The U.S. Army is working
on reducing the weight of the vests while designing them to provide
more protection against small arms fire. Research is being conducted
on making better body armor that is safer and allows greater
movement. In March, students at The University of Virginia designed
a new type of body armor that is lighter and weighs less than the
armor currently in the field with soldiers.
The U.S. Army is
very focused on improved body armor and is working to develop next
generation ballistic plates for body armor that it calls the
X-Sapi program. So far, the Army has ordered 120,000 of the plates
but has yet to issue the gear to soldiers in the field.
Week quotes Lt. Col. Jon Rickey saying that the new plates are
designed to defeat an X-threat that has not yet fully emerged. Rickey
won’t say exactly what that X-threat is , he only says that the
army is attempting to get ahead of what is expected to appear on the
battlefield. Some reports peg the X-threat as higher velocity rounds
and armor piercing rounds.
The new X-Sapi plates are
reportedly constructed of the same materials as the current
E-Sapi plates. The new plates differ in how the materials are put
together. The reason the new plates aren’t in the field already is
that they reportedly add half a pound to the weight the solider
carries. Half a pound may not sound like much, but on top of what the
soldiers already carry, it is a lot.
Accountability Office launched an investigation into the reliability
of body armor worn by American troops in 2007. The GAO found that the
testing procedures used for the plates were flawed. The Army says
that it is still in the testing phase with the new plates and is
taking the data from the different phases of testing and making a
report to offer to the GAO.
The new X-Sapi plates are not as
far as protective body armor can go says Rickey. He said, "We’ve
only tapped into about 40% of where the industry can go in terms of
HMW-PE fiber. In aramid fibers, they’re continuing to look at ways
to improve the resin and unidirectional weave to give them more
capability at a light weight."
New generations of body
armor are also being designed that will incorporate a myriad of
sensors and other electronics into the armor. This will help to
reduce the load a solider needs to carry into combat. One area that
the military is focusing on is helmets. Some new helmets have sensors
inside that can help find safer designs after an accident or an
New body armor designs are also working to incorporate
the Land Warrior electronics equipment into the design. Land Warrior
allows the field commander to track the location of friendly soldiers
using helmet-based screens and sensors in friendly troops' body