Marine Corps Systems Command announced it will buy 3,800 IMTVs in sizes small-short, medium-short and large-short this year.
“Based on our latest measurements of a large population set of the Marine Corps, we saw that additional sizes would benefit [smaller stature] Marines,” said Maj. James Pelland, Individual Armor Team lead. “If something is made to fit you better, you don’t have to expend extra energy struggling with it. Energy loss equates to fatigue, less functionality and less lethality. We believe in increasing Marine mobility and performance. That’s what we’re focused on. Most Marines don't wear the IMTV in the field. Most wear the plate carrier, which provides less protection, but is lighter, cooler and less restrictive, the Marine message admitted. However, the Corps hopes the additional sizes will encourage more Marines to wear the IMTV in combat.
Contrary to the Army's efforts to design body armor for female soldiers, the Marine Corps officials said it was unnecessary to design female specific body armor.
Congress has disagreed. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee wrote legislation into the latest defense budget ordering Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to issue a report on the “department’s programs to develop and field individual equipment that is properly sized, weighted, and designed to accommodate its use by women across all of the military services.”
Marine officials said in the announcement that the smaller sized body armor was their answer to the call for female designed body armor.
“We didn’t stop there,” Pelland said in a statement. “We also conducted an attribute workshop with Marines at Camp Pendleton—including smaller stature male and female Marines. They confirmed what we thought—it wasn’t as much a male-female issue as a stature issue that’s related to the length of the torso.”
In the workshop, Marines also tried on four prototypes of the next generation body armor, the Modular Scalable Vest (MSV). The Marine Corps wants to reach a point that commanders can pick from a scalable vest that can be adapted to the combat situation, Marine officials said.
“So we set out about a year and half ago to develop a single modular, scalable vest that builds from the plate carrier all the way up to the IMTV,” Pelland said in the statment. "This gives commanders more choices in terms of armor protection levels to better adjust to the mission at hand.”
The Marine Corps hopes to field the MSV in two years. Officials hope to incorporate plates that are lighter, or of equal size, yet provide more protection. Marine Corps Systems Command also wants a quick release feature to allow Marines to shed their body armor and kit if the situation warrants.
Maybe most importantly, though, the body armor must be comfortable for the Marine, which may include even more sizes.
“Sizing and fit will be critical considerations for the MSV as well,” Pelland said. “It may mean developing new sizes for the vest and possibly the plates, but our overall goal is to size the MSV and its components in order to give Marines both the mobility and protection they need.”