In a recent news story in the New York Times, the United States military revealed that its soldiers in Afghanistan were wearing out soft armor that is often referred to as tactop or quilted armor. This equipment has been effective against most hand-to-hand combat since the introduction of protective clothing, but it is starting to show its age due to wear and tear and other stress factors on the body. Some of the armor pieces are actually several plate carriers that work together to provide armor and protective clothing for the soldier’s entire body. These carriers are used to cover the soldier’s entire body from the chest up.
Over the last decade and more, technology has continued to develop and produce advanced soft armor plates that can resist the force of impacts and that are lighter weight than the hard armor plates used in the US Army. Since the US Army began to use these new plate carriers, called quilted plate carriers, they have seen a significant decrease in the number of armor plate injuries due to contact with the enemy’s weapon. Since the plates are soft armor, the force that strikes them will create tiny damages in the material that makes up the plate carrier. Although these plate carriers are incredibly durable, if they are touched by a sharp object, such as an assault rifle bullet, the small damages cause by the impact will pass through and cause a deeper wound in the soft armor plate. This causes the armor plate to bounce back and cause the weapon to jam.
The US Air Force has issued a specification for its AEG Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or UAVs, that specifies how the vehicles should be equipped with protective plates that incorporate the newest technologies such as soft plates and quilted armor. Although the specification does not specify how the new armor will function within the vehicle, it does require that the plates are fastened to the vehicle in such a way that it prevents them from bouncing against each other and creates a friction free joint between the plates. It is also required that the system use a high quality material that is capable of withstanding a force against bullets and high-energy penetrations. If the armor is penetrated, the frame of the UAV is not damaged. These standards are being put in place in response to the recent threat of RPG and other anti-aircraft weapons that may be used to shoot down military aircraft using conventional ammunition.