Lightening Body Armor

Arroyo Support to the Army Response to Section 125 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011

by Kenneth Horn, Kimberlie Biever, Kenneth Burkman, Paul DeLuca, Lewis Jamison, Michael Kolb, Aatif Sheikh


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The body armor that U.S. forces wear in Afghanistan is effective against ballistic threats: There have been no reported penetrations of the body armor or fatalities when the currently issued body armor was struck by projectiles it was designed to stop. However, current body armor is heavy in weight and makes up a large portion of the load that soldiers and marines carry on patrol and into combat. This report summarizes a congressionally directed study of how body armor weight can be reduced. The research examined four approaches to lightening body armor: refining requirements, using modular configurations, improving testing, and improving materials. The study found that a 10 percent reduction in weight appears to be about the most that is realistic in the short term if overall protection is to remain constant; nonmateriel approaches can result in a greater than 20 percent weight reduction, but such approaches pose difficult choices about the amount of protection provided to soldiers. The report concludes with a comparison of the four approaches, general conclusions and recommendations, and responses to each of the eight congressionally raised issues.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two


  • Chapter Three

    Four Approaches to Lightening Body Armor

  • Chapter Four


  • Chapter Five


  • Appendix

    Army, Marine Corps, and SOCOM Processes for Procuring Body Armor

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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