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PEO Soldier Seeks Ways To Lower Weight Of SPS TEP

PEO Soldier released a Request For Information to industry to look at ways to lower the weight of their yet-to-be operationally tested, let alone fielded, new Soldier Protection System Torso and Extremity Protection (SPS TEP).

ACC-APG, on behalf of Product Manager Soldier Protective Equipment (PM SPE) of the Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, Fort Belvoir, VA 22060, is seeking information from potential industry partners, material providers, designers, and integrators to support the Army’s effort to reduce the weight of the Soldier Protection System Torso and Extremity Protection (SPS TEP). The Government anticipates lighter systems will be procured before transitioning the product to sustainment on any future SPS TEP component contracts.

Is it just me or does it seem a little odd that the Army would already be looking for improvements to a product that was just down selected a few months ago and still doesn’t have any production models yet? On one hand, it’s good to see that the Army would be on the lookout for lighter materials. On the other, maybe something else is afoot. There’s some interesting verbiage in the RFI which may reveal why they are in such a hurry. The very first sentence in the BACKGROUND paragraph below, mentions an “operational need exists to further reduce the load Soldiers carry into combat.” Sounds like they can’t wait for the protest to play out, and want to rush this system into the field.

Although production contracts for SPS TEP were awarded to Bethel Industries, Hawk Protection Inc., and KDH Defense Systems Inc., Point Blank came in at the last minute and protested those awards to the Government Accounting Office. Consequently, production of the government owned Modular Scalable Vest design has halted until the whole thing is sorted out. With the current production contract stuck in protest hell, this RFI is an interesting twist. Reading the quoted paragraph above, it also sounds like they want to move forward with this lighter effort instead of production of the current developmental version.

Considering that they are looking at construction as well as materials, I’d also say that this RFI further demonstrates that the MSV which was selected wasn’t ready for primetime.  The Army could already have a lower weight system, along with a female version, had they adopted one of the commercial candidate systems.

BACKGROUND:

An operational need exists to further reduce the load Soldiers carry into combat. SPS TEP successfully provided dramatic decreases in weight and increased protection while providing a modular, scalable, and mission-tailorable system. The SPS TEP design consists of four (4) components (further component description below): Modular Scalable Vest (MSV), Ballistic Combat Shirt (BCS), Blast Pelvic Protector (BPP), and Load Distribution System (LDS). The Army awarded multiple indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts for the MSV, BCS, BPP, and LDS components for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) and early Full Rate Production (FRP). This RFI is to gain information on industry’s capabilities to further lighten Soldiers load by 10-40% or better when compared to the legacy SPS TEP. While subject to change, the Government anticipates the acquisition strategy to include a best value trade-off between weight reduction and price to incentivize weight reductions of more than 10-40% from the legacy SPS TEP.

The Government is seeking information from Industry on how a 10 – 40% or greater weight reduction can be achieved over the current SPS TEP weight. The average SPS TEP Full Tactical (MSV, BCS, BPP, and LDS) weight of a medium system is 16.14 lbs. Significant potential exists in further reducing the weight of the SPS TEP components due to continued improvements in both ballistic and non-ballistic components. This weight reduction is to be achieved primarily through material changes and minor design changes (reducing seam overlap, or elimination of parasitic weight). Specifically, this RFI seeks information on the construction of the non-ballistic carriers as detailed in the following paragraph as well as the soft ballistic armor, which is worn inside the carrier, that meets paragraphs 3.3 Ballistic Material Systems Requirement and 3.4 Ballistic Performance Requirement of the SPS TEP component Product Descriptions.

 

SPS TEP Component Description:

The MSV consists of a low profile vest with four soft armor panels (one front, one back, and two side plate carrier) covered in a camouflage cloth and hook and loop. These panels can then be 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. The average weight of a medium MSV is 9.75 lbs.

The BCS functions as an armored Army Combat Shirt (ACS), and the non-ballistic materials used in the torso and sleeves are equal to the ACS in weight and functional characteristics, including flame resistance and moisture wicking. The deltoid and upper thoracic portions of the BCS contain soft armor that provides protection from fragmenting munitions as well as handgun threats. The deltoid portion of the BCS utilizes three separate ballistic inserts that are layered to form an articulating shoulder that does not impede the normal upward motion of the arm at the shoulder joint. The average weight of a medium BCS is 2.89 lbs.

The BPP functions as a blast harness that provides increased area of coverage while also improving mobility and protection from blast events. The BPP contains soft armor that provides protection of the pelvic region, femoral arteries, and lower abdominal organs in a blast or fragmentation event. The camouflage outer carrier of the BPP is flame resistant. The average weight of a medium BPP is 1.65 lbs.

The LDS offers 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 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 Warfighter’s with the ability to mount additional equipment directly to the belt using the MOLLE retention system. The average system weight of a medium LDS (belt, spine block, and frame sheet) is 1.85 lbs.

The Army is quite explicit that this Request for Information (RFI) is for market research purposes only and that it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to actually buy anything. Now, I know that makes some vendors nervous. The Army wants to see what’s out there, but there’s no guarantee they are going to buy it, and no guarantee they won’t take an idea somewhere else. I always want to see companies putting their best foot forward to provide better equipment to the Soldier, and I encourage them to do so here as well, but it would be nice to see some meaningful protections in place for intellectual property, including trade secrets.

Specifically, the Army wants to see technical supporting information such as test reports or past research and development efforts investigating material performance and a soft armor ballistic design that reduces the current SPS TEP system weight of 16.14 lbs.

If you’ve got a solution, respond to the RFI via email by 25 November 2015. Interested parties should visit www.fbo.gov for full details on how to submit.

4 Responses to “PEO Soldier Seeks Ways To Lower Weight Of SPS TEP”

  1. CJ says:

    in the picture…. POG……

    Protective Outer Garment…

    ha

  2. Jon, OPT says:

    That’s actually a picture of multiple Soldiers in a row, still a ton of shit, but not quite as much as it looks like.

    Jon, OPT