The Interceptor Multi-Threat Body Armor System was a joint Army and Marine Corps innovation with improved protection and lower weight than earlier body armor. Interceptor body armor was supplied to forces in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the late 1990s, an Army and Marine Corps team produced the Interceptor Multi-Threat Body Armor System that provided improved protection while weighing about ten pounds less than its predecessor, the Personal Armor Systems, Ground Troops (PASGT) flak vest. The Interceptor system was put into quantity production for troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq (Iraq photo, left, courtesy Matthew Kotarski).
The Interceptor Multi-Threat Body Armor System is made up of two main modular components: the Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) and the small-arms protective inserts (SAPI). The unisex Kevlar OTV is also equipped with removable throat and groin protectors. With the front and back SAPI ceramic plates inserted, the vest can stop 7.62 mm rounds. The inserts were so successful that they continue to be used with later generations of body armor vests.
Origins of the Interceptor Body Armor Flak Vest
Interceptor Body Armor stems from the 1994-vintage 24-pound Ranger Body Armor (RBA) designed by the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick, MA) at the request of the 75th Ranger Regiment. The 9-pound RBA vest gives the wearer high quality handgun ballistic and fragmentation protection. With the addition of 7.5-pound aluminum oxide ceramic armor plates placed in the front and back chest pockets, the RBA wearer is further protected from armor piercing rifle ammunition. The success of RBA led to a materials research program to achieve the same performance with less weight. The RBA vests continued in Army inventory through the early phase of the Iraq War, until replaced by Interceptor.
The Interceptor Flak Vest Goes to War
The Interceptor Multi-Threat Body Armor System went into production in 1999 under a five-year contract awarded by U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center to Point Blank Body Armor of Oakland Park, FL.
The new Interceptor body armor was worn by soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army and Marines rushed to get enough body armor into Iraq and Afghanistan by December 2003 for everyone who needed it, as fast as it came off the assembly line. For the Marines, the PASGT flak vest gave way to the new Interceptor body armor-an effective and highly valued piece of gear in the global war on terrorism. Because the Interceptor body armor was in relative short supply, deploying service members got priority at their points of issue. Accounting for two armor plates for each Marine in the ground combat element, the Marines fielded 94,056 plates for active forces and 39,284 for reserve forces.
Interceptor Flak Vest Ballistic Protection
The Interceptor's inter-changeable components give troops the ability to dress to the level of a particular threat.
By itself, the Interceptor vest insulates a soldier from shrapnel and 9-mm pistol rounds. When the protective Small Arms Protective Inserts (SAPI) are added, the system acts as a ballistic barrier to 7.62-mm rifle ammunition. The PASGT flak vest only offered protection against fragmentation.
The Interceptor outer tactical vest consists of a very fine Kevlar weave that will stop 9mm pistol rounds. Webbing on the front and back of the vest permits attaching such equipment as grenades, walkie-talkies and pistols. The Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) is made of a boron carbide ceramic with a spectra shield backing, an extremely hard material. It stops, shatters and catches any fragments up to a 7.62 mm round with a muzzle velocity of 2,750 feet per second. It's harder than Kevlar. The four pound high-technology plates cost approximately $350 each to produce, a considerable cost reduction achieved by Army-industry cooperation.
The vest comes with neck and crotch protection attachments. It will work with all current and anticipated load carrying equipment. With the fasteners along the right side, the vest still protects the front of the body even when open. The vest also has a quick release feature, so if the soldier needs to drop the plates, one tug and they're gone.
A major upgrade effort to make Interceptor with SAPI standard issue for body armor was completed in early 2004. Between 2.0 and 2.5 million SAPI plates were issued. Additional protection was added for upper arm and underarm areas in the form of the Groin Protector (two sizes), the one-size Deltoid and Axillary Protector (DAP), and the Enhanced Side Ballistic Insert (ESBI) or side SAPI (SSAPI). Other components include the Yoke and Collar Assembly (eight sizes; X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, XX-Large, XXX-Large, XXXX-Large) and the one-size Throat Protector.
Since the OTV was not originally designed for side protection, an extra carrier is attached to hold the side plates (NSN 8470-01-534-0777).
In the FY2004-2009 period, a total of 1,960,530 Interceptor body armor sets were procured and distributed, going to Army (1,494,097), Navy (32,404), USMC (152,346), USAF (220,723), and SOCOM (60,960).
This table gives the National Stock Numbers for the OTV in all sizes and two camouflage patterns. The ballistic protection plates are a separate item of issue with their own NSNs.
Interceptor Body Armor Weight and Dimensions
The Interceptor system weighs 16.4 pounds including the SAPI insert plates. The outer tactical vest (OTV) weighs 8.4 pounds and each of the two inserts weighs 4 pounds. The previous PASGT body armor weighed 25.1 pounds (with ballistic upgrades). The Interceptor body armor's lighter weight provides more mobility than the older flak vest, one of the main objectives of the development program that created the Interceptor vest. ESAPI adds about one pound to the weight of SAPI Interceptor. (Weight varies by size of plate.)
The unisex Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) is made in eight sizes from x-small to xxxx-large. OTV NSNs are not in a single range, examples are 8470-01-497-8599 for x-small and 8470-01-518-5894 for xxxx-large. The SAPI and ESAPI plates for the front and back of the vest are available in five sizes from x-small to x-larges. All size inserts are interchangeable between front and back pockets of the OTV
To fit properly, the insert should be the same size as the OTV. That is, if you wear a medium vest, order the medium plate. The exception is if you wear an xx-, xxx- or xxxx-large vest. For those OTVs, larger than X-large, use the X-large inserts.
The Use and Care Manual for the Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) and Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plates is TM 10647A-12.
Issues and Improvements for Interceptor Body Armor
In Afghanistan, some soldiers reported the loss of circulation in their arms in situations where they had to wear the Interceptor Body Armor with the ALICE rucksack frame or the current Load Bearing Vest instead of the MOLLE pack for which it was designed. U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center receives such information and uses it to plan improvements or new equipment such as the USMC Improved Load Bearing Equipment (ILBE), specifically designed to accomodate the Interceptor OTV.
Complaints about Interceptor Body Armor accumulated. Soldiers found it to be too heavy, too hot and too cumbersome. Addition of the Deltoid and Axillary Protector and the Enhanced Side Ballistic Insert pushed the wearer's arms out too far, to an unnatural position. Acting on these issues, PEO Soldier fielded the Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) in April 2007.
This table gives the National Stock Numbers for the IOTV in all sizes. IOTV is issued in Universal Camouflage pattern only. The ballistic protection plates are a separate item of issue with their own NSNs.
Responding to similar complaints, in October 2006 the USMC approved a new design OTV designated Modular Tactical Vest (MTV). MTV uses the same SAPI/ESAPI plates and some of the soft components of OTV, but distributes the weight differently and has other refinements specifically for the USMC. The MTV has not been fully successful for the Marines, leading to development of the Scalable Plate Carrier (SPC).
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