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U.S. Army Issues Call for Lighter Soldier Protection Ideas

Army equipment officials are asking gear companies for new ideas to reduce the weight of soldier protective kit by as much as 40 percent.

The Oct. 6 Request For Information asks for proposals to lighten the Soldier Protection System Torso and Extremity Protection, or SPS TEP.

The SPS TEP design consists of four components -- Modular Scalable Vest, Ballistic Combat Shirt, Blast Pelvic Protector, and Load Distribution System. The Army has awarded multiple indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contracts for all of the components of the system, which weighs in at 16.14 pounds for a size medium.

“This RFI is to gain information on industry's capabilities to further lighten soldiers’ load by 10-40% or better when compared to the legacy SPS TEP,” according to the RFI. “Significant potential exists in further reducing the weight of the SPS TEP components due to continued improvements in both ballistic and non-ballistic components.”

Army officials maintain that the weight reduction will likely be achieved through material changes and minor design alterations.

The Modular Scalable Vest is a low profile vest with four soft armor panels that can be inserted into a tactical outer carrier, along with hard armor plates. The average weight of a medium MSV is 9.75 pounds, according to the RFI.

The Ballistic Combat Shirt is an Army Combat Shirt deltoid and upper thoracic portions of the BCS contain soft armor that provides protection from fragmenting munitions as well as handgun threats. The deltoid portion of the BCS utilizes three separate ballistic inserts that are layered to form an articulating shoulder that does not impede the normal upward motion of the arm at the shoulder joint. The average weight of a medium BCS is 2.89 pounds, according the RFI.

The Blast Pelvic Protector functions as a blast harness that contains soft armor that provides protection of the pelvic region, femoral arteries, and lower abdominal organs in a blast or fragmentation event. The average weight of a medium BPP is 1.65 pounds, the RFI states.

The Load Distribution System is designed to redistribute the weight burden on the torso vest and load bearing while being carried horizontally, close to the body's center of mass, according to the RFI. It consists of a belt, a spine block and frame sheet. The LDS belt – which contains soft armor that provides fragmentation and handgun protection to the lower back and abdomen region – allows the soldier to mount additional equipment directly to the belt. The average system weight of a medium LDS is 1.85 pounds.

Vendors have until November 25 to submit information.

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