Marines Seek Lighter Body Armor for Protection in Counterinsurgency Operations

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The Marine Corps is looking into lighter body armor, which would offer commanders the flexibility they need to succeed in low-intensity conflicts that occur in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last Wednesday, the Marines issued a request for information (RFI) seeking industry help in obtaining new, lighter weight body armor to augment the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (ESAPI) plates they already use.

The RFI states that the Marine Corps is looking into new armor that would provide “additional protection against the type of non-armor piercing rounds they currently face in low-intensity counterinsurgency operations and similar threat environments.”

Individual Armor Team Lead, Nick Pierce at Marine Corps System Command, who is the Infantry Combat Equipment program manager, said, “The ESAPI plates we currently use do an incredible job protecting our Marines and saving lives. However, the problem is the binary choice Marines are now being given. They have to choose whether to wear 15 pounds of additional gear in order to be protected or to take on zero additional weight and risk having very little protection. A new lighter weight plate is needed to protect Marines while giving commanders a choice regarding which plate would be best based on the type of mission.”

The top Marine commander has an objective for infantry Marines, and it is to lighten their load. Marines are often expected to carry gear and equipment weighing over a hundred pounds when they go on missions, which only serves to limit their mobility.

Test results at Marine Corps Systems Command show that using a lighter weight hard armor plate would increase mobility by almost 8%.

Pierce said in the command press release, “Without divulging too much, I can definitely say that the new body armor plates will lighten the Marines’ load significantly while increasing their mobility.” He went on to say, “This added capability will save lives and help to win battles by allowing Marines to more confidently engage the enemy and/or more quickly move to cover and concealment.”

According to the command press release, Marines might have the new lighter weight body armor by 2020.

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