Interceptor body armor


Interceptor body armor
Interceptor Body Armor in M81 Woodland.

Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) is the United States Army's primary bulletproof vest. The Interceptor design replaced the older fragmentation protective Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT) body armor system, introduced in the early 1980s. Materials for the Interceptor vest were developed by DARPA in the 1990s, and a contract for production was awarded to DHB Industries' Point Blank Body Armor, Inc., by the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center.

As of early 2010, the Interceptor Body Armor system (IBA) currently employs two main variants, the original Outer Tactical Vest (OTV), used with the Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) ballistic plates series; and the newer Improved Outer Tactical Vest, (IOTV), used with the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts (ESAPIs) ballistic plate series.

The original Interceptor OTV variant was re-designed, improved, and enhanced with the introduction of the Improved Outer Tactical Vest body armor for the Army (which began to be issued to ground combat units in late 2007). After initially using the OTV as their body armor system, the Marine Corps developed a completely new armor system, the Modular Tactical Vest, which is currently their primary body armor system. Some United States Navy ground force personnel (such as the Seabees and Corpsmen) use the Modular Tactical Vest. Other Navy personnel on Individual Augmentee assignments use the Army's body armor systems.

The original Interceptor OTV variant first began to be issued to U.S. Army ground combat units in the early 2000s, and the first OTV carriers were first produced in the M81 Woodland camouflage pattern (One initial contractor for the early OTVs was Point Blank, Inc). The Woodland camouflage pattern was then superseded by the 3-color Desert pattern, followed by the Universal Camouflage Pattern. Troops deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom are issued equipment in MultiCam. Other OTV carrier camouflage variants included the USMC's Coyote Brown color shade, and some solid color shade variants, such as black, green, and white.

Contents

Technical details

The Interceptor body armor system consists of an Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) and two Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) ballistic plates. The OTV features a carrier shell, and three main ballistic panel inserts (left and right side panels, and a rear back panel), which are made with a finely woven Kevlar KM2 fiber. These two parts of the vest are both bullet and heat resistant. The vest was tested to stop a 9 mm 124 grain full metal jacket bullet at 1,400 ft/s (426 m/s) with minimal deformation and has a V-50 of roughly 1,525 ft/s (465 m/s). This means that the bullet has to be traveling faster than 1,525 ft/s for it to have more than a 50% chance of breaking through the soft armor panel. These soft ballistic panels are produced in five different sizes (S-XXL), which are installed into their respective pocket on the OTV carrier shell. To increase overall protection, separate accessories can be added to the OTV, such as the collar device, the groin protector, deltoid and auxiliary protectors, and side plate carriers.

The Interceptor cannot, however, be called a Level III-A vest as military standard does not require protection against heavy .44 Magnum ammunition. However, both Level III-A vests and Interceptor do protect from much lighter 9mm threats in identical tests. The vest will stop other, slower-moving fragments and has removable neck, throat, shoulder and groin protection.

Two small-arms protective inserts may also be added to the front and back of the vest, with each plate designed to stop up to three hits from 7.62x51mm NATO M80 ball ammunition, with a muzzle velocity of 2,750 feet per second (838 m/s). The plates are the most technically advanced body armor fielded by the U.S. military, and are constructed of boron carbide ceramic with a Spectra/Dyneema shield backing that breaks down projectiles and halts their momentum.

The Interceptor armor also has a PALS webbing grid on the front of the vest which accommodate the same type of pockets used in the Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) backpack/carry vest system. This allows a soldier to tailor-fit his MOLLE and body armor system. While not specifically designed for it, the loops can also easily attach All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment (ALICE)-based equipment, MOLLE's predecessor, as well as many pieces of civilian-made tactical gear, and also features a large handle on the back just below the collar which can be used to drag a wounded person to safety in an emergency. The Interceptor vest comes in various different camouflage patterns, including M81 Woodland, three-color desert, and the Army Combat Uniform's Universal Camouflage Pattern, Coyote Brown, and black, the latter being used by Police SWAT units.

Originally the Interceptor Body Armor System weighs 16.4 pounds (7.4 kg), with the vest weighing 8.4 pounds (3.8 kg), and two plate inserts weighing four pounds (1.8 kg) each. This is lighter than the previous body armor fielded in Somalia which weighed 25.1 pounds (11.4 kg).

Due to the increased dangers of improvised explosive devices, a newer version of the vital plates and components have been developed. The Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts (ESAPIs) and Enhanced Side Ballistic Inserts (ESBIs) have become available, along with the Deltoid and Axilliary Protectors (DAPs). These new systems are becoming the standard for forward deployed troops. The E-SAPI plates offer increased protection from 7.62mm armor piercing ammunition. The ESBIs is an attachable MOLLE ballistic panel with a pouch for a 8x6 side-SAPI, for protection of the side of the torso/under the arm. DAPs consists of two ambidextrous modular components, the Deltoid (upper arm) Protector and the Axillary (under arm) Protector, and provide for additional protection from fragmentary and projectiles to the upper arm and underarm areas. With the Interceptor body armor, E-SAPI plates (10.9 pounds), ESBIs (7.75 pounds), DAPs (5.03 pounds) and with the neck, throat and groin protectors installed the armor is significantly heavier at 33.1 pounds (15 kg).

Body armor is always a compromise: mobility and comfort (and thus speed and stamina) are inevitably sacrificed to some degree when greater protection is achieved. This is a point of contention in the U.S. armed forces, with some favoring less armor in order to maintain mobility and others wanting as much protection as is practical. The debate is especially valid in the Iraq war, when comparing lightly equipped insurgents with U.S. troops routinely burdened with upwards of 100 lbs. of weapons, ammunition, armor, food, water, and other assorted equipment. Many troops have complained that under such conditions, they are simply unable to pursue their guerrilla opponents. Troops who primarily ride in vehicles generally want the highest practical level of protection from IED's and ambushes, while dismounted infantry often make the case that impaired mobility can prove just as fatal as inadequate armor.

Controversy

Interceptor with additional side SAPI plates and neck protector.

President George W. Bush’s $87 billion package that Congress approved for ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, $300 million has been earmarked for body armor, including the ceramic plates, which currently cost about $500 each. A complete Interceptor system costs $1,585.[1]

On May 4, 2005 the United States Marine Corps recalled 5,277 Interceptor combat vests made by DHB's Point Blank unit after news reports about the vests' inability to stop 9 mm bullets. In November, 2005, the Marine Corps ordered 10,342 Interceptor Outer Tactical Vests pulled from the operating forces after media reports indicated some samples tested by the manufacturer and by the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland failed to fully comply with ballistics standards. In 2005, the DoD under severe pressure from Congress, authorized a one-time $1,000 reimbursement to soldiers who had purchased civilian body armor and other gear[2] but in 2006 they gave orders not to wear anything but military issued body armor fearing inadequate armor could be purchased.

A recent Marine Corps forensic study obtained by DefenseWatch slams the Interceptor OTV body armor system, claiming "as many as 42% of the Marine casualties who died from isolated torso injuries could have been prevented with improved protection in the areas surrounding the plated areas of the vest. Nearly 23% might have benefited from protection along the mid-axillary line of the lateral chest. Another 15% died from impacts through the unprotected shoulder and upper arm," the report says.[3] Side armor has been sent to Iraq in increasing amounts, but many troops don't want to wear it because it adds 10 lb to the 16 lb vest and they say the added weight could decrease mobility and get them killed in certain combat scenarios.[4]

On May 10, 2006, the Army announced it was holding an open competition for companies to design an entire new generation of body armor "to improve on and replace" the Interceptor. The Army said it wanted ideas from companies by May 31. Congressional investigators reportedly reviewed the Pentagon's entire body armor program, including the Interceptor vest. Investigators expressed concern that the vests might not be adequate to protect troops.[5]

Improved Version Replacement

Aside from replacing the SAPI vital plates with the improved E-SAPI plates, the vests have also been redesigned. The Army has transitioned to the Improved Outer Tactical Vest, or "IOTV".

On September 25, 2006, the Marine Corps announced that Protective Products International won a contract for 60,000 new Modular Tactical Vests (MTV) to replace the Interceptor OTV vests.[6] The MTV provides greater coverage, superior weight distribution, and additional features such as a quick-release system.

Units were issued to deploying troops for use in Afghanistan and Iraq, while the Interceptor will continue to be issued to garrison and training post troops for some time to come. The MTV has received top ratings by many US Marines; although a few Marines have complained about minor elements of it and an updated version will soon be released which deals with these elements.[7]

See also

References

  1. ^ Burgess, Lisa Stars & Stripes January 13, 2004
  2. ^ Helms, Nathaniel R. (2006-01-14). "Army Orders Soldiers to Shed Dragon Skin or Lose SGLI Death Benefits". Soldiers for the Truth. http://www.sftt.org/cgi-bin/csNews/csNews.cgi?command=viewone&id=82&database=Body%20Armor.db. Retrieved 2009-06-29. [dead link]
  3. ^ sftt.org. "Interceptor OTV Body Armor Cost Lives, An Internal USMC Reports Shows". Interceptor Body Armor. Archived from the original on 2006-02-13. http://web.archive.org/web/20060213205000/http://www.sftt.org/main.cfm?actionId=globalShowStaticContent&screenKey=cmpDefense&htmlCategoryID=30&htmlId=4459. Retrieved 2006-05-15. 
  4. ^ strategypage.com. "Troops Reject New Body Armor as Dangerous". Interceptor Body Armor. http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/200641424423.asp. Retrieved 2006-05-15. 
  5. ^ newsday.com. "Army deals blow to body armor maker DHB Industries". Interceptor Body Armor. http://www.newsday.com/business/ny-bzdhb0511,0,6522238.story?coll=ny-business-leadheadlines. Retrieved 2006-05-15. [dead link]
  6. ^ http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/2006/11/i-want-my-mtv-marines-getting-new-body-armor/index.php
  7. ^ http://www.newser.com/story/46954/marines-improving-vests-after-complaints.html

External links


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