The Corps wants new lighter body armor to give commanders more flexibility in low-intensity conflicts on the battlefields of places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Marines posted a request for information, or RFI, Wednesday to seek out industry support in fielding a new, lighter body armor that will complement the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, plates already fielded by Marines.

According to the RFI, the Corps is seeking new armor to provide “protection from non-armor piercing rounds that are currently prevalent in counterinsurgency operations and other low intensity threat environments.”

“Our current ESAPI plates do an amazing job of protecting Marines and have saved many lives,” Nick Pierce, Individual Armor team lead, program manager of Infantry Combat Equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command, said in a command release. “The only problem is Marines are currently given a binary choice between taking on 15 pounds to be protected or zero pounds and very little protection. This new lightweight plate would protect Marines and give commanders the choice of what plate to use based on the specific mission.”

The top Marine has made an important goal to lighten the load of infantry Marines. Marines can easily carry more than a hundred pounds of gear and equipment on missions, greatly reducing mobility.

Tests at Marine Corps Systems Command have shown that a lightweight hard armor plate can increase mobility by nearly 8 percent.

“Without revealing too much information, I can state unequivocally that the new plates will significantly lighten the load from the Marine, and increase their mobility” said Pierce, in the command release. “This increased capability can save lives and win battles by enabling Marines to engage the enemy or move to cover and concealment more quickly.”

Marines might field the new lightweight body armor by 2020, according to the command release.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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