Army to Field Improved Body Armor

By Debi DawsonApril 2, 2007

Improved Outer Tactical Vest
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Army News Service, April 2, 2007) - The Army continues to upgrade body armor to increase protection from bullets and fragments, and soon will field the Improved Outer Tactical Vest to Soldiers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The IOTV meets Program Executive Office Soldier's goals of providing Soldiers with the most advanced protective gear available while also improving comfort and mission effectiveness.

"The IOTV is more than three pounds lighter than the current OTV, but provides an equal level of protection over an increased area," said Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, Program Executive Officer Soldier. "This vest epitomizes our continuous efforts to seek the next improvement and to provide our Soldiers the best body armor available, bar none. It is live-fire tested - we know it will prove itself in combat."

"The weight of the IOTV was reduced by eliminating overlap," said Major Carl Fulmore, assistant product manager for Soldier Survivability. "With the IOTV, we were able to streamline previous improvements."

For example, the vest now has a higher cut in the underarm area, which will eliminate the need to attach the axillary or underarm protector to the current deltoid axillary protector set. The deltoid protector can still be attached at the commander's discretion. The vest's integrated throat protector provides the same protection as the current attachable version, but it's designed to be more comfortable. The now integrated side plate carriers decrease the vest's profile, and a lower back protector extends the vest's coverage by 52 square inches.

The IOTV's numerous improvements go beyond increased protection. A single-stage quick release added to the front of the vest allows a Soldier to doff the IOTV and its attachments with one pull. The vest then falls to the ground in two pieces and can be put back together in minutes.

"This feature would only be used by Soldiers in emergency situations, such as being trapped in an overturned or submerged vehicle. It's not meant to simply be a quick way to get out of the IOTV at the end of the day or mission," Fulmore said.

Medics could use the quick release to treat wounded Soldiers, or they could use an opening on the left shoulder, which allows easy access while still providing protection to the patient.

Comfort and utility features are also part of the improved design. The most notable may be the IOTV's overhead opening. An internal waistband provides a snug fit and moves much of the weight from the shoulders to the waist.

"This design significantly decreased the vest's profile and should increase mobility. We believe mobility equals survivability." Fulmore said.

Other features include:

Aca,!Ac The addition of a long variant to sizes medium through extra large. This extends the size range from eight to 11 and should result in a near-custom fit for Soldiers.

Aca,!Ac Additional modular lightweight load-carrying equipment attachments as a result of moving the opening from the front of the vest. These attachments are now in the universal camouflage pattern.

Aca,!Ac Enhanced small arms ballistic insert pockets with four inches of vertical adjustability, which will allow for better placement of the plates based on individual body proportions.

Aca,!Ac Additional storage pockets.

Aca,!Ac A mesh lining to aid ventilation.

Aca,!Ac Vertical adjustability of side plate carriers.

Soldiers will continue to use the enhanced small arms protective inserts and the enhanced side ballistic inserts.

The IOTV is a result of research and development that began with a body armor industry day in the spring of 2006. Seventeen vendors came forward with designs for improved body armor, and six were selected to provide prototypes for a user evaluation conducted in January and February this year. The vest was then tested by Soldiers at Fort Lewis, Wash.

(Debi Dawson writes for Program Executive Office Soldier Strategic Communications Office.)

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