A flak jacket or flak vest is a form of protective clothing designed to provide protection from shrapnel and other indirect low velocity projectiles. Today it frequently refers to bulletproof vests, particularly Type III and above which have added steel, titanium, ceramic or polyethylene plates which can withstand high-powered rounds such as those from rifles.
RAF Flak Jacket
The first usage of the term refers to the armour originally developed by the Wilkinson Sword
company during World War II
to help protect Royal Air Force
(RAF) air personnel from the flying debris and shrapnel
thrown by German anti-aircraft guns
' high-explosive shells (flak
itself is an abbrevation for the German word for "anti-aircraft gun" (Fliegerabwehrkanone
)). The jacket
consisted of manganese
plates sewn into a waistcoat made of ballistic nylon
(a material engineered by the DuPont
company); therefore, flak jackets functioned as an evolved form of plate armour
Unfortunately, flak jackets proved to be too bulky for wear within the confines of the RAF's standard bomber aircraft, the Avro Lancaster. The Royal Air Force subsequently offered the jackets to the United States Army Air Forces, which adopted them as a Defense Standard. Ultimately, however, the jackets proved to be less effective than hoped, and are now generally considered to be inferior to body armor.
During World War II
, flak jackets and steel helmets were worn by US Navy personnel on aircraft carriers during battle, since the ships and especially their flight decks offered little protection for their crew. Known as "flash gear", this was supposed to protect against shrapnel and heat.