The Marine Corps recently awarded a $59.4 million contract to Central Lake Armor Express Inc. to make the armor inserts for the service's newest plate carrier.
The Oct. 30 contract, awarded by Marine Corps System Command, requires Armor Express to produce 1,322,654 soft armor inserts for the Plate Carrier Generation III, according to Barb Hamby, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Systems Command.
The overall number breaks down to 658,142 “front/back” inserts, 658,142 side plate pockets and 6,370 cummerbunds, Hamby said.
The announcement comes after the Corps awarded a $62 million contract in late September to New Jersey-based Vertical Protective Apparel LLC to produce 225,886 Plate Carrier Generations IIIs.
The new plate carrier is about 25 percent lighter than the current vest and comes in more sizes. The service plans to issue the new plate carriers first to infantry, combat engineers and vehicle crewman beginning in 2019.
Armor Express is scheduled to complete production of the entire order of soft armor inserts by October 2023, the release states.
"It is our extreme honor to be chosen by the U.S. Marine Corps for this prestigious award, and we thank them for the trust they have placed in us," Jim Henderson, chief executive officer of the holding company that owns Armor Express, said in a press release from Armor express. "We also commend ongoing efforts by the U.S. Armed Forces to develop lighter body armor systems, while improving the modularity and flexibility of plate carriers deployed in the field."
Marine Corps officials are also working with the defense industry to develop new lightweight armor inserts, designed for less hazardous duty.
The low-intensity threat environment, or LITE, plate would be designed to take two hits from non-armor piercing bullets commonly found in lower-threat areas of operation. The new plates could shave up to six pounds off the current Marine combat load.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to correct the number of inserts being purchased.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.
-- Military.com's Gina Harkins contributed to this story.