It is very obvious that servicemen and women need protection, and body armour is practically synonymous with the Armed Forces. However, body armour for the Military means much more than just a bulletproof vest; in addition to extra protection in the form of head, neck or groin covering, the vest itself needs to be of the highest level because of the nature of the threats they will likely face. This complete protection has just as much impact on the soldier’s safety as it does on their ability to properly perform their duties. While body armour will give a soldier the confidence to perform difficult tasks in dangerous environments, it can also sap energy, hinder movement and raise the temperature. All of these things can combine to make body armour a double-edged sword, and manufacturers are continually trying to create comfortable and adaptive armour for soldiers that do not cut back on the protection offered.
Military Advancements & Research
Research into armour for the armed forces has largely been the domain of private contractors, to minimise costs for the military. However, some branches like the United Stated Navy take matters into their own hands, and the US Navy, in particular, have looked into making armour lighter and thinner. Most of their research has focussed on developing armour that is compatible with current carriers, again to reduce costs. An added benefit of this is an increase in fragmentation and explosives protection, but also the ability to make plates stronger in general. This provides an immediate benefit to soldiers according to the US Navy.
Directly referencing the issue of weight and bulk, the US Navy has also advised that, in addition to focusing on compatible armour, soldiers should be equipped only with armour that can protect against threats they know they will be facing. There have been reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that troops were outfitted with armour at a high level, despite rarely facing threats of that calibre. On the other hand, it is impossible to know when exactly a high-risk attack will occur, and leaving soldiers ill-equipped is far worse.
Another important area of concern for the armed forces is in ensuring that armour fits correctly. This is true of anyone who will be wearing body armour, and yet for female soldiers in particular it has been difficult to achieve. This is because the majority of manufacturers have ignored the need for armour designed for women for a long time. This leads female soldiers to be equipped with armour designed for men, which will not fit properly. Ill-fitting armour will be uncomfortable, which can impede performance, but may also have gaps in protection, which could prove to be deadly. Fortunately, many manufacturers now offer armour designed for women of all sizes, making sure that all of those working in the armed forces can be adequately protected.