MoD Scientists Develop Upgraded Body Armour

London, UK: The new Osprey Mark 4 body armour which will be introduced into Afghanistan this winter is testament to the efforts of MOD's scientists to make sure serving soldiers have the best possible equipment.
Osprey Mark 4 is the next generation of personal protection, whichwill be worn by the soldiers of 16 Air Assault Brigade who are due todeploy to Afghanistan in October.
It offers troops better-fitting and newly-upgraded armour, protecting them as they work and fight.
Service personnel working outside the main bases in Afghanistan wearOsprey body armour, which is made up of a vest-like outer cover, a softballistic filler to stop fragments from bullets and explosions, and ahard protective plate that protects their vital organs
Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Tresidder, the officer in charge of defence clothing, said of the Osprey armour:
"Troops accept that it weighs a ton. But they appreciate that it gives them protection they've never had before."
The next generation Osprey body armour includes improved rubber mouldings on the shoulders, designed to prevent heavy rucksacks and weapons from slipping.
There are elastic draw-cords on the detachable ammunition pouches, giving troops a more accessible alternative to velcro.
And the protective breast plate is now carried in a pocket insidethe armoured vest, making it less bulky and obstructive to movement.
Also, the inside of the vest has a new ribbed material lining to improve breathability in the harsh Afghan climate.
Osprey is a modular system made up of different components, which can be attached to loops on the outer covering.
The latest model has more loops, allowing troops to personalisetheir armour to suit their role by attaching their own choice of arange of 23 detachable pockets or pouches.
A new commander's pouch can be attached to the breast, givingsoldiers easy access to such things as a notebook, pen and torch. The componentpouches are designed to carry everything from bullets to water bottlesand include new elastic draw-cord ammunition pouches and an improvedfirst-aid kit.
The kit will be available in the new-look Multi-Terrain Pattern camouflage now being worn by troops in theatre.
Alan Hepper from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) was involved in developing the latest Osprey armour:
"The whole design - performance ofthe plate and filler, the shape of the cover, they're all based on thethreat the guys are facing, what's actually being thrown at them," saidAlan.
But soldiers must be able to do their job while wearing the armour,in temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius during the summer inAfghanistan:
"The design is a compromise of what the guys need and theirproximity to medical treatment," Alan adds. "It's the best technicalsolution."
Teams of Dstl scientists regularly visit theatre to talk to thetroops, getting feedback on the equipment's performance while it isstill fresh in the soldiers' minds.
Feedback from soldiers included wanting the option to position thedetachable pouches to their sides, to make it more comfortable whenlying on their stomachs.
Some also said that the bulky ceramic breast platesworn on the front of the vest got in the way when they were trying towork. The backs of helmets would also bump against the top of the rear of the armoured vest.
Although making the armour more comfortable is important, thepriority is providing the best possible protection from the specificthreats soldiers face:
"All armour worn during fatal incidents is examined as part of the police investigationinto the death," said Alan, explaining that all deaths in service aretreated as murder investigations by a coroner in the UK. "Any lessonslearned are relayed back to us [Dstl] immediately."
Body armour from non-fatal incidents is also sent straight to Dstl,so any changes made by the soldier wearing it can be examined:
"If we see that someone's modified their body armour we'll try tounderstand why, and what the logic was behind that," said Alan. "The UKis the only place to do this to this level. We actually learn fromwhat's going on."
The body armour also underwent extensive testing in the Dstl laboratories, to make sure its performance was up to scratch.
Bullets were fired at the ceramic plates and fragments flung at thesoft ballistic layer of the armour to test its effectiveness.
People run laps, shovel dirt and perform other vigorous tasks in40-degree heat and high humidity, simulating how soldiers move while onoperations, to test its usability. The idea is to make things ascomfortable as possible for soldiers wearing heavy kit in the hotAfghan climate:
"The shape and size of those plates is not just based upon engineeringjudgement," added Alan. "What medics see, what they know about the bodyand the way it gets injured, that information gets fed back from theSurgeon General's department in the Defence Medical Services.
"The different components of the armour mean we can be agile in theway that we develop it. When we identify improvements they are fed instraight away. As a result, we are now on our seventh design in fiveyears. That's why no one has better body armour than the UK."
The Osprey body armour is one part of the pound3,000 'black bag' of kit given to all soldiers deployingon operations, which contains such items as anti-microbial underpants,designed to be worn for days at a time, and flame-resistant clothingfor those working inside vehicles.
There is also combat eye protection, glasses and goggles, a fast-drying travel towel and a portable hydration system, known as CamelBak:

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