Even though the types of body armor available to the US Army and Navy are the same ones that you can buy as a civilian, the army body armor requirements are somewhat different. Due to the difference in tactics and threat levels, soldiers in the field are required to have both more armor on them in general, as well as for that armor to offer much more tactical versatility.
There are three things that a set of army body armor much have:
- Protection against anti-personnel weapons
- Anti-shrapnel and debris capabilities
- Utility attachments and modularity
There are other requirements that might be needed in a certain environment, or for a specific type of mission. But, the three listed above are mandatory for almost any type of modern warfare.
Finally, while army armor can be heavier in total because of the physical training of the soldiers, it should be trimmed down as much as possible. If you can take off even a pound without compromising operational capacity, you should do that.
Consider the Terrain
Ideally, you want machines and vehicles to do as much of the work as possible. If you are able to deploy your soldiers in the near vicinity of the mission goal, every soldier can be better equipped and have more versatile gear as fatigue won’t be an issue.
But, if the terrain is inaccessible to trucks or aircraft, you will need to go light. When maneuvering over difficult terrain the unit is only as strong as its weakest member, and you want everyone to be at their best when they arrive on point.
Going with a lighter NIJ Level III+ and only the basic gear can often yield better results for the mission and the health of the soldiers than burdening them with a lot of armor.
Explosives are the Real Issue
As most modern engagements are conducted in urban environments, explosives and flying debris is a much more dangerous weapon than rifles and pistols. An IED can be thrown from cover by anyone, and you never know how it will explode and what type of fragmentation it might carry.
Even if expecting light urban skirmishes, auxiliary modules like the NAM™ Neck Armor Module would be necessary. Additional soft armor will protect all of the important parts from slow but destructive shrapnel that might decommission the soldier even when exploding at a distance.
Plates are Mandatory
When it comes to the main piece of body armor, the vest itself, any Army mission will require a hard plate. But, even in this hard cutoff point, the lay of the land will need to be considered.
Generally, if you are fighting in open spaces, and might be at risk from high-velocity rifles, an NIJ Level IV will be mandatory. But, hilly terrain with lots of covers will always work better with Level III+ plates that are considerably lighter and easier to move in.
Ideally, you should have as much information about the terrain and the enemy before you begin, allowing you to mix and match between the two at your own leisure.
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