In an earlier post today on the recent body armor debate, I used the oft-quoted figure of “25 pounds” for the Vietnam-era flak vests. A commenter on the post points out that Vietnam-era flak vests did not weigh anywhere close to that.
Some quick Googling reveals that the body armor used in Vietnam weighed in at 9 or 10 pounds. According to Olive-Drab:
- The M-1952 Fragmentation Protective Body Armor, developed during the Korean War, was the most common body armor issued to US Army troops and weighed in at about 10 pounds.
- The M-1955 USMC Armored Vest, used by the Corps in Vietnam, also weighed about 10 pounds.
- The M-1969 Fragmentation Protective Body Armor, the Army’s replacement for the M-1952, weighed about 8.5 pounds.
As you can see, none of these approach the 25 pound figure usually included in stories on body armor. Somehow this figure has become ingrained in the minds of many, and while researching this post I came across a 2003 Washington Post story on MSNBC.com that used it. The article, Body armor saves U.S. lives in Iraq, was about the great performance and the acute shortage of the Interceptor Body Vest and ceramic plate inserts during the first year of the campaign in Iraq.
To make the matter even more curious, it was made again today in a release by the American Forces Press Service, Army Continues Changing, Improving Body Armor. The release quotes an Air Force Museum as the source of the figure.
Where did this number come from? Well, while looking around I noticed these figures:
- Ranger Body Armor (RBA) weighs about 8 pounds. With the ceramic upgrade plate, it weighs about 16 pounds.
- The Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops Vest (PASGT-V) weighs about 9 pounds, and when combined with the Interim Small Arms Protective Overvest (ISAPO), the weight is about 25 pounds.
Both of these systems were introduced in the 1990s. So it appears that it isn’t the Vietnam-era armor, but the 1990-era armor that the current “Interceptor” Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) and Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) are comparable to.
One last note about the Vietnam-era armor. It’s nearly legendary how often the armor was left behind due to its weight. One has to wonder what, despite the greatly enhanced protection, those soldiers would have thought of the 25 pound armor of the 1990s and 2000s.
–cross-posted at Defense Tech