New Body Armor to Lighten Soldier Load

By Valerie Insinna
Fielding body armor that is both protective and light has long been a challenge for the Army, but a new material that can reduce the weight of products by 30 percent is making its way into protective gear.

The Army in December awarded a contract for the Generation II Soldier Plate Carrier System to Point Blank Enterprises. The new torso armor provides the same level of ballistic protection as the improved outer tactical vest, and it incorporates a product called Dyneema — a flexible, lightweight polymer fiber that is 15 percent stronger than steel.

Dyneema fibers are fused to form a unidirectional material, where all of the fibers are aligned the same way, said Sophie Wray, regional marketing manager for manufacturer DSM Dyneema’s life protection Americas group. Layering this material so that the direction of the fibers alternate gives Dyneema its bullet-stopping power.

“What that does is it engages the bullet. So when the bullet hits the material, the energy is dispersed along the lines of the fibers,” she said.

The material also could be integrated into the Army’s “soldier protection system,” a future program that will include protection for the head, torso, eyes and extremities as well as sensors to monitor a soldier’s health.

Contracts for that program have yet to be awarded, but several of the competitors have developed and proposed armor that combines Dyneema’s technology with their own proprietary materials, Wray said. Army testing of that armor is underway.

“Those manufacturers … have their own recipes for their solutions. So some do a combination of our unidirectional composite and they add a woven structure to it,” she said. The woven structure may increase flexibility and keep bullets from hitting the body.

Topics: Land Forces

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