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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.

FirstSpear Friday Focus – E&R Waist Bag

Friday, July 24th, 2015

In last week’s FirstSpear Friday Focus we have you a little taste of their new take on the traditional E&R Waist Bag. You may recall the photos of it attached directly to the Joker rig and that versatility is just one of the things that sets this E&R Waist Bag apart from the many “fanny packs” seen on the market.


For years, these simple waist packs have been worn slung just below body armor, in the front and filled with last ditch items like medical gear and SERE items. Even if the wearer cutaway all of the rest of his equipment, he’d still have his E&R bag. Some even added soft armor to protect their “package” from IED threats.

In addition to being worn via its integral waist strap, the E&R Waist Pack can be secured directly to your belt or load carrying rig with a 2-point QD buckle configuration.

Shock cord mounted on the top provides a quick stash point for a tourniquet, Eye Pro or other gear you need at hand.

There are four different zippered compartments as well as a removable top flap stiffener. Additionally, the E&R Waist Bag incorporates drainage for maritime ops or just crossing a river.

Available in Black, Coyote, Ranger Green, MultiCam and my favorite, two-tone Grey/Rust. Imagine that you could use the two-tone model even after ditching your gear in order to blend in with a civilian environment.

Quicky – Magnetic Tactical Belt On Kickstarter

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015


Carbon Tactics has started a Kickstarter campaign for Quicky, a quick-release magnetic tactical belt. Quicky features a buckle machined from 6061 T-6 aluminum. The buckle self latches and stays latched unless the user deliberately pinches and twists the buckle to disassemble it. The available straps include Biothane, a coated webbing product which looks like leather standard nylon webbing, and rigid tactical webbing.

Tyr Tuesday – Jungle COMA System

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

When I saw TYR’s new Jungle COMA System at Warrior East slung across the back of a chair, the first thing that flashed through my mind was ‘Soldier 95′. The COMA was completely kitted out for use. The basis of this modular design has been around for ages but lately, such rigs have only been offered as stand alone items. What I like about TYR’s entry into the Jungle Patrol Rig arena is that they’ve developed a full set up including the ability to add hard armor plates.

TYR Jungle Load Carriage Harness

The heart is the TYR Tactical Jungle Load Carriage Harness, a lightweight, adaptable platform which can scaled up or down depending on mission requirements. The Jungle Mesh Yoke accepts their complete line of Assaulters Zip-On Platforms and also holds a 50 oz. hydration bladder when needed. The Jungle Load Carriage MOLLE Belt provides ample space for the new line of Jungle Pouches and Accessories. Antimicrobial/FR treated padded spacer mesh is used internally for comfort.

There are three common system components common to all applications:
• Jungle Load Carriage Yoke – Mesh
• Jungle Load Carriage Belt – MOLLE
• Tactical Base Belt – D

Colors: MultiCam, Coyote Brown & Ranger Green

The components of the Jungle COMA System include:

TYR Jungle Load Carriage Armor Accessories

Jungle COMA PICO Front Plate Pocket

• PALS webbing for MOLLE attachment
• Hydration/Communication Tabs for routing
• Antimicrobial/FR treated padded spacer mesh on the body facing side for comfort
• Designed to quickly attach/detach to the TYR Tactical Jungle Load Carriage System

Available in five different styles depending on the profile (thickness) of your plate.

Available colors: Coyote Brown, Ranger Green, MultiCam

TYR Tactical Ballistic Insert – TYR offers a PICO Shape, T52/SP, Certified Level II NIJ0101.06 Armor Package Specifications [SOCOM, FBI, DEA] with an extremely high performance and lightweight ballistic solution. (.82 AD)

TYR Jungle Load Carriage Pouches

Rifle Mag Pouch Jungle

• Padded, hinged lid with 1” Velcro closure
• PALS webbing for MOLLE attachment
• Side cord retention to secure stowed item

General Purpose Pouch Jungle

• Padded, hinged lid with 1” buckle closure
• PALS webbing for MOLLE attachment
• Side cord retention to secure stowed item

Communications Pouch Jungle

• Padded, hinged lid with 1” buckle closure
• PALS webbing for MOLLE attachment
• Side cord retention to secure stowed item

Jungle Butt Pack

• Roll-Top with 1” Buckle Closure
• One Internal Zippered Pocket
• Two Mesh Pockets with Velcro Closure
• PALS webbing for MOLLE attachment

Jungle Lower Back Roll Pouch

• Center Zipper Closure
• PALS webbing for MOLLE attachment
• Side cord retention to secure stowed item

This Berry Compliant system incorprates TYR Tactical’s proprietary PV material which has been tested to have 7-10 times higher abrasion resistance than standard mil-spec nylon. PV also enhances the ballistic attributes of armor within the vest.

Visit for info on the entire system.

High Speed Gear – Double & Triple Pistol TACOs

Monday, July 20th, 2015

New TACO flavors from High Speed Gear.


NORTH CAROLINA – 20JUL2015 – Since the launch of the first rifle TACO in 2009, the TACO family of pouches has been a proven performer and continues to show tremendous popularity in the law enforcement and military markets worldwide. The lengthy list of top tier operators includes US and allied special forces; 100’s of federal agencies, state, and local tactical units. Because of the continued success of these pouches, they are often imitated, but no one other than High Speed Gear can provide you with the unique combination of materials that results in the complete, high performance solution that the TACO line provides.

High Speed Gear is proud to release The DOUBLE & TRIPLE PISTOL TACOs! Both of these pouches are made of a proprietary Cordura laminate, injection molded polymer brackets, and shock cord. These pouches will securely hold two or three pistol magazines, flashlights, or any combination of similar vital tools. In addition to providing a pouch that adjusts to the size of your magazine, the patent pending design allows for positive, adjustable retention, rapid deployment, and easy, consistent magazine reinsertion. The DOUBLE & TRIPLE PISTOL TACOs are available NOW in MOLLE and Belt Mountable versions. Made 100% in the USA, Battle Proven Tactical Nylon Gear.

Double Pistol TACO® video –

Triple Pistol TACO® video –

For more information visit:

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

FirstSpear Friday Focus – The Joker : Jungle Operations Airborne Capable Chest Rig

Friday, July 17th, 2015


During this week’s Friday Focus, we are sharing a new FirstSpear product, just released during Warrior East. Designed primarily for jungle operations, the JOKER is a patrol rig intended specifically to work in conjunction with the FS MIKE Force Pack. Although the intended use was initially jungle, JOKER would make a great primary load carriage rig across the board. It offers a great deal of adjustment and can be worn alone, or over low bulk armor carriers like Slick, Deceptor NOC or similar from other manufacturers.

What’s more, there are a couple of cool design stories in creating the JOKER, including some work with a Yodaesque figure at the forefront of load carriage development. FirstSpear asked me to share a salute:

FS was fortunate enough to be noticed by someone out on the true cutting edge of load carriage development, thank you for asking us to partner with you on this product, enough said.

The components are pure FirstSpear. This platform offers a Tubes front closure system, making it a snap to don and doff. The three 6/9 & MOLLE compatible pocket panels are also padded in key areas to provide comfort and some buoyancy. Since it’s going to be used in wet environments, the JOKER incorporates drainage in the mesh panel pockets.


One of those design stories I mentioned is that they were looking at shoulder straps solutions for the Joker. Ultimately, they decided to use a Yoke created by the the guys at Hill People Gear, who they OEM for, and incorporated a low profile drag handle.


There are some neat load options. If you are looking to transport a medium or small frame pistol on the JOKER, you can integrate their SSV holster in the Belt Holster on the left or right side inside the pocket panels. A stiffened and reinforced SCUBA webbing strap in either pocket will let you attach the SSV back up cord and clip the J Hook in place leaving the butt of your pistol exposed for decent draw.

Additionally, there are Velcro pile fields located inside the front pockets on both sides of the Tubes which will accept FS Ragnar Pockets for Single or Double Pistol Mags as well as Ragnar Single M4 Magazine Pockets. Webbing loops on the front shoulder straps will accept single attachment style pockets of the 6/9 or MOLLE variety. You can really customize the load on this thing.


One of my favorite features on the JOKER is that it has a Side Release buckle on each shoulder strap that when activated, will drop the length of the shoulders overall to a preset position selected by the User. This will allow the JOKER to be worn higher on the chest or down low like a traditional patrol rig, with the pouches below the ruck. This also means it can be pulled up through existing parachute harnesses and worn for airborne operations. Once clear of the parachute harness the User returns the 2 one inch side release buckles to the original position and the JOKER is back in its fighting configuration.


Another cool integration option is depicted in these photos which show the attachment of the E&R Bag to the back panel of the JOKER nested underneath a GP Large Pouch. It’s easy to reach back and detach the E&R and then transport on its own waist strap. This is also a great place for weapons cleaning kit.

Available in Black, Coyote, Ranger Green or MultiCam.

Chase Tactical – Warrior Wednesday – Warrior Assault Systems Low Profile Chest Rig

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015


The Warrior Assault Systems Low Profile Chest Rig (LPCR) is the latest in the line of low profile, high speed chest rigs from Warrior. The LPCR holds 4 – M4 style mag pouches in their elastic low profile mag pouches. There are extra rows on MOLLE webbing at either side of the LPCR which can accommodate a multitude of interchangeable Warrior pouches, such as pistol mags, radios pouches etc. The LPCR works particularly well with, Warriors PLB or Frag Belt combination to provide a lightweight Direct Action setup.


The unique feature about the LPCR is its ability to attach to Warrior’s new RPC (Recon Plate Carrier). Simply remove the shoulder and rear straps and all the remaining clips line up with the corresponding ITW clips located on the front and sides of the RPC Plate carrier, creating a scalable armor platform.


The Low Profile Chest Rig is currently available in MultiCam, Coyote, and A-TACS-FG.


All Warrior Assault Systems products are made from genuine U.S. Mil Spec materials and hardware.

Interested in carrying the Warrior Assault Systems product line? Chase Tactical is the North American distributor for Warrior Assault Systems. Click on the following link or email

ATS Tactical Gear – PRC-154 Rifleman’s Radio Pouch And KDU Pouch

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

ATS Tactical Gear has just introduced their PRC-154 Rifleman’s Radio Pouch and KDU Pouch.


ATS’ PRC-154 Rifleman’s Radio Pouch is their take on the issued Rifleman’s radio pouch. It features a tip-out design, allowing for easy reprogramming, and accounts for the USB connector on the radio’s side. It will mount to any MOLLE-compatible platform, taking just two channels and six rows of space.


The ATS KDU Pouch is 4.75″ x 3.5″ x .75″, and features two elastic bungee cords, which allow the face of the KDU to be flipped down to make adjustments. The unit itself is secured by a 2″ wide webbing strap and Velcro. The KDU Pouch utilizes the new Snapless Attachment System and will mount to any MOLLE-compatible platform, taking up three channels and four rows of space.

As with all ATS Tactical Gear brand products, the ATS KDU pouch and the PRC-154 Rifleman’s Radio Pouch are covered by the ATS lifetime warranty against defects in manufacturing and workmanship.