Oakley SI Ballistic M Frame® Alpha Operator Kit | REVIEW
Oakley introduced the Alpha Ecosystem with the knowledge of the extremely dynamic and challenging environments that the modern operators have to face in combat. This multi piece kit is designed to be quickly and easily reconfigured to each mission without any compromise in either performance or protection.
Oakley has been the leader in the eyewear market for ballistic protection, usability and clever designs that could enhance the performance amongst athletes and especially military forces.
The Alpha was conceived as an ecosystem composed of two main pieces: an M Frame® and goggle. The knowhow gained in the past decade in field interchangeability of lenses joined with the feedback from the battlefield has brought Oakley to the concept of merging goggle and glasses in one of the quite possibly one of the most user-friendly eyewear/eyepro systems ever manufactured.
A substantial advantage of having the same lenses available for both goggles and M Frame® is that it broadens even more the gamut of lenses available for each platform.
Usually Lenses are compatible between different glasses but not amongst goggles, this is not the case for the Alpha ecosystem.
For the Alpha system Oakley manufactures (as of July 2018) Clear, Grey, Prizm Shooting TR22, Prizm Shooting TR45, Prizm Shooting TR45 Titanium Iridium, Prizm Snow Jade Iridium, Prizm Snow Rose, Prizm Snow Black Iridium and Prizm Grey.
1) HALO Goggle:
– Airborne Operations Mobility Platform
2) M Frame® Glasses:
– Close Quarter Combat
3) M Frame® Glasses + HELO Gasket:
– Rotary Wing
– Mobility Platform
– Infil and Exfil (HAFing and possibly very dynamic GAFing)
The array box includes:
• HALO Goggle
• M-Frame Glasses
• HELO Gasket
• Large microfiber bag for the goggles
• Smaller microfiber bag for the M-Frame
• 4 lenses: TR45, TR22, Clear and Smoke
• Antifogging solution
• Strap for the M-Frame for securing the stems during high mobility activities
M Frame® Alpha Glasses
The Alpha were designed with tactical use in mind; the frame has a peculiar shape that eliminates entirely all blind spots that usually can be found in normal eyewear. When shouldering a long weapon, whether it is a carbine or a precision gun, the natural posture includes a slight tilt of the head forward in order to have a better cheek weld and bring the eye closer to the optic.
The peculiar design of the Alphas allows to have an unimpeded view through the weapon’s optic without eliminating the frame (like in the Tombstone model) at the risk of possibly losing battlefield-type ruggedness.
The “free float” design of the lens provides a very high degree of ventilation. Unlike the older M-Frame models, the upper horizontal frame is completely cleared from the forehead giving enough tolerance for a continuous airflow to prevent fogging either on the move or stationary.
Because the M-Frame Alpha has built-in ventilation within the frame the anti-fogging capability is broadened to all lenses available (unlike the older M-Frames, which had specific ventilated lenses).
The M Frame® are extremely light and comfortable: the stems are thin enough to be compatible with over the ear hearing protection or comms while still maintaining the minimum thickness to be forgiving on the ears during prolonged use. The stems , together with the Unobtanium™ nose piece, are capable of keeping the eyewear in place even very effectively, even when exposed to copious amount of sweat.
With only three points of contact and with an extremely wide field of view these lenses can truly maximize and possibly enhance the vision of the user and the situational awareness.
Comparing the M Frame® Alpha to older Oakley SI products for a better understanding, the lens shape is similar to the Hybrid variation on the older M Frame®.
When it comes to lens interchangeability the M Frame® Alpha are truly second to none, the mechanism is very intuitive, repeatable and perfectly secures the lenses even after months of hard use.
The goggle frame is made of a soft flexible polymer that provides enough ductility to allow for a simpler lens changeability. Three venting ports are placed on the upper portion allowing a very natural and seamless airflow through the system. During high intensity activities the foam is very comfortable and does not cause skin irritation, both in hot and cold weather; after the use it dries quickly.
The removable straps included in the kit are made of a durable stretchable material that is lined with two silicone stripes in the inner portion for a secure grip on smooth surfaces of helmets. The closing mechanism is simple but clever; the occipital portion of the strap is slightly thicker and is lined with hook on the inner side and loop on the outer, this is symmetrical among the two straps. Because of the abundance of the hook and loop lined portion, the straps can overlap and it is possible to utilize the goggles even without an helmet, or if necessary cut any excess material if are only going to be used on helmets (this is also possible because the hook and loop section is stitched and intervals allowing to cleanly cut a section away).
The HELO Gasket, as the name suggests, is an accessory that could be mounted between the M Frame® lens and the users eye to seal the optic and block out wind, dust, sand or debris in general from entering the user’s eye. Since it is made of a soft rubberized polymer, the HELO gasket is very comfortable and it can be easily attached to the frame with a tight and secure fit.
Unlike the older generation M Frames, the M Frame® Alpha utilizes the negative notch in the center portion of the frame as an anchor point for the gasket’s hook. This allows to have a very low profile, especially compared to other models.
The Alpha can be purchased either in an array or piece by piece for a specific mission requirement.
The two arrays differ only in the container utilized: a compact square case or a strongbox. The first is more suited for actual practical transportation, while being more compact than the strongbox still provides enough protection and security to the lenses if carried within other bags.
Since the array includes TR45, TR22, Clear and Smoke lenses, if there is a requirement for specific lenses from the Prizm Snow collection, it is recommended to compose a personal array purchasing each item piece by piece.
In the reviewing process, one aspect on which we had focused a lot of attention was the optical alignment of the lens, both in the M-Frame and in the HALO Goggle. Despite the fact that the lens inter-changeability is extremely simple and fast, in both platforms, the three points of contact that hold the lenses in place are very effective and repeatable. All Oakley lenses are well known for the optical quality but the combination of the Prizm technology with this kind of support structure provides unequalled results.
The true innovation stands in the modularity of the whole ALPHA system. After over 6 months of use in all weather conditions we have to say that when it comes to usability Oakley has really knocked it of the park with the Alpha ecosystem.