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Interceptor Body Armor

Interceptor Multi-Threat Body Armor System is made up of two modular components: the outer tactical vest and small-arms protective inserts, or plates. The new body armor, which is unisex, is equipped with removable throat and groin protectors, as well as front and back removable plates, which can stop 7.62 mm rounds. It weighs 16.4 pounds; each of the two inserts weighs 4 pounds, and the outer tactical vest weighs 8.4 pounds. The previous body armor, the flak jacket, weighed 25.1 pounds.

The Interceptor body armor's lighter weight provides more mobility than the older flak vest. The new armor also has an outer tactical vest made of Kevlar weave that's capable of stopping a 9 mm bullet, plus the webbing on the front and back of the vest permits attaching other small pieces of equipment. The small-arms protective inserts are made of a boron carbide ceramic with a spectra shield backing that's an extremely hard material.

Soldiers in Iraq benefited from DARPA investments in advanced materials in the 1990s. DARPA developed and demonstrated personal body armor inserts made of boron carbide. These boron carbide inserts are lighter weight than the previous materials, and are being used in the Army Interceptor Body Armor system in Iraq, which weighs 35 percent less than the former vest.

Interceptor Body Armor Components

The outer tactical vest consists of a Kevlar weave that's will stop 9mm pistol rounds. Webbing on the front and back of the vest permits attaching such equipment as grenades, walkie-talkies and pistols. The Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) is made of a boron carbide ceramic with a spectra shield backing that's an extremely hard material. It stops, shatters and catches any fragments up to a 7.62 mm round with a muzzle velocity of 2,750 feet per second. It's harder than Kevlar.

The Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) has significantly improved Soldier combat survivability, but in what ways does it change rifleman lethality? A July 2005 study quantified the effects of Soldier equipment on lethality through multi-factor logistic regression using data from range experiments with the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), at Fort Riley, Kansas. The designed experiment of this study estimated the probability of a qualified US rifleman hitting a human target. It used the rifleman's equipment, posture, Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), and experience along with the target's distance, time exposure and silhouette presentation as input factors. The resulting family of mathematical models provides a Probability of Hit prediction tailored to a shooter-target scenario. The study showed that for targets closer than 150 meters, Soldiers shot better while wearing body armor than they did without. Body armor had a negative effect for targets farther than 200 meters, and this could significantly impact the employment of the Squad Designated Marksman. The study also showed that the kneeling posture was an effective technique and recommended standardized training on this method of firing.

  • The Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) is a modular soft armor system; its protection can be tailored to a particular mission threat by adding or removing subcomponents. The OTV provides fragmentation and 9mm bullet protection and replaces the Personal Armor System - Ground Troops (PASGT) vest currently fielded. The OTV base vest weighs less than 6.5-lbs. It provides the wearer with improved fragmentation protection plus 9mm bullet protection at a weight savings of about 18% over the PASGT vest it replaces. A removable collar, throat protector, and/or groin protector may be affixed to the vest to increase its area of protection and casualty reduction potential. The exterior of the vest is covered with MOLLE-compatible webbing hangars that accommodate load carriage using a variety of standard pouches and pockets. The vest is also designed to be compatible with the FLC, ALICE, MOLLE and ILBE load carriage systems. Currently produced in solid shade Coyote brown only, a single OTV may be worn with the Corps' MARPAT camouflage in both desert and woodland environments. OTV is available in five sizes, XS through XL, with the same sizing system used for the SAPI plates.
  • Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plates provide additional protection for vital organs. Pockets integrated into the front and rear of the vest securely hold one or two plates. When SAPI plates are not worn, the front SAPI pocket retracts into the shell for reduced overlap and passive cooling. The rear pocket is fitted with a hole, which permits it to be used for carrying an on-the-move hydration system bladder within the vest. The OTV shell and ballistics are separate sub-components, permitting replacement for repair or upgrade without obsolescing the entire system. The Interceptor body armor jacket could stop 9mm handgun bullets in their tracks. Siliconized silicon carbide and boron carbide plates that can stop rifle or machine-gun fire - which was not possible with this jacket in the past - are now available to insert in the jacket's pockets. Simula, with a production capacity of 5,000 plates per month, had delivered 45,000 of its siliconized silicon carbide plates by 2002 and at that time was under contract to deliver 140,000 more; 12,000 of CERCOM's boron carbide plates had also been fielded by 2002. The new armor plates were 55% lighter than traditional body armor, and had a cost approximately 60% lower than the high performance armor plates that were available at the start of the.
  • The SAPI plate product enhancement (ESAPI) is being accomplished to ensure new technology and capabilities are fielded as rapidly as possible. The initial SAPI armor is effective against a wide array of threats, and has to date saved countless lives. ESAPI increases the level of protection. It replaces body armor that failed to protect US troops in Iraq from the most lethal attacks by insurgents. The ceramic plates in vests cannot withstand some of the munitions used by insurgents. The initiative to replace the armor with thicker, more resistant plates began in May 2004, months after DOD finished supplying the original plates. ESAPI plates began fielding to all Soldiers supporting Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom in March 2005 and will continue until all Soldiers in theater have been field-ed the new plates.
  • The Armor Protection Enhancement System guards the neck, arms, and groin. The Deltoid Extension adds about another five pounds and protects the sides of the ribcage and shoulders. However, the extension comes with a price for the Soldier. It can limit movement and block air from circulating under the body armor -- decreasing the Soldier's ability to cool off in a hot environment. Everything is a balance. The Army wants all Soldiers to come back without any injuries. At the same time, the Army wants them to be combat effective. Nothing can be made to be indestructible.
  • The Deltoid and Axillary Protectors (DAP) component of the IBA provides for additional protection from fragmentary and projectiles to the upper arm and underarm areas. These features allow Commanders to tailor Soldier protection to meet mission threat conditions. Iraqi Freedom combat operations increased the extensive use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) by terrorist insurgents. Whereas the Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) of the IBA provides torso protection from the fragmentary effects of IEDs, combat commanders and medical personnel identified a shortfall in the upper arm and under arm areas not currently covered by the IBA. To meet this threat and to provide an increased level of protection, DAP was developed. DAP consists of two ambidextrous modular components, the Deltoid (upper arm) Protector and the Axillary (under arm) Protector. The Deltoid Protector attaches at the shoul-der of the OTV and is secured around the wearer's arm with a strap. The Axillary Protector is worn under the OTV and is attached to the underside of the shoulder portion of the OTV and to the interior adjustment strap on the lower side of the OTV. The DAP provides the same level of protection as the OTV. They are issued in sets of two each. The 2004 Army budget bought 50,000 Deltoid Extension sets, all of which were shipped to selected troops by the end of September 2004. The Army requested funding in the 2005 budget to equip all 132,000 Soldiers in the Central Command area of operations with the extension.

Interceptor Body Armor Production

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).

Body armor became an issue in Iraq soon after the March 2003 invasion. The Army initially gave ceramic plates to front-line soldiers, but insurgents attacked US troops wearing vests without bullet-resistant ceramic plates. It was saving lives in the summer of 2003, but the Army was woefully short throughout the battle space. In late summer 2003 the Army was determining requirements. Thanks to the cooperation of the Army Materiel Command and the Headquarters, Department of the Army G8 (Resource Management), the Army took action to equip every member of CJTF-7 by the end of January 2004. Industry led the effort to increase production in the US industrial base to speed delivery of more than 100,000 sets of IBA to forces in combat in less than five months. In the 18 months from January 2003 to July 2004, the Army purchased about 300,000 full sets of IBA.

The Interceptor body armor was worn by soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army and Marines rushed to get body armor into Iraq and Afghanistan by December 2003 as fast as it came off the assembly line. For many Marines, the old flak vest gave way to the new Interceptor body armor-an effective and highly valued piece of gear in the global war on terrorism. But because the Interceptor body armor was initially in relative short supply, deploying service members are getting priority at their points of issue. Accounting for two armor plates for each Marine in the ground combat element, the Marines initially planned to field 94,056 plates for active forces and 39,284 for reserve forces.

In FY04, DSCP competitively awarded new contracts for completion of acquisition objectives and on-going sustainment. Bids were solicited on the web on May 19, 2004 and 16 bids were received. The US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Acquisition Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. is the contracting activity.

  • Armor Works LLC, was awarded on, Aug. 19, 2004, a delivery order amount of $10,624,028 as part of a $276,796,511 firm fixed price fee contract (W91CRB-04-D-0040) for interceptor body armor inserts. Work will be performed in Tempe, Ariz., and is expected to be completed by August 19, 2007.
  • Ceradyne, Inc, was awarded on, August 19, 2004, a delivery order amount of $28,130,882 as part of a $461,000,000 firm fixed price fee contract for interceptor body armor inserts. Work will be performed in Costa Mesa, Calif., and is expected to be completed by Aug. 19, 2007.
  • Cercom Inc, was awarded on, August 19, 2004, a delivery order amount of $5,936,592 as part of a $424,465,470 firm fixed price fee contract (W91CRB-04-D-0043) for interceptor body armor inserts. Work will be performed in Vista, Calif., and is expected to be completed by Aug. 19, 2007.
  • Composix Co., was awarded on, August 19, 2004, a delivery order amount of $5,064,660 as part of a $362,123,190 firm fixed price fee contract (W91CRB-04-D-0044) for interceptor body armor inserts. Work will be performed in Newark, Ohio, and is expected to be completed by Aug. 19, 2007.
  • ForceOne LLC, was awarded on, Aug. 19, 2004, a delivery order amount of $5,135,979 as part of a $461,000,000 firm fixed price fee contract (W91CRB-04-D-0041) for interceptor body armor inserts. Work will be performed in Spruce Pine, N.C., and is expected to be completed by Aug. 19, 2007.
  • Simula, Inc, was awarded on, Aug. 19, 2004, a delivery order amount of $5,322,828 as part of a $461,000,000 firm fixed price fee contract (W91CRB-04-D-0042) for interceptor body armor inserts. Work will be performed in Phoenix, Ariz., and is expected to be completed by Aug. 19, 2007.

Point Blank Body Armor Inc.*, Oakland Park, Fla., was awarded on June 7, 2004, a delivery order amount of $11,897,120 as part of a $239,400,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the Interceptor Body Armor Extremity Protection Deltoid and Axillary Protectors. Work will be performed in Oakland, Park, Fla., and is expected to be completed by June 6, 2007. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. There were an unknown number of bids solicited via the World Wide Web on May 4, 2004, and three bids were received. The U.S. Army Robert Morris Acquisition Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., is the contracting activity (W91CRB-04-D-0014).

Point Blank Body Armor Inc., Oakland Park, Fla., was awarded on July 9, 2004, a $24,756,750 firm-fixed-price contract for 50,000 sets of the outer tactical vests which are a component of the Interceptor Body Armor. Work will be performed in Oakland Park, Fla., and is expected to be completed by Feb. 28, 2005. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This was a sole source contract initiated on July 7, 2004. The U.S. Army Robert Morris Acquisition Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., is the contracting activity (W91CRB-04-F-0126).

The Interceptor Body Armor system combines a soft Outer Tactical Vest with two Small Arms Protective Inserts (SAPI). As of September 30, 2003, 135,860 SAPI sets have been fielded. However, there is a limited SAPI production due to lack of ceramic tiles and backing materials (Spectra Shield). Proposed work will focus on several materials, such as Metal Matrix Ceramics, Carbon matrix ceramics, and other materials as alternatives for high performance ceramic tiles (SiC, B4C), and domestic Dyneema (similar to Spectra) as alternative for Spectra Shield material. This effort will look at ceramic tile production to provide new material source for SAPI production. The proposed work will be mainly testing and evaluation of various materials which can be used to produce SAPI plates. Prototype materials were made and ballistic tests are planned.

Interceptor Body Armor Issues

Since December 2003, the Marine Corps began fielding the Interceptor system to Marines deployed in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Initially, the Corps outfitted about 26,000 personnel for OIF with body armor, which constitutes 52,000 SAPI plates. The MEF had about 17,000 SAPI plates from the previous deployment to Iraq, when it started preparing for the 2004 deployment. During the testing and purchasing process, the Marine Corps started to receive test data on some of the OTVs that were lower than what was specified in the requirement for the purchase description. This was clearly a concern that the Marine Corps had to address. The Corps looked at the data to see how far off they were from the acceptable levels of ballistic performance. It was easy to identify the fact that, despite the vest not being at full ballistic capability as outlined in the specification, they were still dramatically better than the alternative. The alternative was to send Marines into theater wearing an old flak system. It was never a doubt that all of the vests were clearly better than the PASGT system.

The OTVs that received lower ballistic performance ratings were still stopping 9 mm rounds during testing. The PASGT flak could not hold a SAPI plate and can not stop a round, so the choice was clear to sign the waivers for specific vests that showed lower-than-optimal performance on ballistics. During rapid fielding and equipping of forces for OIF II eleven (11) lots of otvs totalling 5277 vests were fielded with waivers that accommodated lower than contracted test results from a specific testing facility. Prior to approving waivers additional test data was collected on the lots in question. Ballistic protection performance of the lots was confirmed and they were subsequently fielded.

A Marine Corps Times article by Christian Lowe published on 09 May 2005 regarding the Outer Tactical Vest cast doubt on whether or not the OTV can stop a 9 mm round fired from a standard pistol such as the M-9 Berretta. The United States Marine Corps maintains that the OTV system is capable of defeating the 9 mm and other ballistic threats, in addition to providing protection from shrapnel and fragmentation.

The lots in question were urgently needed and fielded when Marines were ordered back into Iraq in spring and fall of 2004. The OTVs in every instance are a significant improvement in protection from the outdated Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops flak jacket they replaced. The decision to waive these lots was made in order to provide the best available individual protection equipment as Marines were rotating back into harm's way.

Because the Corps knew this article was forthcoming and could potentially sow seeds of doubt in the minds of Marines in active combat, the Corps concluded the only way to rapidly remove these doubts was to recall the lots in question. On 04 May 2005 the USMC Infantry Combat Equipment Program Management Office (PM ICE) of Marine Corps Systems Command recalled eleven (11) lots of OTVs totaling 5277 vests that were fielded during 2004 in order to ensure Marines were equipped with the optimal level of personal protection gear. However, the Corps maintained these vests were effective at meeting the threat posed by 9 mm pistol rounds. Present combat operations preclude retesting at this time to prove to Marines these vests are effective.

Of the approximately 19,000 vests the Marine Corps Times addresses, 5,277 vests were subject to recall. Additionally, of the then remaining 14, 000 vests questioned by the article, 10,000 vests were from lots that had never been accepted or fielded by the Marine Corps. In turn, of the remaining 4,000 vests, approximately 3,000 vests passed all quality and testing standards without requiring a waiver. The remaining 992 vests (two lots) also passed all quality and testing standards but were held for release by the Natick contracting officer because they were in the same production run as the recalled lots. Consequently, in order to get these 992 vests (two lots) released they had to be fielded with a perfunctory waiver to expedite their delivery to the Operating Forces.

Operation Iraqi Freedom casualty data gathered from the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner and the Navy/Marine Corps Combat Trauma Registry proves that the OTV, a part of the Interceptor Body Armor System, is highly effective in reducing the number of lethal and non-lethal wounds to the chest and abdomen. This system is the most revolutionary personal protection system fielded to warriors in the past several decades. By early 2005 the Marine Corps had fielded more than 181,000 OTVs to Marines in the fleet. The recalled 5,277 OTVs in question represent less than three percent of the total number fielded.

Following the Corps' recall of more than 10,000 protective vests in November 2005, Marine Corps Systems Command officials defended the decision to initially field them to leathernecks in combat. Headquarters Marine Corps ordered 10,342 Outer Tactical Vests pulled from the operating forces after media reports indicated some samples tested by the manufacturer and by the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland failed to fully comply with ballistics standards.

Retired Lt. Col. Dan Fitzgerald, program manager for infantry combat equipment at Systems Command, said fielding the recalled vests, designed to stop fragmentation and 9 mm rounds, never presented a safety concern to deployed Marines or sailors. "The recall by no means indicates that the (Outer Tactical Vest) itself has any ballistic problems," Fitzgerald said. "At no time has the ballistic capability . on that vest been below operational capabilities requirements doctrine. Those vests were recalled for contractual purposes only, not for ballistic impact. It still stopped 9 millimeter and fragmentation as intended. We knew at the time that our choice was to either give the Marine an older vest that would not stop any ballistic shot and have less fragmentation (protection), or give them this system." Fitzgerald said the recall is entirely for the peace of mind of troops in theater in the wake of critical news reports, and, with 198,000 OTVs in the Marine Corps' inventory, will have zero impact on ongoing combat operations.

In January 2006 DefenseWatch / Soldiers for the Truth reported that a recent United States Marine Corps forensic study concluded that the Interceptor OTV body armor system was inadequate, noting that "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 ...".

By late 2005 Marine Corps Systems Command was fielding both the Enhanced SAPI plate, with a greater degree of ballistic protection, and a new Interceptor system with additional SAPI plates to protect the sides of the torso from small arms fire. Four levels of add-on armor are now available for the Interceptor that offer the same degree of ballistic protection as the OTV for extremities, including the neck, shoulders, arms, groin and legs. The new armor can be configured for specific mission requirements and covers up to 75 percent of the body with four levels of add-on armor with ballistic protection for extremities, including the neck, shoulders, arms, groin and legs.




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