The US Army is always looking for ways to improve on it’s current standard body armor, the IOTV. We’ve already talked about one of the results of this, the Ballistic Combat Shirt. This is part of the Torso and Extremity Protection (TEP) System, and we’ll look at other developments here. We’ll also look at the results of the Vital Torso Protection (VTP) system, an effort to lighten the ceramic plates that stop rifle rounds.
Let’s start with the VTP. The result of this is an eight to fourteen percent1 weight reduction in plate weights, depending on plate size. Plates are available in the standard range of SAPI sizes, in ESAPI and XSAPI equivalent protection levels. Let’s see what this looks like.
|Plate||VTP Weight (lbs.)|
|ESAPI Size M||5.0|
|XSAPI Size M||5.5|
I believe the side plates quoted above are 6″x8″ plates, but I could be wrong. There are a few different side plate sizes.
Now, on to the TEP, starting with the new vest. The new vest is called the Modular Scalable Vest. This vest includes some more clever thinking to reduce weight and improve comfort. One of the things we see on the weight reduction front is the replacement of PALS webbing, which is strips of cordura sewn to the front of the vest to create loops for MOLLE attachments to laser cutting holes directly into the cordura of the vest itself to create loops. Plus, there’s likely some new material in use for the soft armor panels themselves, judging by the weight savings. And those are significant: a medium-size MSV weighs 6.19 lbs. We’ll do a system-level comparison with the old vest, since the new one is smaller, but is expected to be worn with that Ballistic Combat Shirt.
The SPS also includes a new battle belt, called the Load Distribustion System. This is a wide, padded belt that’s MOLLE ready. It also contains some soft armor. It’s designed to allow soldiers to move some things from their vest to their belt to redistribute load from their shoulders to their hips. Good theory, but soldiers being soldiers, they’ll probably just carry more stuff. What isn’t clear to me is if the belt has some kind of system to interface with the vest. Some of the higher end armor makers in the US2 have come up with ways to attach the vest to the belt to redistribute vest weight to the hips too. I don’t know if SPS is going that route. Anyway, medium size LDS weighs 2.3 lbs.
Finally, we come to the Blast Pelvic Protector. This is designed to protect the pelvis and femoral artery from fragmentation injury. It looks kind of like a small pair of chaps, and is worn over the uniform trousers. This is an improvement over the groin protector assembly of the IOTV, as it provides all-around protection. Weight of the BPP is 1.68 lbs.
Okay. Totals time. Again, we’re going to compare system to system, understanding that there are some changes in protected area. And also understanding that I’m not a huge fan of the side plates. But the US Army is, and both vests will have them.
|MSV, size M||6.19|
|BCS, size M||2.89|
|ESAPI-VTP plates, size M (pair)||10.0|
|ESBI-VTP plates (pair)||4.06|
Compare this to an IOTV Gen 2 (medium size) weight of 31.79 lbs from the manual, and we have a weight savings of 4.67 lbs. Not bad, SPS program. Not bad at all.