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USMC Seeks New Lightweight Hard Armor Plates

Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC), Portfolio Manager (PfM), Ground Combat Element Systems (GCES), Program Manager (PM) Infantry Combat Equipment (ICE) released a sources sought notice seeking information regarding industry’s capability to produce a Berry Amendment compliant lightweight hard armor plate.

For years, the current Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (ESAPI) has protected Marines, and other service members from harm, but they are relatively heavy, having been designed well over a decade ago. The Marine Corps wants to leverage advancements in armor protection.

MCSC’s Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad Team tested a selection of currently available commercial armor plates through the Marine Corps Load Effects Assessment Program course wearing all of their combat gear. MERS discovered that a lightweight hard armor plate in the range they are seeking will increase the mobility of Marines by 8 percent. It is envisioned that these new plates will be used woth the upcoming Plate Carrier Gen III, expected to begin fielding in 2019.

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. However, according to the notice, there’s no actual requirement written yet, so it is important that industry respond to this Request for Information in order to inform the requirement.

According to PM ICE, the lightweight hard armor plate should:

– Provide two-shot ballistic protection from non-armor piercing rounds that are currently prevalent in counter-insurgency operations and other low intensity threat environments.
o Rounds primarily fired by sniper rifles will be tested at a velocity expected at 100m-200m standoff.
o One shot will be in the crown location at 0-degrees obliquity; the other shot will be at off-center locations at 30-degrees obliquity.
o Meet back-face deformations less than 58 mm.

– Conform to ESAPI shape and area of coverage.
– Possess a thickness that is the same or less than current ESAPI.
– Possess an areal density of 3.75 pounds/square foot (Objective) to 5.16 pounds/square foot (Threshold).

Additionally, 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, once the solicitation is released.

Responses are required by 7 September 2018, 12:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (sic).

Visit www.fbo.gov for full details.

USMC photo and video.

7 Responses to “USMC Seeks New Lightweight Hard Armor Plates”

  1. Kevin says:

    There is that garbage plate carrier again….

  2. CAVstrong says:

    Is the Corps really adopting what is essentially a First Spear Plate Carrier? Why can’t the Army just give up on trying to develop something ridiculous and adopt a COTS system too?

    • Gear Guy says:

      According to Army Contracting Command and PEO Soldier, both the Army and the Marines will be fielding the same plate carrier. I am not sure what the Army’s fielding plan looks like, but the Marines will start fielding in FY19.

  3. Robert says:

    Hmmm, no mention of spall. At least they will test off-center shots.

    These would have to be at least III+, most likely IV. Technology has allowed for a reduction in weight since the ESAPI design mentioned, which should be most welcome.

    • mark says:

      The specs sound more like a Level III; possibly something even lower like a IIIA+? It’s definitely a lower standard then IV.

      Level III is designed for 7.62×51 M80 Ball at ~10 yards. This plate spec seems to require stopping x51/x54 non-AP at 100-200 yards, which a lower requirement.

      The RMA IIIA+ is 2.5lbs, stops 7.62×39 lead core and 5.56 M193 at 10′. I suspect it would stop 7.62×54 lead core at 100-200yd velocity as well.

      The fatal flaw would likely be the presence of mild steel cores found in some x39 and x54. That might require something like a titanium backer.

    • Jac says:

      The requirements, mainly the weight, rule out steel plates which are the only type of armor that cause spalling Afaik

  4. Seamus says:

    Does not sound like a Level IV plate. However given there is no requirement we will have to wait and see. But the USMC is correct, it should be able to get a lighter AND tougher plate than it currently uses. Then the US Army may join in if it likes what it sees. All this is good for armor as this pressure to make a lighter and possibly thought plate will all eventually tricke down to the civilian market.