The Evolution of Combat Gear, Equipment, and Protection
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The Evolution of Combat Gear, Equipment, and Protection

Soldiers today have an impressive array of expensive body armor available to them for protection.

With the continued evolution of weaponry over history, the equipment and gear that soldiers carry into combat changes continually. Early in the Common Era, for example, soldiers of the Roman Empire (especially the famous heavy infantry of the Caesar's legions) wore heavy armor to blunt the effects of swords and spears. In the Middle Ages, many soldiers gave up heavy armor to fill specialized roles that required high mobility, including archers, lancers, and light cavalry, but some retained it (notably, pikemen and knights). With the advent of firearms, armor again disappeared from infantry warfare all the way up until World War II, when soldiers began to wear thin metal helmets that could block light shrapnel and glancing shots from weapons. This remained the standard all the way through the Vietnam War.

Today, soldiers have once again adopted body armor for combat. American infantry arriving for deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) wore Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), and the force was completely outfitted by around the end of 2003. The IBA featured a front and rear "strike plate" rated to block up to a 7.62mm (.303 inch) round, which is the standard round of ammunition used in an AK-47 assault rifle of the kind typically employed in the Middle East. The strike plate consists of a ceramic plate in front and high-density interwoven fibers behind in a thickness of 1 to 1.5 inches (depending on the model design and date of the model's manufacture). When hit, the plate's ability to block ammunition degrades rapidly after one shot, because the ceramic strike plate becomes shattered and less effective at dissipating the energy of the rounds. The IBA weighs between 20 and 28 pounds (depending on size), and covers a majority of the vital organ areas from the chest and back, but has since been replaced by the IOTV (Interceptor Outer Tactical Vest) and DAPS (Dorsal Auxiliary Protective System). The entire IOTV/DAPS system weighs about 35 pounds, and features the addition of side plates for 360 degree protection as well as flak vest material for the shoulders and groin.

In addition to the IOTV/DAPS, soldiers wear the Kevlar, MICH, or ACH helmet, which is also supposed to stop a 7.62mm round. When the equipment is combined together, the soldier achieved a fair level of protectiveness while sacrificing a great deal of mobility. The chest, back, sides, and head are mostly safe from small arms fire in the new body armor, but there are some weaknesses. The areas covered with flexible flak material can stop shrapnel and up to a 9mm pistol round, b ut they do nothing against rifle ammunition. All of the legs and some of the neck, face, and arms remain exposed, but American soldiers have some of the most complete protection against the dangers of today's modern battlefield.

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Comments (1)

Best-trained soldiers in the world are working hard and it is just proper to ensure that they are best equipped with proper combat gears and military clothing.