The Army's Research Laboratory reduced the weight of a size medium Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert plate from 5.45 pounds to 4.9 pounds as part of the Advanced Body Armor Project. Army officials said the other services as well as Special Forces units would benefit from the research.
In order to reach the 10 percent reduction in weight, Army engineers and scientists worked with industry leaders to make "advances in composites, ceramics and component integration," the Army said in a release. However, those advances didn't happen until the Army utilized the ManTech and the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Defense-Wide Manufacturing Science and Technology programs.
The ManTech program provides funds for the service to partner with defense companies to overcome major manufacturing obstacles. The Army used this money to partner with six commercial manufacturers to reach this breakthrough, although service leaders wouldn't name them.
Army leaders acknowledged that they've received repeated attempts to lighten body armor.
"The armor the Soldier is wearing right now is the best armor we can possibly give them. The one concern that we hear about it -- can you make it lighter? That's the number one request," said Shawn Walsh, the Agile Manufacturing Technology team leader.
However, he said the ways that engineers had found weighs to drop the weight while still producing a safe plate, weren't feasible for "mass production and fielding," Walsh said. In other words, the lighter plates were too expensive.