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Soldier Protection System Torso and Extremity Protection – Another System Built By The Lowest Bidder

Monday, July 27th, 2015

When the Army initially launched the Soldier Protection System program in 2013, contracts for soldier systems items were falling off drastically and companies were more than happy to participate with the promise of developing a new, leap ahead system consisting of multiple components. It was exciting. SPS was touted as the future and industry wanted to be a part of it.

To give readers a frame of reference, here is a basic description of Soldier Protection System – Torso and Extremity Protection:

SPS-TEP is a PEO Soldier sponsored development program managed by LTC Kathy M. Brown, PM Soldier Protective Equipment. While it includes armored combat clothing (BCS), Blast Pelvic Protector (BPP), and new Load Distribution System (LDS), the heart of SPS TEP is the Modular Scalable Vest, one of four systems which integrates into the SPS TEP and consists of a low profile vest with four soft armor panels (one front, one back, and two side cummerbunds) covered in a camouflage cloth and hook and loop. Like current systems, soft armor panels are inserted into a tactical outer carrier that also accommodates hard armor protective inserts. The tactical outer carrier also contains two side plate pocket that will accommodate soft armor inserts. The outer carrier is made of a flame resistant outer cloth, webbings, hook/loop, polyethylene stiffener, a quad-release system, and several other non-ballistic materials.

There is also a Load Distribution System designed to offer the capability to redistribute the weight burden on the torso vest and load bearing while being carried horizontally, close to the body’s center of mass. The LDS is an integral part of the SPS TEP design with the LDS belt containing soft armor that provides fragmentation and handgun protection to the lower back and abdomen region. The LDS will provide Warfighters with the ability to mount additional equipment directly to the belt using the MOLLE retention system. The ruck integration component includes: a frame adapter, torso vest compatible shoulder straps, and an LDS belt adapter.

Unfortunately, the program faced an early misstep when the original solicitation was released, canceled and then a revised version reissued not long after. Industry trust was shook when elements of industry bids were integrated into this new requirement for all to see. What companies considered advantages over others in the process were now there for all to integrate into their proposals. Interegtating good ideas is something that should have happened earlier in the requirement process, during the Sources Sought phase, when industry is expected to help government refine their requirement by serving as a barometer and forming a vision of the state of the art. It’s not fair to write a requirement, open a solicitation and then close it, rewrite the requirement with elements of proposals and then resissue it with those new elements. But, this isn’t the first point of contention in the SPS TEP program. It’s an issue that has been constant throughout all components of the overarching program strategy. The big issue is that they were trying to save a buck on Personal Protective Equipment.

Across the board, within all SPS components and in spite of language in the 2014 and 2015 National Defense Authorizations Acts calling for the use of “Best Value” contracting, the solicitations have been issued under “Lowest Price, Techically Acceptable” criteria. This is an oversimplification, and I’m sure a contracting officer will comment, trying to justify the Army’s defiance of the Congressional language, but LPTA means that your body armor is assured to be made by the lowest bidder.

(Former PM SPIE COL Robert Mortlock (right) and current PM SPE LTC Kathy M. Brown (center) explains SPS-TEP to Vice Chief of Staff GEN Daniel B. Allyn (left) during a June 2015 visit to PEO Soldier.)

With SPS-TEP, the Army has taken LPTA to a new level. Despite having three vendor teams (Hawk, Point Blank and Safariland) with competitive systems that met all of the solictation’s requirements, PEO Soldier decided to enter a fourth, government owned solution cobbled together from different components. Naturally, that is what they selected. Of course, industry was disappointed. Why wouldn’t they be? They had spent millions of dollars to prepare their submissions. The heart of this winning government solution is a developmental USMC modular scalable vest that the Marines do not plan to field. After testing the vest, the Marines chose rather to purchase additional Plate Carriers.


These photos show Maj James Pelland, former team lead for Marine Corps Systems Command’s Individual Armor Team demonstrating the Modular Scalable Vest. Below, you can see him negotiating an obstacle course wearing the MSV. The bottom portion of the Load Distribution System is also visible in the photo, which allegedly still has some issues. Additionally, Maj Pelland doesn’t appear to be wearing any plates in the MSV.


On 21 July, 2015, Bethel Industries, Jersey City, New Jersey, (W91CRB-15-D-0019); Hawk Protection Inc., Pembroke Pines, Florida, (W91CRB-15-D-0020); and KDH Defense Systems Inc., Eden, North Carolina, (W91CRB-15-D-0021), were awarded a $49,000,000 shared firm-fixed-price contract for the Soldier Protection System modular vest by the US Army. These lowest bidders are manufacturing the Army’s design. It all sounds great for the bean counters. In fact, everyone would be impressed if what they were buying was what the Army said it actually needed at the outset of the program. Unfortunately, it would take a requirement change to do that, and that’s just what they did.

In spite of all of the other issues, this next bit is probably the most disheartening part of the entire affair. The “Army” system didn’t meet all of the requirements of the solicitation, so they changed them mid-program. There are several minor conundrums such as the Load Carrying Equipment not quite working in concert with the Marine Corps body armor vest, and an immature Load Distribution System, but the most dramatic of these changes is the decision to drop the requirement for female fit body armor. The MSV option the Army has selected, doesn’t feature a female fit at all.

(PFC Cheryl Rogers grins as 2LT Chelsea Adams helps her into the new Generation III Female Improved Outer Tactical Vest, Nov 28, 2013. The Soldiers, who are part of the 1st ABCT Female Engagement Team, Third Infantry Division, were preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.)

The Army, who not long ago drew praise from Congress for their multi-year effort to develop a female version of the Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV), decided to leave female Soldiers high and dry in the future by simply eliminating the requirement. They’ve put years into developing female body armor and now, they just toss it aside. To make matters worse, they are still under contract to work on improving female body armor fit with the firm, Body Lab.

Consider this; as of fiscal year 2014, women represent about 14 percent of the active Army, 23 percent of the Army Reserve and 16 percent of the Army National Guard as of fiscal year 2014. With the Army working to open additional positions in combat formations to women, this move can only be seen as a step backward.

Ultimately, SPS remains a developmental ‘science project’ with limited buys and actual system testing to commence after the new year. There is no promise of full type classification and issue across the force. However, while the Army was sure to have learned much from the program, and in particular from the commercial designs it evaluated, millions of dollars and countless hours were expended by both industry and government in pursuit of this requirement. It would be a pity if it turns out in further testing that the Army backed the wrong horse while trying to save a couple of bucks. Their actions regarding PPE contracts have certainly garnered the attention of those on the Hill who hold their purse strings. To make matters worse, they’ll probably have to explain why they failed to capitalize on their work to offer PPE for females and end up spending even more taxpayer money when several viable options were at their fingertips throughout the down select portion of this program. Conducting program after program where there is no return on investment for industry is starting to wear thin.

Shellback Tactical – Banshees Back In Stock

Sunday, July 26th, 2015


Shellback Tactical now has Banshee Plate Carriers in Black and Coyote in-stock and available for purchase. MultiCam and Ranger Green will be available in a few weeks.

Hoplite Armor – Hard Armor Shoulder Plates

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Hoplite Armor was brought to our attention by S&S Precision. As you can tell, Hoplite has implemented the PlateFrame to suspend the armor plates.

Hard Armor Shoulder Plates

Hoplite Armor LLC Announces Release Of Hard Armor Shoulder Plates – HAPS

Hoplite Armor, LLC, announced the release of the new patent pending HASP (Hard Armor Shoulder Plate) system. This revolutionary design serves as an up-armor replacement for the current threat level IIIA pistol armor widely used in DAPS and other bicep systems by Military and Police agencies throughout the world. The HASP System provides rigid, hard armor threat level III rifle protection to the deltoid region in order to prevent injury to the upper body as a result of lateral ballistic rifle impacts. The HASP is supported by a universal and patented plate frame technology developed by S&S Precision.

The HASP plates are comprised of a polymer based armor material (UHMWPE) and are extremely lightweight and durable. At a total weight of only 1.1 lbs. per side, including the carrier, the Level III HASP system weighs less than existing DAPS IIIA systems yet provides significantly increased levels of rifle, handgun and fragmentation ballistic protection. In addition, the HASP system has been designed in such a way that it mimics the anatomy of the human body, creating a form fitting, ergonomic armor plate which reduces wear stress while improving performance. The HASP system can be integrated into existing DAPS compatible carrier systems, as well as all S&S Plate Frame Carrier systems. The universal HASP system allows users of existing tactical body armor to improve their gear without having to replace existing carrier systems or armor platforms.

The Hoplite HASP and S&S Plate Frame technology has combined to create a revolutionary advancement in the personal ballistic protection, providing increased coverage, greater range of motion, and reduced weight all while increasing ballistic resistance.

Sgt. Lonnie Young USMC, Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient, and security detail for high profile personnel, had the following to say about the HASP system:

“The Hoplite HASP system is lightweight, comfortable and most of all it’s perfectly suited for urban warfare and is highly effective against rifle rounds. On April 4th, 2004 my team and I were under heavy enemy fire as insurgents attacked the Spanish CPA at An Najaf. While defending the base I was shot in my left shoulder and hit by a piece of shrapnel from another bullet in my left cheek. The bullet tore across my back and stopped just short of my spine. Having the HASP system during the battle would have saved me from injury and would have allowed me to stay in the fight.”

The Hoplite HASP system is available for order July 4th 2015 with initial deliveries scheduled for August 2015.

For more information visit, Instagram at hoplite_armor, Facebook at Hoplite Armor or call Hoplite Armor direct at 855-ARMOR01.

USSOCOM Interested in Updating Releasable Maritime Body Armor Vests and Maritime Load Carriage System

Friday, July 17th, 2015

PM-Special Operations Forces Survival, Support and Equipment Systems (PM-SOF SSES) issued a Sources Sought Notice requesting samples of two different MBAV configurations (Maritime Operations (MAROPS) and Land Warfare variants), and all the associated MLCS pockets, pouches, and accessories necessary for combat across the spectrum of operations.

The following limited pockets and pouches are requested for the samples submitted with each vest:
a. 3- double-stacked M4 pouches
b. 1- PRC 148 pouch (152 capable)
c. 2- smoke grenade pouches
d. 1- 7.62mm 100 round pouch
e. Small utility pouch (NVG’s, E&R, etc.)
f. 1- double Sig Sauer 9mm pouch
g. Low profile admin pouch

The intent is to choose a single vendor to provide all body armor vest and load carriage components. PM SOF-SESS reserves the right to choose multiple vendors. Vendors may submit more than one version of the MBAV, but not more than three.

The MBAV candidates must be interoperable with Generation IV and V SPEAR Body Armor Plates. Now get this, while the pouches have to attach securely to the carrier and backwards compatible with existing SPEAR items, the Soirces Sought Notice does not specify MOLLE or PALS.  That opens up some interesting possibilities.  Finally, this is a maritime requirement so naturally, the carrier will need to incorporate flotation. 

MBAVs must integrate with a low profile, integrated modular floatation system with an easy to install and removable bladder capable of providing no less than 70 lb. of positive buoyancy when inflated on the surface and 40 lbs. at 1 ATM. Modular floatation sub-component shall not reduce or minimally reduce area available for MLCS accessory attachment. Bladders and floatation capability must be easily removable for land operations.

Interstingly, they state that the land variant vest will only be pursued if it provides a substantial gain in capabilities over the currently issued vest. However, wouldn’t it be great if both variants were similar in design and operation?

Interested parties have until 20 August, 2015 to submit their entries.

* Of General Interest To SSD Readers, This Is A Full List of MLCS Components
M-4 Single Mag Pouch, 2 Mags per pouch
M-4 Single Pouch, 3 Mags Per Pouch, Maritime
M-4 Double Pouch/ 2 Mags per Pouch, Maritime
M-4 Triple Pouch, 2 Mags per Pouch, Maritime
M-4 Single Pouch, 1 Mag Per Pouch w/ Kydex
M-4 Single Pouch, 3 Mags Per Pouch
M-9 Single Mag Pouch with Kydex Insert
M-9 Single Mag Pouch, Flat v.2
M60 Ammo Pouch (100RD) w/DET Top Maritime
40 MM Grenade Pouch-Double
40 MM Grenade Pouch, Triple
100oz Fluid Carrier Pouch (NOTE: Carrier only. Not a system.)
200RD Saw Pouch Maritime
Assaulter’s Armband
Beaver Tail Assault Pack
Canteen/General Purpose Pouch Maritime
Charge Pouch w/ Anti-static
Deployment Bag-Small (1000D Khaki and Ranger Green)
Fore Trek GPS Pouch Wrist/Chest
Frag Grenade Pouch-Single Maritime
GRG Chest Pouch
Low Profile Special Purpose Chest Rig v.2
MOLLE Interface for Belt
Multi-Purpose Chest Rig v.2
Operator Gun Belt Pad – Sized Item – SMALL v.2
Operator Gun Belt Pad – Sized Item – MED v.2
Operator Gun Belt Pad – Sized Item – LARGE v.2
Operator Gun Belt Pad – Sized Item – XL v.2
Protective Insert for Night Vision
Radio Pocket (MBITR) Maritime
Radio Pocket (MBITR) w/ 5590 Pouch v.2
Roller bag, Small v.2 (1000D Khaki and Ranger Green)
Shock Tube Pouch v.2
Shotgun, 24 Shell Ammo Pouch v.2
Slung Weapon Belt Catch, (Gun Retainer) v.2
Smoke Grenade Pouch-Single v.2
SOF Medical Pouch v.2
Strip Charge Pouch, Single
Utility Pouch v.2

Warrior Expo – High Ground Gear Introduces SPEAR BALCS Carrier

Friday, July 10th, 2015

This vest is so new, it doesn’t even have a name yet. Designed to accept tye SPEAR BALCS soft and hard armor. It includes comms channels, incorprates a drag handle and the cummerbund is fully adjustable via Velcro.

Warrior East – LBT Project Zero Vest in White

Friday, July 10th, 2015

LBT has produced the Project Zero Vest we told you about during the ADS Federal Range Day, in White.

As you can see, the White color doesn’t contrast under civilian clothing.


Panels can quickly be attached to the front of the carrier via Velcro.

Meet EPIC from TYR Tactical – The Army Might Not Be Getting It, But You Can

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

This is EPIC, a new armor vest from TYR Tactical. Under development for over two years and a finalist as part of the US Army’s Soldier Protection System – Torso and Extremity Protection program, the Enhanced PICO Improved Carrier is actually available in two versions; Male and Female variants.

epic male front angle

It’s a five piece design called the Integrated Ballistic System that increases ballistic protection, decreases side spall and reduces back face deformation. The five piece design includes a panel suspension and energy disbursement frame. Known as the Ballistic Vein, it increases the overall load carriage performance of a carrier and provides a more rigid platform for adding weight to the system. It also reduces fatigue by improving the complete structure of the carrier by retaining the soft armor panels in the proper configuration, preventing bunching and supporting the plates to improve edge hit protection. It reduces blunt trauma and back face deformation values and ultimately increases V50 performances by up to 125 feet per second by absorbing energy from projectile engagement.

Ballistic Ridge (8) SAPI 2015A

While developed in-house, prior to the SPS-TEP solicitation, the EPIC design was tweaked in order to meet all of the requirements. A couple of innovations came out of the design such as the Ballistic Vein we’ve already mentioned as well as the Ballistic Ridge. The Ballistic Vein can be seen above, along with the armor package and the Ballistic Ridge around the Armor Plate. One of the specifications for the Improved Outer Tactical Vest is that there is a 1″ overlap of soft armor behind ballistic plates in order to deal with spall from edge shots. TYR’s Ballistic Ridge moved the 1″ of soft armor unto the edge of the front armor plate and .5” of additional ballistic coverage beyond the side plates. Thanks to the Ballistic Ridge (and a couple of other things like their PV material), TYR was able to offer a 30% weight reduction over the current issue IOTV. Considering the Army’s goals were a 15% reduction within 18 months and 30% in the course of five years, this is impressive.

EPIC front

One of the requirements of SPS-TEP was that the armor had to utilize the current 4-cable cutaway found on the IOTV. TYR has incorporated it into the EPIC design and it’s common to both Female and Male models with the pull tab located in the front center, below the Vecro flap. Cutaway buckles are located on both shoulders and on the EPIC Base Cummerbund.

EPIC 360

EPIC can also be integrated with the Brokos belt and XFrame for enhanced load management.

EPIC female

Something that sets EPIC apart from other vests currently on the market is the patent pending female cut, which you can see above.


While the baseline PICO armor carrier is well known for its ergonomic cut, you can really see the Female cut in the (above) photo and its advantages are obvious (below).


Additional Features:
– PALS webbing for MOLLE attachment
– Hydration/Communication Tabs for routing
– EPIC Low Profile Shoulders
– Removable Assaulters Zip-On Back Panel
– Lace Adjustable Cummerbund

Here are the Soft Armor inserts, which offer 360 degree coverage, in Male (left) and Female (right) versions. These can be removed from the EPIC vest and used as concealable armor with these carriers. Once again, you can see that the Female variant is designed to accommodate the differences in anatomy from their Male counterparts.

Regardless of Male or Female version, EPIC is available in three different styles depending on the profile (thickness) of your plate:
-EPIC 1 accommodates standard SAPI/ESAPI plates (approximately .75” thick)
-EPIC 2 will hold Cercom & Ceradyne plate styles (approximately .5” thick)
-EPIC 6 will hold TYR-HA3/7 plate styles (approximately .5” thick)


Although the US Army ultimately chose the government design for SPS-TEP, individuals and agencies can now purchase EPIC directly from TYR Tactical. It not only meets, but exceeds SPS specifications and unlike SPS, comes in both Male and Female versions. Available beginning 4 July, 2015.

Line Of Fire – Honeywell / D3O Level III Armor Product Brief

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Click to view .pdf
ELITE Product brief

Katylist – Officer Survival Solutions Level IIIA 10X12 Special Threat Plates

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

The product is the OSS Officer Survival Solutions Level IIIA 10X12 Special Threat Plates. They are NIJ 06 Certified – Weigh only (0.85LB) and are .03 inches thick. These are great plates for low profile/Low Vis operations where someone wants to be able to throw on soft armor in carrier , and doesn’t wear concealed, or worn in a carrier as daily soft armor.

They are listed at a special limited time into price of $134.99 each.×12-thin-special-threat-plate

Morgan Advanced Materials And Tyr Tactical Announce Armor System Passes NIJ Level III Certification Testing Requirements

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Morgan Advanced Materials has recently announced that their hard armor system, in conjunction with Tyr Tactical’s soft armor system, has passed the NIJ 0101.06 Level III certification standards. The full release can be read below:


Morgan Advanced Materials hard armor, in-conjunction with Tyr Tactical’s soft armor system, has successfully passed the ballistic, durability, and environmental requirements of the NIJ 0101.06 Level III certification process. Full NIJ certification is pending, with completion expected this summer. With a 10-inch x 12-inch plate weighing 2 pounds and just over ¾-inch thick, the modular and scalable system provides substantial weight and thickness advantages over stand-alone plates.

The system consists of a Lightweight Buoyant LWBIII+ rifle plate developed by Morgan’s Composites and Defence Systems business with Tyr Tactical’s T52/SP or T54/C soft armor. In addition to the NIJ Level III threat, the Level III+ system is capable of stopping a variety of rifle threats, including 7.62 millimeter (mm) ball rounds, 7.62mm mild steel core (AK47) rounds and 5.56mm ball rounds (M193 and LE223T3).

The ultra-lightweight, high performance hard plate insert which is manufactured from the latest generation durable composite technology is extremely hard wearing and designed specifically for the rugged environments faced by military and security personnel. The products are available to law enforcement, security, and military/defense customers.

The rifle plates, soft armor, and full system are available in the US through Tyr Tactical’s facility in Peoria, Arizona. It is available in Canada through Millbrook Tactical, located in Stittsville, Ontario.