U.S. Army body armor officials have figured out a way to save a lot of money on IOTV Operation Camouflage Pattern conversion kits by recycling used body armor.
A team of product engineers, quality assurance representatives, logistics support experts and contracting personnel have developed a plan with the potential to save more than $150 million while providing soldiers with the best possible system, according to an Army press release.
Their efforts are now culminating in the first deliveries of more than 148,000 Generation III Improved Outer Tactical Vest body armor conversion kits that replace the outer, Universal Camouflage Pattern cover with a newer OCP cover at “at approximately half the cost of procuring new systems – $791 versus $413, the release states.
Nearly 400,000 of the older IOTVs manufactured in the Universal Camouflage Pattern, or UCP, remain in inventory and need to be replaced with the Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP.
A decade ago, as the nation waged war on multiple fronts throughout the globe, defense spending rose, and the Army acquired 1.7 million IOTVs, beginning in 2007. Many of those IOTVs are older models that lack soldier-driven improvements and may not be as effective in combat as the upgraded version.
A key part of the effort involves using existing stocks of soft-armor inserts. The team had to determine if those already in inventory or in soldiers’ hands would be usable in new systems, the release states.
That meant determining how long aramid-fiber, soft-armor ballistic packages really last. Industry provides a standard five-year warranty, but officials from Product Manager for Soldier Protective Equipment and Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support had anecdotal evidence that soft-armor, ballistic packages had longer shelf lives.
So the team pulled IOTV samples from multiple central issue facilities throughout the United States, representing the different climatic environments in which the IOTVs are stored.
The samples, some dating back to 2007 – were subjected to the same rigorous ballistic and fragmentation standards as when the Army originally accepted them, the release states. Results from the first round of testing showed the soft-armor ballistic inserts performed to standard.
With these results, the team raised the estimated shelf life from five to seven years.
The team conducted a second round to test even older soft-armor ballistic inserts – those with service entry dates as early as 2000, also from multiple CIFs throughout the country – to see if they continued to maintain full serviceability.
The team expects results from this second round of ballistic and fragmentation tests, conducted at Aberdeen Test Center, Md., to be available in late summer.
The tests conceivably could show that these inserts remain effective for up to 15 years, the release states.
With this new knowledge, the team used the consistent size and shape of the inserts to develop the Gen III IOTV Conversion Kit, which uses existing quantities of soft-armor inserts rather than buying new complete IOTV systems.
This strategy allowed continuous refreshment of technology through procurement. Instead of having DLA sustain the IOTV by procuring Gen II IOTVs in UCP, the agency will modernize at the same time as it sustains by procuring the Gen III Conversion Kits.
The effort has resulted in a cost savings of $56 million during the recent procurement of conversion kits and has the potential to realize more than $150 million in savings if the entire inventory is converted, according to the release.