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Next-generation body armor will fight fatigue on the battlefield

Feb. 8, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Next-gen body armor: Modular Scalable Vest
Next-gen body armor: Modular Scalable Vest (Via MARCORSYSCOM)
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Marine officials have field-tested modular, next-generation body armor prototypes designed to alleviate fatigue while providing troops with a single vest system for all circumstances.

Ground troops now have two vests, the Improved Modular Tactical Vest, which offers robust fragmentation protection, and the Plate Carrier, a minimalist vest suited for operations in hot, humid climates. Both could be replaced by the Modular Scalable Vest.

Two components of the vest were tested in November by Marines with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion during a field exercise at Fort Irwin, Calif.

The MSV fighting jacket is sleek, for use with lighter loads, while the MSV plate carrier with load distribution system is designed to carry heavier loads for long periods of time. The central load management system, which mimics the human spine, also helps distribute weight away from Marines’ shoulders and onto their hips.

“The primary goal of the MSV is to provide the Marine with a single vest system that is scalable in area of coverage and increases mobility,” said Barb Hamby, a Marine Corps Systems Command spokeswoman at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

In addition to the fighting jacket and plate carrier, other components include the load distribution system, a throat/neck guard, a lower back guard and a groin protector. That will allow Marines to adjust the level of protection needed, depending on the mission and threat level. Parts of the system can be worn separately, or they can all be worn together for an “IMTV-like level of protection.”

Representatives from MARCORSYSCOM, who deployed with 1st LAR to collect feedback, say Marines told them the new vest is superior to current body armor.

“We had a few Marines ask if they could keep their systems because they liked them so much, so we figured that we’re on the right path,” said Mackie Jordan, an engineer for Program Manager Infantry Combat Equipment, in a Marine news release.

Marines in vehicles preferred the lighter, sleeker fighting jacket because it was conducive to mounting and dismounting. Dismounted scouts showed a preference for the plate carrier because of its better load-bearing properties. Marines also liked the placement of side small-arms protective inserts and the ability to adjust components.

One problem with past vest designs was the discomfort felt by short Marines, many of them females. In response, officials procured 3,780 “small stature IMTVs” which are in production and expected for fielding by May.

When Marines in the fleet might see the vest is not clear. Marine officials say the MSV is still in the research and development phase.■

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