Page last updated at 11:25 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 12:25 UK

UK troops to get new body armour

By Daniel Emery
Technology reporter, BBC News


Demonstration of new body armour

The British armed forces are to get new body armour and helmets this autumn.

More than 10,000 enhanced Mark 7 helmets and the new Osprey Assault body armour have been ordered.

The MoD says the new body armour has "all the stopping power of the kit it is replacing, but is lighter, closer fitting and easier to move in".

It is hoped the new lighter Osprey Assault will go some way to answering soldiers complaints about heavy or ill fitting armour.

The new armour and helmet were unveiled at the MoD's DVD 2009 event at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.

The new helmet will eventually replace the existing Mark. It comes with a new four-point harness to keep the helmet more stable when night vision equipment is fitted to it.

It also has a new gap above the eye to compensate for the helmet tilting forward when a soldier goes into the prone position before firing, and there are plans to fit it with mounting brackets.

While the ballistic protection of the Osprey Assault is the same as its predecessor, the Osprey, the MoD says the overall fit has been tailored to the needs of dismounted troops, particularly those in Afghanistan.

British forces in Iraq were predominantly vehicle based, but in Afghanistan the terrain and conditions means that foot patrols are far more common.

Quentin Davies MP

Quentin Davies MP, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, discusses the new Osprey Assault body armour.

Speaking at the launch of the kit, the MoD's chief of defence materiel, General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue, said Osprey was a "proven world class system" and the new body armour order would ensure troops would "get the best kit for the job they are doing".

"Troops will be issued with a new ballistic plate that is much thinner, reducing their bulk and burden and improving their endurance," he said.

Current Army directives state that all soldiers must wear the latest Osprey body armour and Mark 6 Alpha helmets in any combat situation.

However, there have been a number of deaths due to troops either removing kit or wearing inappropriate gear.

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