Industry Tackling Body Armor Burden with New Materials

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December 19, 2016 | Originally published by Date Line: December 19 on

Body armor weight has been an issue for soldiers for decades, but as lawmakers and the military push to decrease the load, scientists, academics and the defense industry are developing technologies that create lighter vests, buoyant plates and more comfortable fabrics.

The Army has been working to develop the next-generation “soldier protection system,” which would equip troops with lighter body armor, along with upgraded equipment including health sensors and new protective eyewear.

“The most immediate need for body armor right now is weight reduction,” said Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, product manager for soldier protective equipment for the Army program executive office soldier. “There is a big emphasis on trying to lighten the soldiers’ load, and also to make sure that we have adequate protection and a great fit.”

The multimillion-dollar program includes the vital torso protection system (VTPS), which features lighter-weight protective inserts and side ballistic inserts. The VTPS achieves between seven and 14 percent reduced weight, Brown said. The manufacturers include BAE Systems and Ceradyne.