Posted on May 9, 2016
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With todays Gear Sets and weight of combat loads, we should look at more practical Armor, what are your thoughts
Posted in these groups: Molle-gear-223x212 GearDra60033-2 Combat Arms31m8esm34pl Safety
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Responses: 15
LTC Marc King
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SSG David Winkler: You pose the question that makes its way around the Pentagon in an endless loop. The weight of combat loads has been and continues to be a priority for all of those responsible for individual soldier effectiveness on the battlefield. That said there are questions regarding the issue and wearing of individual safety items (body armor and helmets) that merit attention and understanding of where we are, were we have been and were we are going on these items. So the story goes like this... The PM Soldier guys will come to the field and ask the question "Is the body armor to heavy and would you like it to lighter?" The answer is intuitive of course we would lie lighter body armor. Now... If I inform you that the body armor could be made lighter but it would not give you the same level of protection as the heavier solution you might just respond differently. In fact I have had the opportunity through my corporate career to address this question to soldiers and marines many times and the answer is not surprising -- if lighter means less protection I will take the protection. So we ask..."Why is that important?" If you are aware of the statistics that have come out of almost 13 years of continuous combat in Afghanistan and Iraq then you know the following: After 13 years the number of KIA's stands at around 6,800. Now compare that number to the number of casualties recorded for the Viet Nam war at about 58,000 and you can get a sense of what the technology has brought to the battlefield. Its not all body armor... the advances in medicine also play a role in the numbers. However, I would also add that the most startling statistic of all, as reported by JTAPIC (the medical organization that studies battlefield wounds of all KIA's to learn how to prevent/treat them in the future) is that there are no recorded cases of a soldier or marine having been killed by the penetration of their body armor by a bullet that the armor was designed to defeat. Now before someone jumps in here to tell me I'm wrong and they know a guy... There are many stories that circulate through the services, some of them are true many are "war stories" that take on a believability but in fact they are a "fairy tale". The difference is easy to spot; the Fairy Tale starts with the phrase "once upon a time..." while the War Story starts... "Now this is no s**t" but I digress. The focus of this discussion is the weight of the body armor. So why does it weigh what it weighs? Because it has been carefully designed to defeat all of the know and in some cases the postulated threats (Bullets) that you as a warrior will encounter on the battlefield. And when I say carefully designed I can assure you that not other piece of equipment that you are wearing on your person has been tested to the level of performance as has your body armor. There is a trade off going on in the industry and it is import to understand what is being done to make the armor lighter and still have it provide the protection that you need. And you do need it. Even if it is uncomfortable at times. The issue is welfare and not comfort... just ask your significant other or your mother. He or she will tell you the difference. So Industry has had 13 years to work on this challenge and they have been working very hard to provide a solution. But much like the old game of rock, paper, scissors every time there is an advancement made in lighter weight body armor materials there is an advancement made in better bullets to defeat that armor. And that is how this "game" is played. PM Soldier is trying to get in front of these issues and find solutions but it is an arduous task at best. That said there are advances being made but for the sake of full disclosure it must be understood that the advances are evolutionary and not revolutionary so the changes that are being offered are relatively small changes -- but they are the best that industry has to offer... at this time.
The issue of the IOTV or the plate carrier is another debate that can go on ad-infanitum. While to IOTV does offer more protection it weighs more that the plate carrier which was developed and fielded for the warriors that had to hump the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. it was not intended to be the principle outer layer of protection for the force. Its widely accepted and worn because it is lighter but as one response to this post has already pointed out there is a lot more body parts exposed with the carrier vice the IOTV.
The issue of the MICH helmet is another example of War Story drama and not understanding the equipment that you have been provided. The MICH and the ACH are really the same helmet with a slightly different design. If you look at them side by side you will see that the MICH has had the ear protection part of the helmet eliminated and rear of the helmet shorted a bit so as not get pushed forward in the prone position.. This was done to accommodate the requirements that were being asked for by the Special Operators -- the rational being you could hear better in an all around situation. Does it matter... They thought so and they got what they requested. There is no evidence that it provides a hearing advantage over the ACH except for the radio operator who might be using a hand set making it easier to get the piece to the ear. In terms of ballistic performance the MICH, ACH, Light Weight/LWACH (in production) and the Marine Corps LWH all have the same level of protection. The LWACH has reduced the weight on average 4oz. over the ACH.

So in closing I would say that the matter of "practical" body armor is not one that can be simply addressed by saying make it lighter. The practical solution is the one that will keep the most important asset we have "the fighting men and women" of this country alive to fight another day.
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SPC Infantryman
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Thanx for all the good info LTC. Very high speed, outstanding!
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SSG Dennis Grossmann
SSG Dennis Grossmann
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The body armor is designed for blasts also. If the upward shrapnel weren't a factor, then Dragon scale armor would be a great weight reducer.
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LTC Marc King
LTC Marc King
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SSG Grossmann: Let me offer some additional thoughts. As I said in my earlier reply the body armor that is currently being worn by DoD personnel is not tested for blast as part of its qualification process. It turns out that it has performed well, in some cases, when subjected to IED events in the field and I have photos of shrapnel protruding from the ceramic plate which would have caused a catastrophic injury had it not stopped the projectile. The soldier wearing it sent the photo along with a "Thank You" note. Also, we know from all of the medical data that has been collected that if we can prevent any penetration of the upper body organs it is a better then a 90% probability that the soldier will survive any other wounds received on the battlefield. Hence the truly low number of KIAs and the very large number of WIAs in the current theaters.
On the subject of Dragon Skin (not Dragon Scale) I can offer this. It was tested to its limits by both the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense with the same conclusion reached. Despite the hype from the manufacturer it was 1. Not lighter and; 2. it failed to meet the protection levels required to defeat the current armor piercing bullet threat when compared to a monolithic ceramic plate. The testing had nothing to do with shrapnel in an upward trajectory. More "war story" stuff because there is, as previously stated, no testing for blast. While Dragon Skin showed some potential for lower level threats it failed a number of the environmental test as well as ballistic testing for more lethal threat required of all body armor and was subsequently recalled by the USAF and it was banned by the USMC. Trust me on this one... if you check my creds on RP you will see that I'm the guy that led Ceradyne Armor Systems, Inc., supplying about 80% of all the body armor that is currently used by all DoD components. As for Dragon Skin... I also supplied the key component for the manufacturer, the ceramic disks that gave it the "scaled" appearance. Making both was a good gig but the Dragon Skin concept, like many other prosed solutions just did not work out. On the other hand the current ESAPI plate which has been in the field since 2005 has saved thousand of lives on the battle field a record we are enormously proud of. One of my regrets is that we did not have this technology in Viet Nam... so more of my soldier could have also come home.
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CSM Geologist
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Yes we should be looking at ways to reduce combat loads! The injuries sustained from long-term use of heavy loads costs money in disability payments at the end of military careers. If we spent just a portion of that money up front to reduce combat loads, there would be less injuries. I wrote about Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) back in 2011. From their website, "Dismounted warfighters often carry heavy combat loads that increase the stress on the body leading to potential injuries. With a HULC exoskeleton, these heavy loads are transferred to the ground through powered titanium legs without loss of mobility."
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Thank you CSM, I felt like a human Hesco Barrier with limited mobility
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SFC David Davenport
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Honestly the real answer is you should get the piece of equipment that best meets your needs for your assigned mission. I personally preferred a plate carrier for what I was doing while deployed. It was a better choice and kept my dismounted combat load down to about 84 lbs. of gear. For someone on a more mobile mission using vehicles a higher percentage of time the IOTV likely would have been a better choice. To be blunt the choice of one or the other with no context is not good question in my opinion.
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