U.S. Army Issues Call for Lighter Soldier Protection Ideas

Army equipment officials are asking gear companies for new ideas to reduce the weight of soldier protective kit by as much as 40 percent.

The Oct. 6 Request For Information asks for proposals to lighten the Soldier Protection System Torso and Extremity Protection, or SPS TEP.

The SPS TEP design consists of four components — Modular Scalable Vest, Ballistic Combat Shirt, Blast Pelvic Protector, and Load Distribution System. The Army has awarded multiple indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contracts for all of the components of the system, which weighs in at 16.14 pounds for a size medium.

“This RFI is to gain information on industry’s capabilities to further lighten soldiers’ load by 10-40% or better when compared to the legacy SPS TEP,” according to the RFI. “Significant potential exists in further reducing the weight of the SPS TEP components due to continued improvements in both ballistic and non-ballistic components.”

Army officials maintain that the weight reduction will likely be achieved through material changes and minor design alterations.

The Modular Scalable Vest is a low profile vest with four soft armor panels that can be inserted into a tactical outer carrier, along with hard armor plates. The average weight of a medium MSV is 9.75 pounds, according to the RFI.

The Ballistic Combat Shirt is an Army Combat Shirt deltoid and upper thoracic portions of the BCS contain soft armor that provides protection from fragmenting munitions as well as handgun threats. The deltoid portion of the BCS utilizes three separate ballistic inserts that are layered to form an articulating shoulder that does not impede the normal upward motion of the arm at the shoulder joint. The average weight of a medium BCS is 2.89 pounds, according the RFI.

The Blast Pelvic Protector functions as a blast harness that contains soft armor that provides protection of the pelvic region, femoral arteries, and lower abdominal organs in a blast or fragmentation event. The average weight of a medium BPP is 1.65 pounds, the RFI states.

The Load Distribution System is designed to redistribute the weight burden on the torso vest and load bearing while being carried horizontally, close to the body’s center of mass, according to the RFI. It consists of a belt, a spine block and frame sheet. The LDS belt – which contains soft armor that provides fragmentation and handgun protection to the lower back and abdomen region – allows the soldier to mount additional equipment directly to the belt. The average system weight of a medium LDS is 1.85 pounds.

Vendors have until November 25 to submit information.

About the Author

Matthew Cox
Matthew Cox is a reporter at Military.com. He can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.
  • Robbie

    ……..or, they could just give the poor grunts less to carry. Hard to believe they need to tote roughly an average of 110 pounds of gear these days.

    • Jango Soprano

      Nail on the head! They make the gear lighter and think of five other things for him to carry. I remember getting on my belly and rolling on my back to get up when I was in.

      • Airborne_fister

        It’s like the T-11. It can safely lower a paratrooper slower and can lower a paratrooper at the same rate as a T-10 if the paratrooper weights over 400 lbs. guess what now we can jump more weight. Not the same weight.

  • Lance

    How about lighting the M-4 and M-16 less crap we don’t need first before we gut and forced to buy inferior armor.

  • JohnD

    What ever happened to,SPECTRA plates? Very light good protection, why isn’t that being used? Like the lighter M4, lighten the rifle then add scope, laser pointer, flashlight all the extra crap and now it weighs as much as an M14!

  • Jon

    The problem with this idea is leadership will make the soldier wear everything on top ruck, etc. There will be no scaling. They will also make the soldier carry more because they are told this stuff if “lighter.”

    They should also stop putting out contracts for bids only to say they do not want their submissions, and then turn around and reverse “engineer” it and put out their own inferior crappy version.

    • Hank

      Now if top leadership had to hump the boonies and patrol on foot, carrying the same stuff as snuffy grunt, you would see troops carrying a lot less weight.

    • 11b

      Yeah the prob is that when someone is injured the hammer will come down on command: “Why wasn’t the soldier wearing his DAPs? Why wasn’t he wearing all his gear?!”

      Risk management, casualty averse atmosphere only makes the command dictate that soldiers wear/carry all their shit.

  • Thomas

    Jon you nailed it!

  • Eric B.

    Without a FRAME (as in pack frame) and padded HIP BELT the load is still borne on the shoulder/spine area instead of the frame transferring most of it to the pelvis & legs, the strongest part of the body. A single armored frame the length of the spine could do the job of both transferring the load to the hip belt and protecting the spine.

    I still see photos of troops carrying heavy MOLLE packs with the waist belt unbuckled. Seems nobody taught them how to properly carry a pack. Every infantry sergeant should know how to load a pack (weight wise) and utilize the pack harness to maximize comfort. This is especially important due to the fact that often troops are overloaded with 100+ lb. packs.

  • Eric B.

    JohnD and Jon, yer posts are exactly right. The soldier is carrying “One hundred pounds of lightweight gear”.

    The command thinking goes like this, “Hey, it’s “lightweight”, so what if it’s 100 lbs.?”

    Nowadays when I backpack hunt I examine every piece of gear to see that it is truly necessary. I try to make one thing do multiple jobs. Ex. My binoculars are also laser range finding and ballistic calculating – three items in one.

  • rwisrael

    Current gear is too heavy for the new woman trooper.

  • Hank

    Lighter gear and widgets, just means you can carry more of it.

  • artymgysgt

    In mid 1966 I was an FO/NGF Spotter and supported the 7th Marines. We did not wear flak gear on operations. Don’t know if anyone did. In October 66 had to support the 5th marines and they issued us flak gear I got an xxlarge and I was using a demolition kit bag as a pack. Well it was hell running through rice paddies with that junk on. Any time a soldiers load is lightened it is a good move.

    • Airborne_fister

      As a JFO myself. I have to say. My command was pretty nice. I got to cross load my batteries with my team. Now grated I was attached to a two man sniper team. The M107 ammo plus the 107 the 110 and 24 ammo. Plus all our batteries for all our radios. And sat comm antennas cell phone. Oh and don’t forget the sat phone.

  • Joshua

    I know a lot people are looking at lightening up gear and I am sure that’s important, but take a look at some of the reserve guys they could stand to lose a few pounds. Increasing the weight to strength/endurance ratio needs to be looked at as well. Time to put them on a mostly raw vegan diet!

  • frank

    Over 60 years ago Gen. SLA Marshall wrote a book on the Soldiers Load, advocating that the loads infantrymen from WWII, and Korea, be considerably lightened. Since then it appears that, starting in Viet Nam, the loads have only gotten heavier. Ask the Pentagon to check it’s library, and re-read it.