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thedrifter
10-22-06, 10:08 AM
Marines downrange to get new body armor in ’07

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, October 22, 2006

ARLINGTON, Va. — Marines downrange will get new body armor next year, while soldiers will have to wait a while.

The Marine Corps has ordered 60,000 new Modular Tactical Vests (MTV) that should start arriving downrange in February, according to a spokesman for Marine Corps Systems Command.

The new vests, which the Corps was expected to discuss Monday, are designed to provide added protection to the side of the torso, the lower back and the kidney area, Capt. Jeff Landis said in a Thursday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The move comes after a May 2005 study by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology showed that several Marines received fatal wounds to exposed areas of their torso, such as their shoulders.

While the new MTVs weigh about a pound more than the Outer Tactical Vests (OTV) that Marines wear now, the vests are designed to distribute weight better and fit more comfortably, Landis said.

He said the Marine Corps believes the MTVs offer the best protection possible for Marines.

In addition to improved protection, the MTVs also have a Velcro attachment that allow rifle butts to fit better against a Marine’s shoulder to ensure accuracy, Landis said.

Soldiers will likely not get their new body armor until fiscal 2010 or 2012.

But the Army is looking at whether it can send the body armor component of the Future Force Warrior system downrange early, said Dutch DeGay, an equipment specialist at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center in Massachusetts.

“Our body armor, that we call the chassis, the U.S. Army Infantry School is drafting a capability production document on that body armor, on that design to see if it would be possible to build that early before 2010 or ’12 to get that in the field,” DeGay said.

He could not say when the report will be completed.

The body armor is a component of a much larger package of equipment for U.S. soldiers known as the Future Force Warrior system.

The other parts of the system include a new helmet, electronic equipment and uniform.

The body armor component would have up to six ceramic ballistic plates, compared with the two plates that are part of current body armor, DeGay said.

The plates themselves are 12 percent larger than current Small Arms Protective Inserts (SAPI) and are shaped to provide more protection along the spine and cut down on gaps between the front, back and side protection, Natick officials said.

The body armor is also expected to be lighter and do more than current body armor, so soldiers would wear between 65 and 70 pounds of armor and gear, compared with the average load that soldiers carry now of between 92 and 120 pounds, DeGay said.

Right now, researchers are conducting initial tests to see whether the shaped ballistic plates provide as much protection as the SAPI plates that soldiers wear now, he said.

If fiscal 2008, the Army will conduct formal tests before awarding a contract for the Future Force Warrior system, DeGay said.

DeGay said that when soldiers see the new equipment, they want it “yesterday,” but they have to realize that the new gear has to be properly tested to make sure it will work downrange.

“The difference is you and I buy a shoe at Nike, if I blow a shoe out, I just go to the Sports Authority and get a new shoe. My soldier who’s in the mountains of Afghanistan doesn’t have that capability, so I have to ensure that that system will perform for them,” he said.

Ellie