The U.S. Army
is equipping its infantry with a new protective vest. This one covers a bit
more, is more streamlined, distributes its weight more effectively, is ten
percent lighter and has a quick release system. The new vest also comes in more
sizes, which is welcome news to female soldiers, who appreciate more smaller
sizes. There are a lot of small improvements, like more attachment points for
gear, and a better camouflage pattern.
The new vest addresses the
major complaint troops have, that the personal armor restricts their movement
too much. For troops in vehicles, the previous lack of a quick release system
led to the deaths of many soldiers from drowning or burns, when they could not
quickly exit a vehicle that had gone into the water, or had been set afire by
an attack. The bulky and restrictive nature of the protective vest prevented
this. So the new quick release system is seen as a life saver, especially for
troops who operate mostly in vehicles.
The new vest weighs 28 pounds,
which is still pretty heavy. The weight could have been reduced to 26.5 pounds,
but some additional areas were covered, based on feedback from the users. The
most urgent requests from the troops, to make the vest lighter and easier to
move around in, were addressed as much as possible, given current technology.
But for most infantry, especially in hot climates, the vest is definitely a
"good news/bad news" situation. Partly because of the vest, casualty rates are
less than half what they were in the past century. That's a big deal. But
running around in all that armor during Summer, or in hilly areas like
Afghanistan, is a big minus. In addition to the risk of heat stroke, there's
the sheer exhaustion troops often encounter during particularly lively combat
encounters. The one bright side to all that is that moving around in the vest a
lot does produce results similar to spending a lot of time in the weight room
at the gym.