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.
A few weeks back we looked at a fire resistant windproof smock in Desert DPM here, thanks to Michael Fletcher I have been able to add the more standard windproof smock to my collection, complete with a rather nice set of badges on the sleeves:The design of this smock is very similar to the one we looked at previously, so I will only point out a few of the more obvious points. The Velcro patches on the sleeve are missing from this smock, and the fabric is very different in texture and colour. Here we have three different garments, showing the differences in fabric. Left to right we have this windproof smock, then the fire resistant windproof smock and on the right the rip stop fabric of the field jacket we looked at here:The fabric used for this smock is a 50/50 poly cotton blend, the polyester obviously means there is a danger of the fabric melting at high heat, hence the development of the fire resistant version for those troops at greater risk of being exposed to flames. Again this smock has a hood, with a wire around the front, that can be rolled up and secured with a tape and button at the back of the neck:A drawstring helps adjust it, with plastic sliders on each end of the string:These have a male and female connector that allow them to be fastened together so the ends are not dangling in the way:What is particularly nice about this smock are the patches on each sleeve- clearly this smock has been used in theatre and the insignia includes the famous Jerboa of the Desert Rats on one sleeve:Note also the reflective glint tape above it, and the sewn on Union Flag. The opposite sleeve has a second piece of glint tape, the TRF flash of dark blue/yellow/red for the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and a large round ISAF patch:ISAF stands for the International Security Assistance Force and it was set up in 2001 as the NATO led security mission in Afghanistan. The British Army website gives some background to the role of ISAF:
The military mission in Afghanistan has been a partnership between the 49 nations – more than a quarter of the world’s countries – which constitutes the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). On 11 August 2003 NATO assumed leadership of ISAF operations. The alliance became responsible for the command, co-ordination and planning of the force in Afghanistan.
Since NATO took command of ISAF, the Alliance has gradually expanded the reach of its mission, originally limited to Kabul, to cover Afghanistan’s whole territory.
ISAF is a key component of the international community’s engagement in Afghanistan, assisting the Afghan authorities in providing security, stability and creating the conditions for reconstruction and development with the help of 28 Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs).
Based in Kabul, the ISAF Headquarters serves as the operational command for the NATO-led mission. It interacts with the Afghan government, governmental and non-governmental organisations present in the country to assist with reconstruction, and supports the work of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
As part of that mission troops serving in theatre wore the ISAF patch to clearly show their role and to aid esprit-de-corps across the various nations. This smock was worn by a soldier named ‘Williams’, whose name can still be seen under the marker pen used to try and obliterate the marking on the label:I am finding as I collect these jackets and smocks that there is a bewildering variety of designs, fabrics and variations, as ever I will try and bring you more examples as I find them and hopefully we can build up a fairly comprehensive selection over time.
Update: My thanks to Michael Fletcher and Sean Featherstone for helping correctly identify the material used in this smock as being a special fire resistant fabric.
A few months back we looked at the desert DPM field jacket here. At the time we mentioned in passing the windproof smock, with a user commenting:
Windproof smock – all the advantages of the 94 smock, and is bloody excellent in dry cold. Not so clever in wet, muddy conditions. The fabric’s just too thin, and the ingrained dirt that goes with infantry trench-living will abrade it like feck, so it disintegrates, suddenly (a characteristic of all 100% cotton clobber). The hood’s a pain in the arse, even in Noggieland, where (for all the usual good tactical reasons) it was seldom used, except in the most severe cold (like -40).
Tonight we are looking at the said windproof smock, here in desert DPM fabric:One thing to notice throughout all the photographs on this post is the material the smock is made from, it is obviously a very different weave to that used in the field jacket and this is a special fire resistant fabric used for smocks issued to aircrew, pilots and others who might be exposed to fire as part of their daily duties.
Some features of the smock are clearly common across the CS95 system, so we have the usual centrally mounted rank slide:And large pockets secured with the typical sewn on buttons:Other features of note are the strips of Velcro on the sleeves to allow insignia to be added or removed, these help easily distinguish the smock from more conventional patterns:The most distinctive feature of the smock however is the hood, this has a piece of wire across the whole of the front, allowing it to be adjusted and set to a degree:When not in use it is rolled up and secured behind the neck:A cotton tape and button preventing it from unravelling:As with most items of British Army clothing a large white label is sewn into the inside of the smock with sizing, care instructions and a space for the owner to write his name and number:Note the ‘FR’ on the label indicating that the smock has been treated to make it fire resistant. As with so much of this kit, desert DPM smocks are easily available and cheap- being surplused off in large numbers following the switch to MTP clothing. As has been said many time before on this blog, if you are a new collector, this is an ideal area to start with- it’s cheap, available and its likely that in years to come the ‘War on Terror’ will become ever more collectable.
The British Army used a number of different rucksacks and bergans on operations during the ‘War on Terror’. One thing that most had in common though was that they were produced in a woodland green DPM camouflage. This was great in the forests of northern Europe, but not much good in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan where it stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. What the army did not want to do was to issue all its troops two separate bergans in two different camouflage patterns depending on where they were deployed- for one thing bergans are expensive! The answer they came up with was an adjustable cover in desert DPM camouflage that could be fitted over a bergan to hide the green DPM:The cover is made of a poly-cotton printed in desert DPM; a cord is fitted all around the inside edge of the cover. The cover is pulled over the bergan, with the corded side closest to the back, the draw string is then tightened using the plastic tensioner to prevent the cover from slipping off:This is complemented by a set of straps and Fastex clips that also help secure the cover:Once fitted a neat appearance can be achieved:A stores label is sewn into the inside of the cover:The covers were a common sight being used by troops in the early days of the war on terror, however today they are less common as following the adoption of MTP camouflage, one pattern is now sufficient for both temperate and arid conditions and separate covers are no longer needed for more recent bergans. Older examples are still on issue and an MTP cover has been produced for these but they are starting to be phased out as DPM bergans reach the end of their working lives. Here we see troops wearing the rucksack covers as they exit a Chinook:
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.