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Eagle Industries SOFBAV Aero Assault

The Eagle Industries SOFBAV Aero Assault is one of two armor system solutions adopted by USSOCOM as a replacement for the decade-old MBAV (the other is the Crye Precision AVS). I first saw an early variant of the Aero last summer and the final version at SHOT Show 2013. Because the system is so versatile and difficult to capture in a one paragraph report, Todd McDunn and Don Gallo invited me to come by one of their facilities and take an in-depth look at the Aero.

SOFBAV

Due to scheduling it was not until recently that I was able to take them up on their offer. I’ve known Don Gallo for many years and it was great to spend the afternoon with him and his team. When you see Don on the floor of a trade show he is generally very serious and business like, but as he ran me through the paces on the Aero SOFBAV his eyes lit up and you could hear the excitement in his voice. You can tell that this is a project that Eagle has put a lot into and as you dig down into the details, there’s much to be proud of.

Aero SOF Bav Cummerbund front

First off, the name. Aero doesn’t mean or stand for anything. It’s just the name they chose to market the vest so don’t read anything into it. SOFBAV on the other hand, stands for Special Operations Forces Body Armor Vest and denotes its use.

Aero SOF Bav rear detail

This is an evolutionary design based on the MMAC (Multi Mission Armor Carrier); the SOFBAV Aero Assault is completely modular in nature. Initially, the system will be offered with 80 component items. For example, there are nine different front flaps including a slick model, MOLLE version, a variant with Fort Bragg-style magazine pouches and even one that incorporates the pocket configuration of the muti-purpose chest rig. If I could choose one word to describe the SOFBAV Aero Assault it would be ‘customizable.’ You can scale from a simple plate carrier all the way to a full assault armor carrier and through the use of modular components configure the load specifically for the mission at hand.

Aero SOF Bav

It is designed to fit the legacy MBAV soft armor in sizes s/m or l/XL as well as BALCS and ESAPI hard armor plates. Front and Back Bodies can be paired regardless of size, offering additional customization regardless of size. The Aero Assault can be configured as either releasable or non-releasable. Eagle went one step further and made it simple to quickly reassemble the Aero Assault for wear in a non-releasable configuration one it has been released thanks to the side release shoulder buckle.

Aero SOF Bav Shoulder buckle detail

The cutaway pull cable can be configured in multiple ways based on mission and user preference. Of the release options, four are on the body; left, right, center chest and center waist. The shoulder straps are interchangeable with shoulder release configurable to either side. Additionally, the cable release can be set on the left or right side of the cummerbund. Cables are routed through the shoulders which lowers the time for New Equipment Training.

Aero SOF Bav side detail

The Front Body incorporates an integrated admin pouch up high on the chest as well as removable front flaps which were briefly mentioned before. As with most armor carriers, the plates are loaded from the bottom and can be easily released.

Aero SOF Bav front flap attachment detail

The Removable Front Flaps attach via PALS. There are multiple versions as mentioned before as well as polymer inserts for various magazines.

Additionally, the Aero Assault Front Body is compatible with the ever popular multi-purpose chest rig which can be attached directly to the front of the vest.

Aero SOF Bav Rear Panel

The Back Body incorporates cable management pass through at kidneys as well as cable management ports at shoulder blade height. The flap can be pulled up in order to configure or inspect the cutaway.

Aero SOF Bav Back Panel

In addition to a drag handle, the Aero Assault also offers zip-on back panels and packs. Above, you can see a pack on the left and the hydration pouch with bolt cutter on the right. There is also a MOLLE compatible back panel available.

Aero SOF Bav Packing Loop 2

Eagle uses a Taco flap at the rear of the vest to guide the cummerbund.

Aero SOF Bav Packing Loop

One unique requirement for this armor was the incorporation of a waist mounted load bearing system similar to that of a backpack. For this, Eagle teamed with Granite Gear who provides some of SOCOM’s family of packs. It is based on the Chief frame and features a single point of articulation on the lower back. The frame itself fits into a separate channel in the interior of the Back Body. The Load Lift attaches via a cradle at top inside placket of frame sheet so not against seam.

Aero SOF Bav Chief Frame

Lots of work was put into the Cummerbund component of the Aero Assault.

Aero SOF Bav Cummerbund

The Aero Assault cummerbund is 4″ wide and uses slip-on accessory panels that are modular and accept inserts. One example of the slip-on accessory panels are the side plate pockets manufactured from Tweave 520 softshell material and which accommodate 6×6 6×8 up to 6×11 plates.

Aero SOF Bav Components 5

The Assault cummerbunds originally consisted of three different styles but that has been streamlined down to two and both are the Tweave 520 money belt-style front and rear. They are sewn into four separate compartments and will accommodate MBITR radios as well as single magazines.

Aero SOF Bav Components 6

PALS webbing is the modified 3/4″ standard in order to decrease weight and make it a little easier to weave PALS pouches when the cummerbund is full.

Aero SOF Bav Components 4

Notice how the end of the Cummerbund stores inside a compartment when not needed for use as a cutaway.

Below are the “Releasable Tri-Glide Extenders, Assault” which are fixed distance release extensions and used when configuring the vest as a cutaway.
Aero SOF BAV Straps

I’ll wrap this up with a few materials notes. The vest is made from 500D Cordura with a couple of additional materials. The interior of the Aero Assault consists of 1/4″ foam padding with Tweave 520 against the body for comfort. It is interesting to note that there is no metal on this vest except for the sleeved cutaway cable. Also, Eagle uses Murdoch’s Jacquard webbing throughout the design because it retains the camouflaged pattern much longer. It has other properties which are also desirable for this design such as durability.

Aero SOF Bav Components

The design of the SOFBAV Aero Assault is extraordinary. They have incorporated a great deal of lessons learned from use of prior vests into this design. If you are looking for a vest that will allow users to configure their armor for a variety of missions then this is worth checking out.

I want to thank Eagle Industries and in particular Don Gallo and his team for their hospitality as well Todd McDunn for setting the visit up.

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26 Responses to “Eagle Industries SOFBAV Aero Assault”

  1. Desert Lizard says:

    Simply awesome. Nice to see the SCAR 762 FDE mag used for their demo pics.

  2. Aaron says:

    When will it be available?

  3. straps says:

    Looks like 2013 will be the year the market actually gets to weigh in (pun intended) on load transfer off the shoulders. Also good to see Eagle moving to Murdock webbing.

  4. Anthony says:

    Probably be another 10 years before anyone at Eagle answers the phone or responds to email. Plus another 10 years before anyone can order one.

    • straps says:

      They will respond to individual purchase inquiries tendered via .mil or agency e-mail addresses if they have what you’re inquiring about scheduled for production. Sometimes. So yeah. Unicorns.

      In terms of innovation it’s Crye by a nose–especially the StKSS. I like that the linkage between the vest and the belt is at the hips, where there’s less change in length. Oh, and you can hit “Buy” right now.

  5. Martin says:

    Thanks for a very thorough review.
    Only one piece of info missing: where can we (the civilian market) buy this?

    :-)

    Martin

  6. steave says:

    Eagle is well overated and the new crye rig will do heaps but nothing well, better of with multiple rigs set up for different mission profiles

  7. Mayflower Research & Consulting says:

    Excellent review Soldier Systems!

  8. Doc says:

    Well I’d rather get this than the garbage kdh plate carrier, but I’d also rather have a keep it simple stupid approach like mayflower apc. My one point of concern is wouldn’t that big ass clip on the should just become one big pressure point when wearing a pack for long periods of time, I know my mbav clips used to drive me nuts in Afghanistan when wearing my aidbag for hours and miles on end.

    • Tom says:

      One word of advice. Don’t wear a pack! Lol if it were only that easy.
      Cool thing is with both these systems packs were developed for medics , EOD and the such. These packs adapt to the armor and can be worn stand alone, molled on, or clipped on. The full reason for the vest was scalability and extreme modularity.

    • Erik says:

      Further, just like the Crye CPC or CAGE, the buckle can be removed and replaced by a regular nylon strap (I believe it’s folded out on this one too).
      I’ve been carrying backpacks with my MBAV for years and it has a hasn’t bothered me to the same extent as the ridiculously narrow shoulder pads and stiff MSAP additions have yet. But I guess it’s upp to each person’s own preferences. At least they give you the option to have them removed this time!

  9. Aaron says:

    their load bearing system kind of looks like MRs…

  10. C.ALAN says:

    Okay, was hoping someone else would ask/answer this,but apparently I am the only idiot in the room-as usual.

    So…….can someone please tell me what …”Fort Bragg-style magazine pouches…” are?

    I will go back to licking windows on the short bus now…

  11. Bob says:

    Eagle=Garbage

    • IRISH says:

      Went back to look at my old EI catalog from 98, I miss what EI use to be.

    • SSD says:

      Ok “bob” could you elaborate?

      • Angry Misha says:

        Yeah “Bob”, please elaborate. I mean SOCOM is infamous for fielding “garbage”. This is actually a pretty cool rig and a good replacement for the MBAV. I would like to see a bigger cummerbund option to hold soft armor though.

        SSD: I’m looking at the system and from what i can see, it appears that you can opt to remove the SR buckle on the shoulder, is this true? I agree with the observation that it would cause a pressure point with a pack on. Also, in my experiance with load support systems such as the LBT “CAS” it tends to rock the front plate forward making it ride to low which usually mean some “customizing” on a belt sander to get in the proper place. Also, is it strictly based on SPEAR cut plates or do they have a swimmer cut option?

        • DatGuy says:

          The shoulder straps are meant to have other options available. This is the set up currently in evaluation and the default option.

          The Swimmer cut is called AERO Strike. You can find a video of McStache talking about it on youtube.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnlNIUhMP9g

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VfYzq0CZes

          The vest is designed to work with Pack adaptors that attach packs to the back body and do not require shoulder straps to go over the shoulders to the front. This is an option though. The buckle is positioned half over the vest padding and half on the shoulder strap padding.

          There are two cummerbunds designed in the AERO line that hold soft and hard armor that were at Shot Show. The one displayed in this article has an attachable pouch that can either attach to the elastic or the cummerbund.

  12. Nate Smith says:

    Looks an awful lot like this one that’s sitting on the shelf ready to ship….http://www.tacticaltailor.com/fightlightplatecarrier.aspx

  13. DG says:

    The system is currently offered in the following:

    AERO Assault
    – Holds SAPI, ESAPI, SPEAR BALCS shaped plates
    – Swimmer plates will also fit in but Swimmer (S-XL) plates and ESAPI/SPEAR BALCS (S-XL) plate sizes are not the same.
    – Plate backers
    – MBAV cut inserts
    – Shoulders are interchangeable.

    AERO Strike
    – TSA Swimmer plates (designed as a stand alone plate)
    – Shoulder Straps are fixed to the Front Body (No SR Buckle)

    All components/accessories (cummerbunds, front flaps, etc) are interchangeable.

    6×6 and 6×11 armor pockets are compatible with the cummerbunds and are designed to hold both MSAP (6×6) plates as well as soft armor inserts.

  14. Evil nadman says:

    Question is when will this start getting issued?

    • ODG says:

      Don, great work looks like an awesome piece of kit, that said Eagle better stop ignoring the commercial market, you are alienating the customer base that is going to enable the division to survive when the gov money finally dries up.

  15. Gary says:

    Very nice design but very similar systems on the marketplace.