Body Armor for IED Information Research Center

Introduction to Body Armor for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)

Shrapnel and flying debris from IED result in different protection requirements for U.S. military solidiers in Iraq than that of traditional body armor. Policemen, bodyguards, correctional officers, armed guards, politicians in areas of unrest, and executives in dangerous areas tend to wear traditional "bullet proof vests" that surround the torso / core of the individual, protecting the vital organs. Many military soldiers, henchmen and assassins have been taught to shoot for the center of mass (the center of the chest) to strike vital organs where a miss of several inches can still incapacitate the target. Additional armor can always be helpful at times in these environments, but the drawbacks (weight, mobility, heat) are usually not worth the added protection. High temperatures in Iraq can create a tradeoff between being too hot or wearing maximum protection.

IED are be placed along the roadside (roadside bombs) in Iraq, near bodies, driven in cars, used as "booby traps, worn in a concealled manner around a person's body, or otherwise placed in areas of interest. Some Improvised Explosive Devices are detonated remotely by cell phones, satellite phones, garage door openers, and other methods. When IEDs explode they can propel pieces of the IED itself, pieces of the delivery vehicle (car, container, even the person wearing it), nails, steel balls or other materials loaded in or attached to the IED , along with dirt, rocks, glass and other nearby materials. This rapidly explosive wall of debris then strikes a person directly or strikes a vehicle they are in or strikes materials being carried by them. Once the debris strikes something else at high speed, even more flying debris is generated resulting in more pieces that could directly injure a solider or civilian.

Thousands of pieces of materials and dirt are generally moving in outward vectors from the blast location. A soldier or civilian could be hit about anyplace on their body from about any angle depending on their location (height and distance from the blast and their position relative to materials between them and the blast). At first one might think the lower extremities would be below the blast pattern, but many soldiers encounter IEDs while riding in vehicles placing them above the blast, exposing their lower extremities. Traditional "bullet proof vests" only protect the main torso against the debris cloud. Many soldiers are receiving serious, life threatening injuries to their arms and legs from IED, while thousands more are receiving less critical injuries.

As a result, several countermeasures have worked their way to the field (detectors, bomb sweepers, communication jammers) and more are on the way. One such countermeasure is the use of body armor and more specifically the use of body armor providing protection to the extremities (arms and legs) in addition to protecting the torso.

As the U.S. military has become smarter in avoiding IEDs, insurgents have raised the bar by using larger loads of explosives, explosives on both sides of the road and using infrared detontators. Shaped charges that launching molten plates of metal called Explosively Formed Projectiles (EFPs) or Penetrators are becoming a problem as both sides escalate their efforts.

The purpose of this site is to speed up the process of developing improved body armor for protecting soldiers and others against IED, Explosively Formed Projectiles (EFPs) and similar weapons, by providing rapid access to information by body armor manufacturers, body armor developers, body armor researchers, and body armor end users (soldiers).

Body Armor for IED Information Center is a Polson Enterprises web site.

Note- many groups spell Body Armor as Body Armour.

If you become aware of any information you think would be useful for our readers that is not listed on this site, broken links, or have any comments about our site, please email us.

Interceptor Vest

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have been using a somewhat conventional body armor system called the Interceptor Body Armor for the last several years. The Interceptor Multi-Threat Body Armor System is composed of an outer tactical vest (OTV) containing Kevlar capable of stopping shrapnel and 9mm pistol rounds. Ceramic inserts called SAPI (Small-Arms Protective Inserts) can be used to stop up to 7.62mm rifle rounds at normal velocities. Yet heavier inserts called ESAPI (Enhanced Small-Arms Protective Inserts) can be used to block armor piercing rounds. These heavier inserts impact mobility of the user and convenience of the vest.

Throat and Groin protection attachments are also available, as swell as a Deltoid and Axillary Protector (DAP), and Enhanced Side Ballistic Insert (ESBI). The OTV is a unisex garment.

Point Blank began production of the Interceptor Multi-Threat Body Armor System with a 5 year government contract in 1999.

There are at least two nice histories of the Interceptor online.

Point Blank Body Armor (DHB) also provides a Interceptor Modified Outershell military version that accepts hard armor plates and can be "tailored" to specific missions.

USMC Modular Tactical Vest or MTV - meanwhile as the Interceptor continues to age, on Sept 25, 2006, the U.S. Marine Corps issued a contract to Protective Products International (PPI) to produce 60,000 vests similar to the Interceptor, but with several improvements. PPI's Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) incorporates a quick release system, greater coverage of the lower back and kidney area, reduced bulk collar, side torso and shoulder, integrated side SAPI pouches, allows communication wiring through channels, rifle pad, quick dry capability, and multiple adjustability. The USMC sees the new vest as an intermediate system until new, more advanced technologies are ready for production. MTV will also be available on GSA Contract # GS-07F-9029D.

Note - Protective Products International (PPI) is owned by Ceramic Protection Corporation.

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  • Introduction

  • Interceptor Vest

  • Existing Products

  • Experimental Products

  • Manufacturers

  • Design Criteria

  • Ratings & Stds

  • Materials


  • Sizing

  • Bibliography

  • Patents

  • Research Facilities

  • IED

  • Injuries

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  • Existing Body Armor for Extremeties

    Experimental Body Armor for IED

  • Experimental / Protype Body Armor for Extremeties
    • Trojan Exoskeleton

    • MSA / Paraclete's AV2007 Tactical Body Armor System - modular design of 23 vest configurations
    Liquid Body Armor (Shear Thickening Fluids) and Nano technologies are two areas receiving quite a bit of attention for potential use in Body Armor applications. You can read more about them and other developing technologies from our Body Armor for IED Bibliography page. and from our Body Armor for IED News page

    The Army says it anticipates the "next generation" body armor will use shaped inserts to provide improved protection and is said to currently be testing them.

    Primary U.S. Military Body Armor Manufacturers / Suppliers

    Design Criteria for Body Armor for Extremities

    There are many criteria involved. Among the more significant ones are:
    • Resistance level (threat magnitude, number of hits)
    • Weight - light weight is desired
    • Thermal - need to be cool enough to wear in desert climate of Iraq
    • Flexible - easy movement
    • Mobility - minimal interference with soldiers performing normal duties including moving place to place by walking, jogging, running, humvees, helicopters, and small boats.
    • Quick access in event of being wounded - medics need rapidly access to treat wounds
    • Integration - needs to integrate with all the other common military gear carried by soldiers in the field.
    Plus there is a lengthy wish list of additional features many would like to see.
    • Transfer weight to the waist and hips when possible
    • Floatation
    • Water and Salt Water Resistance
    • Long Service Life with no decrease in protection levels
    • Resistant to petroleum based fluids
    • Fire resistant
    • Quick drop of the insert plates
    • Takes multiple hits before failure
    • Economical
    • Achieve higher levels of protection without addition of SAPI or ESAPI plates

    Protective Ratings and Standards for Body Armor

    The primary standard used by police is the Ballistic Resistance of Personal Body Armor NIJ Standard - 0101.04. It describes resistance levels, processes used to test body armor, sampling methods, testing with inserts, labeling standards, and Appendix C briefly covers body armor selection.

    Body Armor is classified into categories based on the level of protection provided (the maximum projectile it will protect against. Details provided in the standard above are summarized in the table below.

    Maximum Threat
    Type I
    22LR; 380 ACP
    Type IIA
    9 mm; 40 S&W
    Type II
    9 mm; 357 Magnum
    Type IIIA
    High Velocity 9 mm; 44 Magnum
    Type III
    Type IV
    Armor Piercing Rifle
    Custom Requirements

    Conventional body armor has an additional set of standards relating to its ability to defend against stabbing attacks.

    National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Body Armor Safety Initiative lists models tested and found to be compliant with certain standards.

    Body Armor Standards include:

    Body Armor Demonstrations

    Several manufacturers supply videos showing the performance of their body armor while taking life fire of various rounds. Note those posted on tend to have some rough languge in the comments & responses..

    Materials Used in Construction of Body Armor

    Popular ballistic resistant fabrics include:
    • Dyneema from DSM

    • Spectra from Honeywell

    • Kevlar from DuPont - the best known fabric

    • Twaron note Technora is a brand name of Teijin Twaron

    • Zylon from TOYOBO. Zylon is sometimes called PBO due to its chemical structure

    Other fabrics and technologies currently being evaluated for body armor applications include:
    • M5 fabric recently developed by Akzo Nobel. It is being produced by Magellan Systems International (partially owned by Dupont). M5 is thought to hold much promise in body armor by reducing the density required to block specific rounds and it has some fire resistance. M5 called PIPD due to its chemical composition.

    • Liquid Body Armor Kevlar treated with a shear thickening fluid like that used in d3o athletic protective equipment (d30 is the technology).
      • ScienCentral discusses the use of this approach in body armor in its 15 June 2006 Liquid Armor article and the two research groups working on it at the University of Deleware and U.S. Army Research Lab at Aberdeen MD.

      • The University of Delaware's Center for Composite Material has an excellent site for its work with Shear Thickening Fluid (STF) Fabric otherwise known as Liquid Armor. This approach has been put forward as a possible solution to body armor for extremities because it only adds about 20 percent to the weight of Kevlar and retains the flexibility of Kevlar instead of the rigidness of the insertible plates.

    • In addition to the shear thickening fluids, another type of liquid armor has been proposed by MIT. They are working with Magnetorheological fluids that stiffen with the application of a magnetic field. The armor could remain flexible until activated.

    Some materials have been found to loose their performance over time. Most notably, Zylon was broadly replaced in the field a few years ago due to possible degraded performance. Kevlar can also have problems, especially from long term exposure to moisture.

    Dyneema does not appear to be effected by exposure to the elements.

    SAPI and ESAPI Ballistic Plates / Inserts

    Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) and Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (ESAPI) are used to raise the threat protection level of soft armor vest from pistols to higher velocity pistol rounds and to rifles. A large plate is used for the front and another large plate for the back of the U.S. military issue Interceptor vest. The plates are approximately 10 inches by 12 inches in size (sizing varies with vest size).

    These plates are made of a high-tech boron carbide ceramic.

    In addition to just stopping the bullet, these inserts try to accomplish that feat with minimal deformation to the rear (if the bullet makes a big dent in it, it makes a big dent in the person). This is accomplished by the use of ceramic plates backed by several layers of non-woven fabric film. The plates are designed to be inserted to be struck from one face (must not be put in backwards) and are so labeled.

    The plates come with a "Use and Care Manual"

    ULSS 002004-15 Small Arms Protective Insert (PCN 132 13210913000) 
    Located at 
    Use and Care Manual: TM 10647A-12 Outer Tactical 
    Vest (OTV) and Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) (PCN: 50010647000) 
    Located at 
    You must have a CAC card (Common Access Card, a general military ID card) to access the manuals online. Plates and manuals can also often be purchased on eBay or possibly at a local Army Surplus Store.

    Sizing of Body Armor

    Sizing creates a major headache for manufacturers. Men and women of all sizes are wearing the Interceptor type vests. Most body armor for the extremities somehow attaches to the Interceptor and is also made in a broad range of sizes and also holds SAPI and ESAPI plates of different sizes. It can be a manufacturers nightmare as a well as a stocking and inventory problem for outfitting areas.

    The Interceptor Outer Tactical Vest is a unisex garment made in 8 sizes (X-Small to XXXX-Large). SAPI plates for the front and back of the vest are available in 5 sizes (X-Small to X-Large).

    Point Blank Body Armor's Interceptor Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) military version that accepts hard armor plates is available in 5 sizes.

    Woodland Camo National Stock Numbers for Interceptor OTV military version are:

    8470-01-465-1863   X-Small
    8470-01-465-1864  Small
    8470-01-465-1866  Medium
    8470-01-465-1867  Large
    8470-01-465-1868 X-Large
    In addition to these sizes, the military provides Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) in three additional larger sizes (XX-L, XXX-L, and XXXX-L). They also provide the front and back ballistic plates (SAPI and ESAPI) in 5 sizes (X-Small thru X-Large).

    The new Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) or Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) being trialed in early April 2007 will be available in "Long" versions bringing its total number of sizes to 11.

    Point Blank Body Armor has a sizing chart for their Interceptor OTV that allows users to enter their body measurements to allow professionals to pick the best "letter" size for them.

    As mentioned earlier, sizing, along with updates/improvements/next generation components creates headaches for military logistics as well. We came across what appears to be an internal U.S. Marine Document on the deployment of QuadGuard, Cooling Vests, SAPI and E-SAPI plates mentioning some of the factors that have to be considered in procuring and delivering all these materials to the right people, including priorities of who gets the early ones.

    Body Armor Research & Testing Facilities

    The U.S. Government is also funding research at several sites through the SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) and STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) programs.

    Some of these efforts can be followed from the DOD SBIR Resource Center. One of note recently is A07-157 (Army) for Smart Small Arms Ballistic Inserts. Ceramic inserts are subject to cracking and composite backing can be separated from them on impact. The Army is looking for a way to non destructively test for cracks and delamination in the field. Proposals will be accepted from 14 May 2007 - 13 June 2007.

    Among them have been:

    Improvised Explosive Devices IEDs

    A JIEDDO Technology Outreach Conference was held at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne VA on April 10-12, 2007. JIEDDO = Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, led by General (Retired) Meigs. The conference primarily focused on IED triggers, initiators, detection and mitigation.

    Counter Explosive Hazards Center (CEHC) at at Ft Leonard Wood, Missouri is an Army training center for reducing IED and land mine injuries. Portions of one of their training manuals is are online at Improvised Explosive Defeat.

    There will also be an international IED conference in May. 3rd Annual Countering IEDs Conference Amsterdam Netherlands. 15-16 May 2007.

    2nd Annual Military Armor Protection Conference: Latest Advances to Reduce Human Casualties and Vehicle Damage. May 21-22, 2007. Alexandria VA presented by IDGA.

    A symposium was also in North Carolina in 2006. IED 2006 Symposium & Expo at Fayetteville NC, June 12-14, 2006.

    See our Bibliography section for additional information on IEDs.

    Injuries from Improvised Explosive Devices (IED)

    See our Bibliography section for additional information on IED injuries.

    Other Possible Benefits of Body Armor for IED

    Burns are rapidly becoming a larger portion of battlefield injuries due to direct exposure to the blast of IEDs and from secondary exposure to burning vehicles, clothing and equipment set on fire by IEDs. Soldiers are burned primarily in areas not protected by clothing or equipment. Body Armor for IED built as a fireproof garment could help protect against burns.

    Burns are also becoming a bigger concern with the use of shape charges / Explosively Formed Projectiles (EFPs) also known as Penetrators. They launch molten metal at very high velocities.

    Business of Body Armor

    Several large and small companies are players in the body armor business. Until relatively recently, police forces have been the focus of many manufacturers. Now, the war in Irag and other unrests around the globe have greatly increased U.S. Military consumption of body armor and attracted the attention of more manufacturers.

    The U.S. Military has long been perceived as hard to deal with due to government contracts, military specifications, red tape, long standing relationships with huge defense contractors and other issues. Rapid turn arounds due to changing needs in Iraq at least lowered some of these hurdles.

    Current U.S. Government requests for quotations and recent contract awards for body armor can be viewed on FebBizOpps by entering "body armor" in the search box.

    The U.S. Government also publishes requests for information and research there such as these:

    Most body armor is in Classification 84 (Clothing, Individual Equipment and Textiles).

    Industry Analysis for Body Armor Procurement is a great MBA report written by a couple Naval Post Graduates in December 2006 (Coleen Foust and Christopher Jenson). It focuses on procurement, but also includes good coverage of the market, a review of the players and other relevant business information. Adobe Page 57 (real page 41) is especially interesting with its Industry Product Flow Diagram showing how the several sub industries (fiber producers, powder producers, ceramic plate producers, fabric vest producers, and body armor manufacturers work together, and the major companies involved, including the governing organizations. Deltoid and Axillary Protectors are on Adobe page 65-66.

    Purchasing Body Armor for a Individual Soldier

    Some families and friends raise money to purchase body armor for a solidier or their soldier's unit in Iraq, Afghanistan or other troubled regions. It is our understanding the U.S. Army prohibits use of vests purchased by individuals and prohibits the use of all vests except for its Army issued Interceptor.

    Effective 17 April 2007 the U.S. Marine Corps similarly banned the use of commercial body armor per MARADMIN Number 262/07 (see item number 5). We strongly suggest you make sure any vest you might purchase for an individual could actually be used by them and that it could actually be shipped to them (there are some restrictions on the shipping of these materials). Plus be aware that most vest require very expensive plate inserts (SAPI or ESAPI) to achieve maximum protection.

    Shipping Level II and Level IV Rifle Plates (hard armor) to destinations outside the United States requires an export permit from the U.S. Department of State which may take a month or longer to acquire. See the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls for additional information.


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