The US Army has ordered 57,000 plate-carrier vests from KDH Defense Systems, to provide soldiers with better lightweight gear for the challenging operational environments of Afghanistan.

The full-up plate carrier with front and side hard armour plates will reduce the weight of the body armour by 10lb to 15lb and decrease heat stress to enhance combat performance in extreme temperatures.

The vest will carry standard hard armour plates for vital ballistic protection, but cover less of the soldier’s body than the interceptor body armour system.

The plate carrier also features a drag strap and is compatable with the soldiers’ weapons and other equipment.

Exhaustive feedback on the new armour was also given by soldiers themsleves, who provided more than 10,000 pages of comments on the form, fit, and function of each vest tested in road marches, obstacle courses, weapons familiarisation, ingress / egress drills and room-clearing exercises.

The soldiers also tested each plate carrier’s compatibility with Land Warrior, a soldier-worn computer system that increases mission speed and situational awareness.

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The Program Executive Office also assessed the performance of the commercial-off-the-shelf plate carriers, which were put through rigorous exercises and examined for ballistic, burn, and survivability data.

The contract follows an 11-day field test conducted in May 2009, which took place to select a contractor for the procurement.

The first plate carriers will be delivered to the army in December 2009 after testing and be fielded to soldiers soon thereafter. Deliveries under the contract will be completed in March 2010.