can even tape of the ChemLight to achieve your desired level of light output as well. This was a pretty common sight before a number of companies that we will get to started to offer a dedicated bulletproof helmet IFF marker. 

IR chemlight used on ballistic helmet

             Some ballistic helmet companies such as MTEK, OPS-CORE, Hard Head Veterans, and Revision have designed dedicated zip tie points or bungee points to secure Chemlights for IFF or other marking needs. In addition, there are other helmet accessories on the market now that allow the user to slide in ChemLights for ease of use and access.

              Now moving into battery powered concepts, VIP Beacons (Visual Identification Projectors) from Adventure Lights, Inc. are a common marking strobe used on military helmets. This was the first strobe I was ever issued at the schoolhouse, and after 10 or so years it still works great. As you can see from these photos and great article from The Gear Locker on this specific strobe. It's small and can be mounted just about anywhere with some velcro or on a tactical helmet cover! 


VIP Strobe Ballistic Helmet


VIP Strobe On Police Helmet


                 ACR Electronics makes another strobe that is very commonly found on military and police ballistic helmets. The MS-2000 is the strobe I probably have the most experience with. It's a bit bulky to get stuck onto a helmet requiring lots of velcro and/or tape but still works great. Typically stuck on the crown or back of the Kevlar helmet. It has IR filters and overt strobe features. ACR is on the leading edge of emergency beacons for marine, aviation, outdoor and of course military. So it comes as no surprise as to why there are so many of these used on ballistic helmets. 

ACR MS200 FAST Helmet Strobe



                 S&S Precision's Manta Strobe was one of those pieces of kit that we instantly made our supply guy put an order in for when we saw one. It was easy to operate, small, and with just the right amount of light. From their website some of the great features include.

  • Zero overt light AD….
  • 100% user confidence in Infrared Mode with Vibrating feedback
  • Intuitive One-handed operation
  • Multiple Infrared and Overt LEDs generate an overlapping and omnidirectional light emission
  • Curved base specifically for helmets
  • Lightest weight and lowest profile in its power class
  • Tool-less battery change out, 3V CR-123
  • Downward (”Low”) facing Infrared Emitter (positive IFF for close in work with minimal glare)
  • Upward (“High”) facing Infrared Emitters (multiple emitters delivering a peak IR signal for maximum distance)
  • IPX8 = Manufacturer Rated – Waterproof 150’, Zero water penetration in Main Housing or Partitioned Battery Compartment
  • Primary Overt LED/s are visible beyond the FAR105.19 requirement (3 Statute Miles)

oh and it looked cool which is always cool guy rule numero uno. 

S&S Manta Strobe FAST Helmet


Manta Strobe on military helmet


                Speaking of looking cool and having even more function. Core Survival's introduction of their HEL-STAR 6 Gen III helmet mounted multi-function lightmeans more options and combinations of color, flash rates, and coded signals! This expands the IFF capability of a ballistic helmet IFF far beyond simple recognition. It also is capable of wireless re-programming with their Programming interface module. 

HEL-STAR 6 Helmet Light

Police Officer Helmet with HEL-STAR light


This short list of IFF markers is by no means exhaustive on what you can stick on a ballistic helmet, it should, however, give you a good idea of options and the companies out there offering all of these great products!