The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is lightening its soldiers’ load with the introduction of lighter army body armor, conceptualised by its own national servicemen.
The new Integrated Body Armour (iBA) vest – one of two innovations to be showcased as part of Mindef’s Pride Day on Friday – weighs just 6.5kg even when fitted to its highest protection level.
In contrast, the two-vest system of old – comprising army body armor worn under a load-bearing one – weighs 10.5kg.
Being lighter does not mean the new army body armor is inferior to the old one, either. In fact, the iBA offers more protection, with additional armor plates and guards covering the soldier’s neck, sides and groin.
Captain Spencer Giam, a 9th Division staff officer, said that the development of the iBA was first mooted in 2007.
The army body armor can be customised with armour plates of varying strength, and can stop 7.62mm-calibre bullets at its highest level of protection. One significant quality that was retained from the old system was the three protection levels, allowing the iBA to be customised to suit the requirements of any military operation.
Said Staff Sergeant Jorji Tan, 20, who joined the project in November last year: “We tried to create an integrated solution for it, so soldiers can now wear a single vest and still attain the same level of protection that they had before.”
The iBA also has a quick-jettison tab, allowing the vest to be taken off in 17 seconds with just a simple tug on the tab.
Soldiers can get operationally ready faster with the new army body armor and, if injured, would be able to receive treatment more quickly as well. The need to combat heat exhaustion played a part in deciding on the materials to use for the iBA. The old army body armor was made of canvas, which prevented heat from escaping. The new vest’s meshed-net design dissipates heat better, thus reducing discomfort.
New army body armor will rollout in September 2009
The iBA is being distributed to all army personnel via a gradual rollout that started in September 2009.
Only units slated for combat operations are provided with actual armour plates and, even then, these units will train only with replicas of the armour plates.
Said SSG Tan: “The dummy plates allow soldiers to train with the actual equipment they would be using in real operations. More realism is achieved because, in the old vest system, soldiers trained with only the load-bearing vest.”
The other innovation to be showcased is the navy’s new capability to conduct Mine Disposal Charge testing in laboratory conditions on land. In the past, such testing could be carried out only at sea.