Body of evidence: body armour and personal protection

The global body armour and personal protection market is forecast to show positive growth over the period 2012–22, according to the latest research by Strategic Defence Intelligence.


The global body armour and personal protection market was estimated to be worth $1.5 billion in 2012 and to increase at
a CAGR of 4.89% during the forecast period, to reach its peak of $2.4bn by 2022.

The market consists of three categories of body armour and personal protection: soft armour, hard armour and protective headgear. The soft armour segment is expected to account for 43.4% of the global body armour and personal protection market, followed by the hard armour segment with a share of 34.1% and protective headgear with a share of 22.5%. During the forecast period, cumulative global expenditure on body armour and personal protection is expected to reach $19.4bn.

North America dominates the market

The US is expected to follow past trends and record budget cuts during the forecast period, but these cuts are not expected to affect the country's body armour and personal protection procurement programmes. The US Department of Defense (DoD) declared in a January 2012 statement that the US Army is preparing for a smaller infantry but a better-equipped and optimally trained force. In the 2010 US Army Modernization Strategy, significant emphasis has been placed on improving personal protection for ground troops, and the US DoD is expected to continue upgrading its existing body armour and protective headgear capabilities in order to remain the dominant land force globally.

Because of the focus that has been placed on enabling better personal protection for US soldiers in the US Army Modernisation Strategy, the army's fiscal year 2011 budget request and Future Years Defense programme include increased funding for armour kits for increasing survivability and the accelerated development of lightweight body armour, which are now being designed gender specifically. As a result of these mandates, North America is the leading spender in the body armour and personal protection sector and accounts for 50% of the global market. Some programmes that are expected to contribute substantially to North American expenditure on body armour and personal protection include the procurement of improved outer tactical vests, the Uniform Integrated Protective Ensemble programme and the Security and Force Protection Services programme.

Europe and Asia are also expected to account for a significant portion of the total body armour and personal protection market during the forecast period, with shares of 31% and 13% respectively. This will be largely driven by the efforts of countries such as China, India and Russia to provide enhanced survivability to their armed forces. The Middle East, Latin America, and Africa account for 3%, 2%, and 1% of global body armour and personal protection expenditure respectively.

Rising demand for technologically advanced body armour

Global defence industry investment in R&D has led to the development of new soldier modernisation technologies that enhance survivability and sustainability capabilities, including advanced combat clothing, boots, hard armour, eyewear and helmets. Current innovations are oriented towards lightening body armour, increasing flexibility, developing armour for women, the use of advanced ballistic materials and incorporating night vision capabilities in combat helmets. The countries with the highest levels of defence spending are now focusing on building smaller infantries with enhanced survivability in order to derive maximum effectiveness from troop deployment. This has led major defence spenders such as China, France, the UK and the US to invest significantly in body armour and personal protection equipment.

Soft armour expenditure

Soft body armour offers a significant contribution to ballistic protection for military personnel because of its lightweight structures. The systems in use are currently constructed from conventional textile materials fused with filament composites, and have become relatively thicker and heavier to meet increasing protection requirements against more effective threats. The major factor driving the increased procurement of soft armour systems is the rapid technology advancement in the domains of reducing soldier load and providing enhanced personal protection, which has rendered earlier equipment obsolete.

The armed forces of all major global defence spenders are running procurement programmes in order to provide enhanced survivability capabilities for war fighters. These procurement programmes are in turn driven by the endeavours undertaken by leading military nations to decrease troop numbers, which necessitates survivability of the reduced battalion in order to remain effective. These concerns are urging governments to continue to invest in body armour equipment so as to complement the decrease in actual forces on the ground.

"During the forecast period, cumulative global expenditure on body armour and personal protection is expected to reach $19.4bn."

The soft armour segment is expected to attract an expenditure of $734m in 2012, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.43% to $1.03bn in 2022 (see Figure 3). The cumulative market for soft armour during the forecast period is expected to register a value of $8.4bn. While hard armour is expected to account for 34% of the market, protective headgear is expected to constitute 22.5% of the overall market share during the forecast period.

Effect of cuts on market growth

Most leading spenders in the world, including France, Germany, the UK and the US, have cut back spending in defence sectors such as space, aircraft and vehicles. Conversely, they have diverted funds towards sectors where rapid technology development and deployment is possible, such as soldier modernisation, C4ISTAR and cyber warfare. The BRIC nations have been formulating continuous programmes to procure the latest body armour and personal protection equipment, and have been investing extensively in R&D. This trend is expected to continue throughout the forecast period.

Global defence cuts, plus a substantial increase in the cost of developing technologically superior weapons platforms, have led to collaboration between governments, services and industries, and an increase in joint development and procurement initiatives. Examples include NP Aerospace Jordan's contract with Azerbaijan's MoD, and Intelleflex Corporation's partnership with Lockheed Martin's Advanced Technology Center (ATC) to develop a versatile advanced monitoring system (VAMS) for perimeter security.

Technological trends

Cosworth introduces soldier-worn electronics demonstrator
Cosworth is looking to develop a body armour that would result in enhanced connectivity and a reduction in weight for body-worn electronic systems. The demonstrator was produced in response to a UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) tender for the Man Worn Power and Data Technology Demonstrator programme, part of generic soldier architecture development. Acting as the prime contractor on the programme, Cosworth has incorporated technologies from BMT Defence Services, CQC, Martec, TE Connectivity and Ultra Electronics in its solution. It involves reducing system complexity, removing exposed cables to preventing snagging and using a flexible power architecture so that the soldier can carry just enough battery power for the mission at hand while monitoring available charge.

The system uses a single high-speed USB2.0 wiring system, integrated into the Osprey body armour vest, to enable adaptive control of the power flow through the clothing. This means batteries can be recharged using power from any available power source, such as an armoured vehicle or a solar panel. It automatically disconnects low-priority devices when power is running low.

Double-sided combat uniforms to enhance survivability
FIBROTEX, in cooperation with Israel Defense Forces special units, has developed next-generation smart fabric two-sided combat uniforms called FIGHTEX, which were showcased at the Eurosatory event, held in Paris on 11-15 June 2012. These uniforms use advanced materials to enable comfortable crawling and bending, and to support soldiers' survivability during missions. These lightweight uniforms are fire-retardant and can be integrated with a range of other items, including winter uniforms, vests and load carriers. FIGHTEX is also equipped with the FIBROTEX multispectral camouflage signature management system, which helps prevent personnel and equipment from being detected in the battlefield. It has the capability to be printed with a different pattern on each side to enable the wearer to be fully camouflaged in mixed terrain. For example, one side of the fabric can provide camouflage for green areas such as forests, while the other side camouflages soldiers in desert or urban environments.

UNEQUAL Technologies launches DEFCON technology
UNEQUAL Technologies has introduced DEFCON armour technology to provide protection in law enforcement and military protective gear. The DEFCON patented composite technology is thin, lightweight and flexible, and features a proprietary formulation that absorbs and dissipates more energy per square inch than traditional trauma products. It reduces more trauma blunt force with one panel than several layers of ballistic materials combined, while inherently increasing the flexibility and comfort of the vest. It is specifically engineered to reduce the back face signature, the non-penetrating impact on the body after being hit by a projectile. When formulated into regular IIIA body armour, DEFCON can stop 52 steel rounds with no additional layers, plates or modification. The vibration and impact shock that would otherwise enter the head or body is absorbed by the first layer, while the second layer blocks and redirects the energy, and the third layer supports everyday activities.

Fabric to protect against cut wounds
UK protective clothing company PPSS is manufacturing a breathable and fireproof T-shirt that can protect the wearer from slash-type attacks. The fabric, Cut-Tex PRO, is made from a combination of ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene fibres and fibreglass woven with other technical fibres including polyester, nylon and elastane. These fibres are then woven on a special high-density knitting machine to produce a fabric with level 5 blade cut resistance. The clothing range made from the fabric is aimed at security professionals, police officers, prison officers and other frontline professionals who may face knife attacks. The company claims Cut-Tex PRO is also resistant to human bites and fire, a property that can be improved by the addition of Kevlar fibres during the manufacturing process. The standard fabric is not puncture resistant and cannot protect against a stab attack as it is a knitted fibre.