For as long as it's existed, the U.S. military has always looked for ways to improve the odds of survival for troops in combat. Troops appreciate the effort, but lately, they've been carrying a lot of stuff — up to 200 pounds in some cases. They'd like that burden to be lighter.
The Army's new Soldier Protection System. (US Army photo)
Luckily, it looks like the Army is going to be able to do that for the troops, starting in 2019. A 2016 report from the Army Times notes that troops will be receiving new body armor and an improved shirt. New body armor has emerged a few times throughout the War on Terror. First, troops used the Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops until 2004, then replaced it with the Interceptor Body Armor. The Interceptor then got an Improved Outer Tactical Vest.
US Marine Corps (USMC) Corporal (CPL) Joe Rattlif sites through the scope mounted to a 12.7mm .50 in Barrett Light Fifty Model 82A1 sniping rifle, while training at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) facility, Camp Pendleton, California (CA), during Exercise KERNEL BLITZ 2001. (USMC photo)
Now, the Army is replacing Interceptor with the Soldier Protection System. One of the most notable features is the Torso and Extremity Protection (TEP), which includes a Modular Scalable Vest. According to Army Systems Command, the TEP is 26 percent lighter than the comparable system on Interceptor. The Vital Torso Protection (VTP) system, which replaces the Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plates, also helps reduce the load, by as much as 14 percent.
The Torso and Extremity Protection comes in four tiers. (U.S. Army photo)
The Army also is releasing a new shirt known as the Ballistic Combat Shirt. The Army Times notes that this shirt allows troops to do without a portion of the Interceptor system called the Deltoid Auxiliary Protector, because the shirt provides the same level of protection. Because it feels like a normal shirt, troops are hauling less and have a freer range of movement, which makes for better rifle handling.
The armor plates used in the Vital Torso Protection component of the Soldier Protection System. (U.S. Army photo)
The trend may not stop there. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) website notes that it is pursuing newer technology to help troops carry more protection that weighs even less. This could be a big help for the troops facing down the bad guys in the future.