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Army Explores Future Body Armor Designs

In addition to exploring ways to lighten the overall weight of current body armor ensembles, U.S. Army representatives are also interested in new interface options that could be applied to future personal armor designs.

The new interest surfaced in a recent sources sought announcement issued by the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Command in cooperation with Program Executive Office Soldier / PM-Soldier Protection Equipment.

Under Natick Broad Agency Announcement 11-13-3, the organization outlined an effort ”to investigate and study the parameters involved in addressing critical body armor interfaces with respect to system modularity, scalability and tailorability (example: ease of system use, range of motion, comfort, and marksmanship).”

Clarifying that the government is not soliciting for the development of any specific system or hardware, the announcement identifies the desired final outcome of this effort as the advancement of existing technology and addressing “scientific and technical problems associated with the development of single product architecture for modular, scalable, tailorable body armor.”

“The next generation of body armor development will be focused on the need for a multi-functional, modular, scalable protection system that improves soldier physiological performance while reducing system/component redundancy and logistic footprint,” it states.

Noting that “current state of the art provides multiple systems to address modularity and scalability for protecting the torso, extremities and pelvic region,” it says that the study effort will contribute to the development of “a single product architecture that addresses the following tiers of protection while addressing load redistribution (reduces point loads on the shoulders and reduces soldier fatigue while wearing typical combat equipment including an assault pack and/or a rucksack).”

“The concept architectures developed under this effort shall consist of a baseline area of coverage for small arms protection [should] not be less than that of the current Soldier Plate Carrier System and scale up to a final system not to exceed that of the Improved Outer Tactical Vest for full fragmentation protection,” it notes.

Industry concept papers are to be submitted in response to the announcement no later than March 9, 2012.

Planners currently envision a main effort lasting no more than one calendar year, with subsequent option year phases “to conduct further investigation of key technical discoveries from the main effort.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...