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The Grenadiers Get To Go Lightly
by James Dunnigan
November 22, 2010

British troops in Afghanistan began receiving improved body armor about a year ago. Last year, the British Army bought 10,000 sets of the new armor. Previous body armor designs for British troops led to numerous complaints about being too bulky and too heavy. Word got out to the media, who asked the troops, who expressed their dissatisfaction in such detail that the brass were compelled to get stuff similar to what other NATO soldiers were using. British troops in Afghanistan were particularly impressed with the helmets and body armor their U.S. counterparts were wearing.

The new British gear includes the Mk7 helmet, which weighs less than the old model, fits more comfortably, and provides the same protection as earlier models. The Mk7 is similar to the U.S. ACH helmet. The Mk7 fits better and does not bounce around when the wearer is moving vigorously. There is also room for headphones (British infantrymen each have a radio).

The new protective vest (Osprey Assault body armor) is, like new models of U.S. body armor, lighter, easier to wear and move around in. The Osprey also adds attachments for gear on the body armor. Each set (body armor and helmet) costs $2,500.

The latest news reports out of Afghanistan indicate that the new armor is indeed superior to the old stuff. Several troops have enthusiastically praised the new helmet for saving them from death or injury. All this new body armor has been made possible by advances in materials technology over the last few decades. The new fibers and composite plates were mostly developed for the police market (because they were believed too expensive for large numbers of combat troops). But nearly a decade of heavy combat has created an even larger demand for better military protective gear. Because of this suddenly much larger market, the competition among the many manufacturers, especially in America and Europe, led to many advances, especially in making the gear lighter. 



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