Marine Corps Searches for New Hard Armor Plate to Lighten the Load
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — The Marine Corps has released a request for information for a lightweight hard armor plate to lighten the load for Marines and allow commanders to adapt to the environment, mission and threat on the battlefield, according to an Aug. 14 release.
Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) will assess industry’s capability to make a plate that would supplement the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI plates, and provide sufficient protection for low intensity threat environments. Vendors should be able to produce a minimum of 40,000 lightweight armor plates within a year of First Article Test approval, which is expected 180 days after contract award.
“Our current ESAPI plates do an amazing job of protecting Marines and have saved many lives,” said Nick Pierce, Individual Armor team lead, Program Manager, Infantry Combat Equipment (PM ICE), at MCSC. “The only problem is Marines are currently given a binary choice between taking on 15 pounds to be protected or zero pounds and very little protection. This new lightweight plate would protect Marines and give commanders the choice of what plate to use based on the specific mission.”
Over the past year, PM ICE conducted an analysis of more than 200 commercial plate designs from 38 different companies to see what type of armor is possible.
MCSC’s Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad Team (MERS) tested a selection of the prototype plates through the Marine Corps Load Effects Assessment Program course wearing all of the combat gear. MERS discovered that the lightweight hard armor plate will increase the mobility of Marines by 8 percent.
“Without revealing too much information, I can state unequivocally that the new plates will significantly lighten the load from the Marine and increase their mobility” said Pierce. “This increased capability can save lives and win battles by enabling Marines to engage the enemy or move to cover and concealment more quickly.”
With a focus on the concepts of modularity and scalability, the team will also ensure the plates will easily slide into the current Plate Carrier and the new PC Gen III, which begins fielding in fiscal 2019. The plates will be purchased in standard sizes as well as three new PC Gen III sizes to confirm Marines of every size and body type can use them.
“The decision to equip Marines with the lightweight plates would be a brilliant way to provide commanders the capability to make their unit more mobile and lethal, while exploiting the weakness of the enemy,” said Capt. Ryan Moore, PM ICE project officer. “If I can make a movement across open terrain to my next piece of cover or micro terrain 8 percent faster, I would argue that this lightened armor helps keep Marines much safer.”
Priorities have not been set yet, but initial fielding would likely go to combat units, Pierce said. Once market research is conducted, the contract could be awarded through full and open competition by the end of fiscal 2019, and fielding could take place as early as fiscal 2020.