body armor

Interceptor body armor

Interceptor is a type of body armor formerly fielded by the U.S. military. It is more effective than traditional bulletproof vests and is the successor to Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT). Materials for Interceptor 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. It has been replaced by the Improved Outer Tactical Vest armor for the Army, and Modular Tactical Vest Armor for the Marine Corps.

Technical details

The Interceptor body armor system consists of an Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) and two Small Arms Protective Inserts (SAPI). The OTV is lined with 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 GR full metal jacket bullet (FMJ) 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 armor panel. These plates also come in five different sizes and go into the front and back of the vest.

The Interceptor can not, 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 is also equipped with 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 7.62×51 NATO (.308 Winchester) M-80 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 before reaching the wearer.

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 to meet mission needs. 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 wearer to safety in an emergency. The Interceptor vest comes in various different camouflage patterns, including U.S. woodland, three-color desert, and the Army Combat Uniform's new Universal Camouflage Pattern, as well as Coyote Brown.

The Interceptor Body Armor system weighs a total of 16.4 pounds (7.4 kg), with the vest weighing 8.4 pounds (3.8 kg), and two plates inserted weighing four pounds (1.8 kg) each. This is considerably lighter than the previous body armor fielded in Somalia weighing 25.1 pounds (11.4 kg) that most troops complained was too heavy and unwieldy for combat operations.

Side-SAPIs are also available, along with the newer version of the vital plate, the Enhanced SAPI (E-SAPI). These two systems are becoming standard for forward deployed troops in OEF and OIF III. The E-SAPI plates are thicker and heavier than the normal SAPIs, but they offer increased protection from 7.62mm M2 armor piercing ammunition. The Side-SAPIs protect the side of the torso under the arm. With the Interceptor body armor, E-SAPI plates (10.9 lb), S-SAPI plates (7.1 lb), and with the neck, throat and groin protectors installed the armor is significantly heavier than 16.4 pounds (7.44 kg). A combat load of ammunition and first aid kit are almost universally attached to the webbing on the vest, adding even more mass.

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 60 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 to them as inadequate armor.

Controversy

Of President George W. Bush’s $87 billion package that Congress has recently 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.

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 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. 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.

On May 10th, 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. Some thought the answer lay with the Dragon Skin body armor, but the Army claims that it did not provide adequate protection in their tests.

Improved Version Replacement by the Army and Marines

Aside from replacing the SAPI vital plates with the improved E-SAPI plates, the vests have also been redesigned. The Army has transitioned to these 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. The MTV provides greater coverage, superior weight distribution, and additional features such as a quick-release system.

Units are being 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.

See also

References

External links

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