Yesterday we looked at the tier one ballistic underwear, previously we have covered the tier two ‘combat nappy’ in our survey of pelvic armour. Tonight we come to the final layer of armour available to troops, the tier three combat shorts:These shorts are designed to be worn in conjunction with the other two tiers, but are designed for use by those on patrol who need greater levels of protection- the lead man of a patrol or the metal detector operator sweeping for IEDs. Design trials of this armour took place in 2011 and they were then quickly distributed to troops in Afghanistan as an Urgent Operational Requirement. The shorts have separate soft armour fillers that fit inside special pockets around them, Unfortunately I do not have these filler plates, but this illustration shows their shape, as well as the little bag that can be used to store them in:The cover was issued in a sealed clear plastic bag:With a sticker giving stores details:As the shorts are designed to be worn over other clothing, the cut is generous, with a tie strap at the waist to fasten them:Reinforced knee pads are sewn into the cover:The groin region has a piece of mesh to encourage ventilation into an area that can easily overheat:A long pocket with soft armour runs down the outside of each leg:This opens with press studs to reveal a long zip to ease getting into and out of the shorts:The shorts and their armour inserts help to protect, amongst other things, some of the major arteries in the leg, such as the femoral artery. If this artery is severed a soldier can bleed to death very quickly, these shorts are designed to help minimise the risk. The garment was designed to be worn with the tier two armour so a large flexible gusset of plain green material is sewn into the front and back of the shorts over the groin:As with the tier two armour, a standard green label is sewn inside the tier three armour, with a note to ensure it is worn the correct way round:Due to its more specialist nature, fewer sets of shorts were produced than other elements of the pelvic armour system. They were used however, as can be seen in this photograph of a private:My thanks to Michael Fletcher for his help in adding this one to the collection.
A couple of months ago we looked at the Tier Two pelvic armour here. Over the next two nights we are going to look at the other two elements of this armour system, starting tonight with the ballistic boxer shorts:These boxers are worn as a bottom layer beneath all the other layers of uniform and armour and are made of black ballistic silk. This ancient fabric is remarkably strong and is excellent at repelling tiny fragments of shrapnel, as witnessed by this still from a video of the shorts in action:The shorts have a simple elastic waistband:And a white label (here very faded) sewn into the back:The MOD published some information about the shorts in 2010:
The MOD has spent £10m on the new armour system to date. It balances protection with the necessary comfort and manoeuvrability for troops to undertake operations, enabling them to wear one or more of the protective layers depending on the task. They are already being worn by troops on operations, with 45,000 pairs delivered to Afghanistan and another 15,000 ready to be issued to deploying troops. A further 60,000 are to be manufactured and delivered to troops early next year.
The first layer of protection is a pair of shorts, which troops wear as underwear.
Using cutting-edge science and technology developed by the MOD and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the underwear is manufactured from scientifically-tested ballistic silk material that provides an initial level of protection to mitigate against the effects of blasts, including shrapnel.
They have been bought as an Urgent Operational Requirement worth £6m and are being manufactured by Northern Ireland-based Cooneen, Watts and Stone.
The BBC reported:
Alan Hepper, the principal engineer at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, says many factors had to be taken into account when creating the materials.
“The way silk is woven makes it very strong, with a very high ballistic efficiency. It may sound like an extravagant material, but in ballistic protection terms, it is the best we’ve found,” he says.
“The feedback from medical staff treating the injured suggests that it does make a noticeable difference.”
By all accounts the shorts were pretty comfortable and were a popular and easy to wear item of protection. Tomorrow we continue our study of the pelvic armour system with the Tier Three layer.
Over the last year we have looked at a number of different body armour sets, or more specifically we have looked at the covers for although I have touched on the fillers, we have never actually taken a close look at what’s under the cover. A chance purchase of a spare set of filler at The Yorkshire Wartime Experience (destined for my AFV armour cover) affords us a good opportunity to look at the body armour filler used in a large number of different British body armour sets. The body armour filler was introduced in time for the Gulf War and is made of a woven aramid and nylon, with a green PVC cover:The cover prevents water from getting into the ballistic filler which would not only add weight, but reduce its ballistic properties. The filler is excellent at stopping low velocity fragments such as those from grenades or shells, and it can also cope with low powered pistol calibre rounds, it cannot protect the wearer from high velocity rounds such as those fired from a rifle.
The filler has a broad section that covers the back, and two flaps that come down over the shoulders, leaving a space at the front for the cover’s fasteners to allow it to be easily taken on or off:The filler needs to be fitted into the cover the correct way round, so a small white label is fixed on both sides, one warns the user that is they can read it with the cover on, they have out it in the wrong way round!The second should be visible through the opening on the cover and includes sizing and care instructions, as well as the ubiquitous NSN stores number:As these fillers are still serviceable, with newer designs of cover, they have remained in service longer than the the camouflage covers. The covers are therefore really easy to find, the fillers are slightly scarcer but they are still out there and I am keeping my open for another couple to fit in various covers I have in my collection.
This week’s postcard is a fine group shot from the Great War of soldiers posing outside a barrack hut:I suspect that this photograph was taken as part of a training course as the soldiers display a wide variety of cap badges. Three officers are seated in the centre:Regiments represented include the Royal Berkshires:Royal Army Medical Corps:Northumberland Fusiliers:Machine Gun Corps:And The Royal West Kent Regiment:The men display an interesting assortment of belts including leather 1914 pattern examples:And 2” wide webbing belts:I particularly like the jack russell dog being held by the chap on the front row:Other features to note are the duckboards the men at the front are sitting on:And the corrugated iron used in producing the hut behind them:Note also the palm frond and large sack leaned up against the hut. The essential role hutted accommodation played in the Great War is often overlooked, but it was the only way to quickly house recruits and men and hutted encampments sprang up all over Britain and France. These huts are largely all gone now, but many have survived as WI Halls, Scout Huts and Community Centres. A dedicated team of volunteers down south has been saving these buildings as they become earmarked for demolition and restoring them to their original splendour. Take a look here for more information on this fantastic project.
Traditionally British body armour protects the core of the body from shrapnel and projectiles by having a ballistic panel front and back over the chest, with the addition of ceramic plates to cover the heart and protect against enemy rounds. The idea is that most fatal injuries occur to the thoracic region and most projectiles will hit it horizontally. Experience in Afghanistan though revealed a real danger from IEDs that forced shrapnel into the chest cavity vertically from the ground upwards. To combat the increasing numbers of injuries and fatalities the Ministry of Defence introduced a new set of pelvic armour that covered the groin region and reduced the risk of vertically propelled shrapnel. This armour consisted of two soft plates that went between the wearer’s legs giving rise to the soldier’s nickname ‘the combat nappy’:This armour was introduced in 2010 and the government at the time noted:
A second layer of detachable pelvic body armour, designed to meet the greater threats faced by soldiers on the ground has already been successfully trialled by the MOD. It can be rolled up and clipped to a belt and then pulled through the legs to form a protective pouch – meaning troops’ mobility is not impeded. It will be issued to all troops operating outside the wire from Spring 2011.
The £4m contract for 25,000 sets of the second-tier body armour has been signed with Northern Ireland-based Hawk Protection Ltd. Loops are provided at the top of the armour to attach it to a waist belt:The sides are secured with Fastex clips:A tab on the back was frequently used to record the soldier’s ‘zap’ number:The inside of the armour is designed to be as comfortable as possible with no protrusions to chafe the wearer:A label is sewn into the back giving the user instructions on its wear:The BBC reported at the time of their introduction:
The “combat codpiece” comes in camouflage colours, and looks like a bulky pair of underpants which tie on at both sides, which is worn over the trousers.
It can be rolled up and clipped to a belt at the back of a pair of trousers with two velcro straps, and then – when needed on patrol – be pulled through the legs to clip together at the sides to form a protective pouch. The padding inside the front and back segments offers an extra layer of protection. These will be issued to troops in the early spring, with the contract for 25,000 sets worth £4m.
Col Peter Rafferty, personal combat equipment team leader at defence equipment and support, says that those researching and developing the equipment faced many challenges, not least in creating protection which still allows the soldiers and others in the field to do their jobs without impeding their mobility.
“We are constantly reviewing what we can do on protection for our forces – we never stop, and we’ll continue to examine what more we can do,” he said.
When out on patrol or outside the main bases in Afghanistan, British forces and others already wear body armour which shields the key areas of the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys, as well as a relatively heavy helmet to protect the head, and blast-proof goggles to shield the eyes from any blast.
However, key arteries flow through the groin area as well, which is an area prone to sweating, so both the blast-proof underwear and pouch had to be made of materials which allow sweat to pass through, rather than adding to the heat experienced by those patrolling in the Afghan summer heat.
My thanks go to Michael Fletcher for hooking me up with this very interesting piece of modern body armour.
Armoured fighting vehicles present equipment designers with a set of distinct challenges. They are narrow spaces, with plenty of protruding objects to catch on uniforms and equipment and regular uniform, body armour and webbing is not appropriate for these men. Whilst it might seem counter intuitive to issue men sitting in an armoured box body armour, there is always the possibility that a vehicle will be hit and its crew will need to bail out and fight their way back to safety. In this case they will need body armour for protection and webbing to hold ammunition for their weapons. To solve this problem the British Army introduced a specialist cover for a set of body armour designed for personnel serving in armoured vehicles:This cover uses the standard filler as issued with the Combat Body Armour or Enhanced Combat Body Armour. At first glance it is just a plain olive green body armour cover, although on the back can be seen two loops at the top of the cover that allow an injured crewman to be hauled through the hatch of an AFV:A single rank slide loop is fitted to the front of the cover:The first indication that this is not a normal body armour cover are the two large zippered pockets on either side of the main opening, the one on the right for maps and documents and the other for a 2l water bladder. These are secured with zips:The main feature of the body armour is revealed however when the front is un-zippered to reveal a set of pouches:These take the place of a full set of webbing and contain on the left two utility pouches. On the right there is a small Leatherman pouch and a first field dressing pouch above a removable panel. The removable panel has either a holster or, as in this case, two single pockets for SA80 magazines:This panel is secured with a combination of Velcro and press studs:This panel has its own separate stores label and NSN number:The loose fabric covers, once unzipped, are rolled back and secured with Velcro ties:This particular cover was issued and has the name and number of a soldier called ‘Merriman’ who was in the Queen’s Dragoon Guards:The cover has a stores code on the inside, which gives some basic care instructions to the user:A later version of this cover offers the ability to upgrade the armour with ceramic plates in the style of the ECBA. My thanks go to Michael Fletcher for helping me add this very interesting piece of modern armoured equipment to my collection.
Tonight we are following up the post on the Combat Body Armour from earlier in the year here. When the Gulf War broke out this body armour was just becoming standard issue to infantry troops and at that time was only issued in a temperate green DPM cover. The Times reported at the start of the war on 14th February 1991:
Britain’s troops in the Gulf are being issued with ultra-light body armour which is claimed to be the finest in the world(Nick Nuttall writes). Front line units are being clothed in layers of ballistic nylon and Kevlar fibres, a material five times stronger than steel. Commanders hope that all British troops will have the armour before the land offensive begins. The Royal Scots, Royal Fusiliers and Staffords have been kitted out, but some combat engineers, artillerymen and members of tank regiments are still waiting. Although the basic armour is only designed to stop shrapnel, the full protective kit can stop a ricocheting bullet…
New covers in Desert DPM fabric were rapidly produced for this body armour and it is one of these we are considering tonight:A comparison with the woodland pattern shows the design of the covers is virtually identical, save for the different camouflage pattern. The front of the CBA has the same pair of pockets, one large and one small:The same straps are positioned around the waist to adjust the fit, with Velcro used to secure them:Note also that the strap on the back to attach the armour to a belt is still attached on this set of CBA:These were commonly cut off so it’s a nice feature to still have. Sadly this CBA cover does not have proper armour in, just a piece of foam cut to the right shape, but I do have a couple of set of ballistic filler if I did ever want to swap it over . The CBA cover has a standard label, with the owner’s name and number written on in pen.I find it interesting that despite there being space for a name and number on the label, troops seem to universally just write over the whole label in large black writing!