Interceptor body armor
Interceptor body armor (IBA) is a bullet-resistant vest that was used by the United States Armed Forces from the late 1990s to the late 2000s, still seeing use as of the early 2010s. The Interceptor Body Armor design replaced the older standardized fragmentation protective Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops (PASGT) body armor system, introduced in the early 1980s.
The original Interceptor OTV variant first began to be issued to the U.S. Armed Forces in the early 2000s, and the first OTV carriers were first produced in the Woodland camouflage pattern (one initial contractor for the early OTVs was Point Blank, Inc). Quickly, a coyote-brown variant was made for the USMC. Marines used OTV in both woodland and coyote-brown camouflages in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the U.S. Army, the Woodland camouflage pattern was then superseded by the 3-color Desert Combat pattern, followed by the Universal Camouflage Pattern.
The Interceptor body armor system consists of an Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) and two Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) ballistic plates. The OTV features a carrier shell, and three main ballistic panel inserts (left and right side panels, and a rear back panel), which are made with a finely woven Kevlar KM2 fiber. These two parts of the vest are both bullet and heat resistant. The soft ballistic panels are produced in five different sizes (S-XXL), which are installed into their respective pocket on the OTV carrier shell.
The vest was tested to stop a 9 mm 124 grain full metal jacket bullet at 1,400 ft/s (426 m/s) with minimal deformation and has a V-50 (minimum bullet Velocity for a 50% chance of penetration) of roughly 1,525 ft/s (465 m/s). This means that the bullet has to be traveling faster than 1,525 ft/s for it to have more than a 50% chance of breaking through the soft armor panel.
The Interceptor armor also has a PALS webbing grid on the front of the vest which accommodate the same type of pockets used in the Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) backpack/carry vest system. This allows a soldier to tailor-fit his MOLLE and body armor system. While not specifically designed for it, the loops can also easily attach All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment (ALICE)-based equipment, MOLLE's predecessor, as well as many pieces of civilian-made tactical gear, and also features a large handle on the back just below the collar which can be used to drag a wounded person to safety in an emergency.
Originally the Interceptor Body Armor System weighed 16.4 pounds (7.4 kg), with the vest weighing 8.4 pounds (3.8 kg), and two plate inserts weighing four pounds (1.8 kg) each. This is lighter than the previous Ranger Body Armor fielded in Somalia which weighed 25.1 pounds (11.4 kg).
Due to the increased dangers of improvised explosive devices, a newer version of the vital plates and components have been developed. The Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts (ESAPIs) and Enhanced Side Ballistic Inserts (ESBIs) have become available, along with the Deltoid and Axillary Protector System (DAPS). These new systems are becoming the standard for forward deployed troops. The E-SAPI plates offer increased protection from 7.62mm armor piercing ammunition. The ESBIs is an attachable MOLLE ballistic panel with a pouch for a 8x6 side-SAPI, for protection of the side of the torso/under the arm. DAPS consists of two ambidextrous modular components, the Deltoid (upper arm) Protector and the Axillary (under arm) Protector, and provide for additional protection from fragmentary and projectiles to the upper arm and underarm areas. With the Interceptor body armor, E-SAPI plates (10.9 pounds), ESBIs (7.75 pounds), DAPS (5.03 pounds) and with the neck, throat and groin protectors installed the armor is significantly heavier at 33.1 pounds (15 kg).
To increase overall protection, separate accessories can be added to the OTV:
- Collar device that is divided in two parts, a neck and collar protector and a throat protector
- Groin protector.
With the need of additional accessories to protect troops, some were produced for the ground:
- Deltoid and axillary protection system (DAPS).[N 1]
- Side plate carriers
- Back extender
- Upper Legs protector, a kind of kevlar short
- Lower Extremity Body Armor (LEBA)
- Combat diapers (for example the "Tier 2 Pelvic Protection System" that was issued to U.S. Marines in Afghanistan)
The Interceptor cannot, however, be called a Level III-A vest as military standard does not require protection against heavy .44 Magnum ammunition. However, both Level III-A vests and Interceptor do protect from much lighter 9mm threats in identical tests. The vest will stop other, slower-moving fragments and has removable neck, throat, shoulder, extended back and groin protection.
Two small-arms protective inserts may also be added to the front and back of the vest, with each plate designed to stop up to three hits from 7.62x51mm NATO M80 ball ammunition, with a muzzle velocity of 2,750 feet per second (838 m/s). The plates are the most technically advanced body armor fielded by the U.S. military, and are constructed of boron carbide ceramic with a Spectra shield backing that breaks down projectiles and halts their momentum.
Development and production
Materials for the Interceptor vest were developed by DARPA in the 1990s, and a contract for production was awarded to DHB Industries' Point Blank Body Armor, Inc., by the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center. Interceptor body armor was announced on April 13, 1998, and the contract to manufacture the Interceptor body armor was awarded to an Oakland Park, Florida-based company under a five-year contract in late July 1998, and the body armor went into full production later that year.
The Interceptor vest comes in a number of fabric variants. Camouflage patterns include:
Solid colors include:
- coyote brown
- black, used by embedded journalists and law enforcement (including Police SWAT units)
- orange, worn during training by some USMC instructors or for non-military use.
As part of U.S. President George W. Bush’s $87 billion package for ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, $300 million was earmarked for body armor. A complete Interceptor system costs $1,585. The Interceptor system's component ceramic plates currently cost about $500 each.
On May 10, 2006, the U.S. Army announced it was holding an open competition for companies to design an entirely new generation of body armor "to improve on and replace" the Interceptor. The Army said it wanted ideas from companies by May 31. Congressional investigators reportedly reviewed the Pentagon's entire body armor program, including the Interceptor vest. Investigators expressed concern that the vests might not be adequate to protect troops.
Aside from replacing the SAPI vital plates with the improved E-SAPI plates, the body armor vests have also been redesigned, improved and enhanced with the introduction of the Improved Outer Tactical Vest, or "IOTV" (which began to be issued to ground combat units in late 2007), in the U.S. Army.
U.S. Marine Corps
After initially using the OTV as their main body armor system, the U.S. Marine Corps developed a completely new armor system, the Modular Tactical Vest, which was their primary body armor system in Iraq. On September 25, 2006, the Marine Corps announced that Protective Products International won a contract for 60,000 new Modular Tactical Vests (MTV) to replace the Interceptor OTV vests. The MTV provides greater coverage, superior weight distribution, and additional features such as a quick-release system. Some U.S. Navy ground force personnel (such as the Seabees and Hospital Corpsmen) use the Modular Tactical Vest. Other Navy personnel on Individual Augmentee assignments use the Army's body armor systems.
Not adapted for the mountainous environment of Afghanistan, the Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) was replaced by the Scalable Plate Carrier (SPC), a lighter alternative, which is their primary body armor system for Afghanistan.
Since January 2009, the U.S. Marine Corps is seeking for replacements for both MTV and SPC that are commonly issued. The MTV has received top ratings by many U.S. Marines; although a few Marines have complained about minor elements of it and an updated version will soon be released which deals with these elements. Improved Modular Tactical Vest (IMTV) and Improved Scalable Plate Carrier (ISPC) are the new models. "The IMTV will be the main body armor system for Marines, the Corps plans to order about 70,000 of the improved plate carriers, far more than the estimated 10,000 to 14,000 plate carriers in use today".
Body armor is always a compromise: mobility and comfort (and thus speed and stamina) are inevitably sacrificed to some degree when greater protection is achieved. This is a point of contention in the U.S. armed forces, with some favoring less armor in order to maintain mobility and others wanting as much protection as is practical. Troops who primarily ride in vehicles generally want the highest practical level of protection from IED's and ambushes, while dismounted infantry often make the case that impaired mobility can prove just as fatal as inadequate armor.
The debate is especially valid in the Iraq war, when comparing lightly equipped insurgents with U.S. troops routinely burdened with upwards of 100 lbs. of weapons, ammunition, armor, food, water, and other assorted equipment. Many troops have complained that under such conditions, they are simply unable to pursue their guerrilla opponents. Side armor has been sent to Iraq in increasing amounts, but many troops do not want to wear it because it adds 10 lb to the 16 lb vest and they say the added weight could decrease mobility and get them killed in certain combat scenarios.
On 4 May 2005 the U.S. Marine Corps recalled 5,277 Interceptor combat vests made by DHB's Point Blank unit after news reports about the vests' inability to stop 9mm bullets. In November, 2005, the Marine Corps ordered 10,342 Interceptor Outer Tactical Vests pulled from the operating forces after media reports indicated some samples tested by the manufacturer and by the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland failed to fully comply with ballistics standards.
A U.S. Marine Corps forensic study obtained by DefenseWatch slams the Interceptor OTV body armor system. "As many as 42% of the Marine casualties who died from isolated torso injuries could have been prevented with improved protection in the areas surrounding the plated areas of the vest. Nearly 23% might have benefited from protection along the mid-axillary line of the lateral chest. Another 15% died from impacts through the unprotected shoulder and upper arm," the report says.
Private purchase of commercial body armor is not authorized by the U.S. Army. A spokesman voiced concerns in 2004 about armor that had not been "tested, certified or approved" by the Army. In 2005, the DoD under severe pressure from Congress after the recalls, authorized a one-time $1,000 reimbursement to soldiers who had purchased civilian body armor and other gear. In 2006 they gave orders not to wear anything but military issued body armor because of fears that inadequate armor could be purchased, mainly body armor that had inadequate blunt force trauma protection.
- Improved Outer Tactical Vest, also known as the IOTV
- Modular Tactical Vest, also known as the MTV
- Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, also known as PASGT
- The U.S. Marine Corps adopted a similar system called Armor Protection Enhancement System (APES) around 2004-2005. This one was really uncomfortable and didn't offer a really good protection. The Oklahoma State University (OSU) Design, Housing and Merchandizing Department led by D.H. Branson developed a full protection system that covers both arms and legs called Quadgard that quickly replaced the APES made by Point Blank Body Armor. Around 4800 sets of the Quadgard IV were sent in Iraq to be used (mainly) by turret gunners inside humvees during convoy patrols.
- Lamothe, Dan (11 April 2012). "Journalist wear-tests “combat diaper” with Marines". Military Times (Gannett).
- Sanborn, James K. (18 July 2011). "New this summer: groin armor". Marine Corps Times (Gannett).
- "Interceptor Body Armor". Global Security. July 7, 2011. Retrieved March 23, 2013. "The INTERCEPTOR System went into production in 1998 under a five-year contract awarded by US Army Natick Soldier Center contracting. On 27 July 1998 Point Blank Body Armor Inc.*, Oakland Park, Fla., was awarded on July 23, 1998, $5,573,715, as part of an $82,265,250 firm-fixed-price, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for 10,475 U.S. Marine Corps Tactical Body Armor (INTERCEPTOR) Outer Tactical Vests (OTV). Work will be performed in Oakland Park, Fla., and is expected to be completed by July 6, 1999. Of the total contract funds, $5,573,715 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. There was an announcement on the World Wide Web on April 13, 1998, and six bids were received. The contracting activity is the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Command, Natick, Mass. (DAAN02-98-D-5006)."
- Burgess, Lisa (13 January 2004). "Shipment of body armor vests on its way to Kuwait, Iraq-bound troops". Stars & Stripes.
- Bernstein, James (13 May 2006). "Army deals blow to body armor maker DHB Industries". Newsday.com. Archived from the original on 2007. Retrieved 2006-05-15.
- "I Want My MTV - Marines Getting New Body Armor". Defense Industry Daily. 03 November 2006. Archived from the original on 10 February 2007.
- Oliver, Wesley (3 January 2009). "Marines Improving Vests After Complaints: Troops complained 30 lbs. vest too heavy, restrictive". Newser.
- Lamothe, Dan (19 January 2009). "Corps to field two new body armor vests". Marine Corps Times (Gannett).
- "Troops Reject New Body Armor as Dangerous". Strategy Page. StrategyWorld.com. 26 March 2006. Retrieved 2006-05-15.
- "Interceptor OTV Body Armor Cost Lives, An Internal USMC Reports Shows". DefenseWatch. Soldiers for the Truth. 11 January 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-02-13. Retrieved 2006-05-15.
- Helms, Nathaniel R. (2006-01-14). "Army Orders Soldiers to Shed Dragon Skin or Lose SGLI Death Benefits". Soldiers for the Truth. Archived from the original on 6 January 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-29.
- Associated Press (2006-03-30). "Army bans use of privately bought armor". USA Today.
- Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) Factsheet
- Article on Interceptor Body Armor in Operation Iraqi Freedom
- detailed analysis and history of interceptor body armor
- How body armor works
- Detailed info on Kevlar fiber used in Interceptor system