Infantry: A Proper Codpiece For Modern Combat


August 5, 2011: British and American soldiers and marines are receiving additional groin protection. This consists of “ballistic boxers” and codpiece attachments for their body armor. Both boxers and codpiece consist of multiple layers of Kevlar. Both items were developed by British firms, and British troops began receiving the new protection last year. American marines got them earlier this year and U.S. Army troops are receiving them now.

The "ballistic boxers", or Kevlar underpants, have several layers of Kevlar around the groin and thigh area. This protects troops from genital damage, and projectiles that might sever the femoral arteries (which run down each leg, close to the inner thigh.) Bleeding from the femoral artery is a major cause of combat deaths, as it is very difficult to stop the flow of blood. The "blast boxers" originally sold for about $100 a pair, but demand has been so high that the price has declined by over a third. The idea for the ballistic boxers was suggested by the troops themselves, and the medics that treat many of these wounds. The increased number of groin injuries comes largely from the growing use of roadside bombs and mines by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

It was thought that many troops might not want to use the Kevlar undershorts. For one thing, they restrict movement a bit, and are hot when worn during warm weather. The mobility issue also discouraged U.S. Marines from using a Kevlar flap that was added to their protective vest, to prevent groin injuries, but the blast boxers were seen as less of a bother.

It turned out that there were a lot of troops who found these two issues non-problems. These are the guys who drive the roads of Afghanistan, delivering supplies, or aid to Afghans, or just searching for roadside bombs. Mobility on foot or heat is not what these vehicle bound troops are concerned with. The impact of roadside bombs or ambusher's bullets is.

The triangular ballistic codpiece, a medieval design, works because it is not as cumbersome and when not needed (because of low risk of encountering bombs) can be rolled up. This was a much more effective design than an earlier American effort (a square flap).

Both items have proved popular with the troops, and have already prevented some deaths, and prevented a number of more severe injuries.


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