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Army Fields New Body Armor Design
Military.com  |  By Christian Lowe  |  April 03, 2007
The Army is set to field a new body armor vest that the service says is lighter and offers more protection from bullets and shrapnel than the current design.

The new "Improved Outer Tactical Vest" is the first major redesign of Army body armor since the service began fielding the "Interceptor" Outer Tactical Vest in the late 1990s. The new armor incorporates many potentially life-saving features offered on more modern vests, including a quick release system, integrated side ballistic plate carriers and access points for medics.

The change comes after years of controversy over a shortage of body armor for troops in Iraq and revelations that both the Army and Marine Corps hastily fielded vests from production lots that had not passed ballistic quality assurance tests.

"This vest epitomizes our continuous efforts to seek the next improvement and to provide our Soldiers the best body armor available - bar none," said Program Executive Office Soldier director, Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, in an April 2 news release. "It is live fire tested, and we know it will prove itself in combat."

The Army plans to field the vest to troops already in Iraq and Afghanistan, though it is still unclear what the total buy will be or when Soldiers readying for deployment will receive one.

The key difference from the current Interceptor is the IOTV's over-the-head entry system, similar to armor used by special operations forces. Army testers claim the vest has a more comfortable fit, with an inner cummerbund that helps distribute the weight of the vest onto a Soldier's waist rather than his shoulders and a mesh liner that helps keep Soldier cool under the burden of the heavy armor.

Army developers also claim the vest is three pounds lighter than the current OTV, which weighs about 30 pounds.

"This design significantly decreases the vest's profile and should increase mobility. And we believe mobility equals survivability," said PEO Soldier's Maj. Carl Fulmore.

There's more protective coverage as well. The IOTV has a higher cut under the arms, which means Soldiers won't need the extra under-arm protection of the Deltoid Axillary Protector set. And the vest incorporates a lower back flap that increases ballistic coverage by 52 inches, the Army said.

The vest will continue to use the current-issued Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert plates in the front, back and sides.

Some of the key survivability enhancements include a single-point quick release tab on the front of the vest that pulls it apart into several pieces with one tug. This feature, along with a tear-away access point on the shoulder, helps medical personnel treat injured Soldiers in a hurry.

The vest also comes in "long" variants, offering 11 different sizes to suit a particular Soldier's build.

The Army began development of the IOTV in the spring of 2006, narrowing down industry offers from 17 to six later in the year. Testing among the remaining competitors was conducted by Soldiers at Fort Lewis, Wash., in January and February, the Army said.

Officials with PEO Soldier were unavailable to comment on which of the competitors will manufacture the new IOTV or how quickly it will be fielded.

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