The US Army has awarded a contract modification to Ceradyne for the supply of additional body armour under the Soldier Protection Systems Vital Torso Protection programme.
As part of the $34m contract, the 3M company will be responsible for low-rate initial production and delivery of 28,000 pieces of lightweight enhanced small arms protective inserts (ESAPI).
ESAPI ceramic armour plates are inserted into outer modular tactical vests to provide torso protection against higher-velocity small arms fire. The plates are currently worn by US soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
Primarily used in the improved outer tactical vest, as well as the modular tactical vest, the plates are claimed to significantly reduce weight carried around by the soldiers over the previous generation of inserts, while providing the same level of protection.
Business manager for 3M Advanced Ceramics Platform – Defence, Cheryl Ingstad said: "Ceradyne has fielded over 100,000 ECHs and two million, body armour inserts to the US Armed Forces.
"Our speed in production and delivery is in part due to our major investment in state-of-the-art helmet manufacturing.
"Just as we invest heavily in research, development and manufacturing, we also have a major effort underway to understand and translate soldier needs in head and body protection to exciting, new developments in our products."
The ESAPI plates are said to offer protection from .30-06 M2 armour-piercing rounds with a steel or tungsten penetrator.
Deliveries under the contract are anticipated to be completed throughout 2016.
3M is displaying a range of soldier protection solutions at the ongoing AUSA annual meeting and exposition in Washington, DC, US.
Image: ESAPI and ESBI armour plates with the components of a modular tactical vest. Photo: courtesy of Bahamut0013.