Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Kevlar down under ...
Washington (CNN) -- Whether it's an Army helmet with a thicker shell and better padding, or underwear that can protect a Marine private's privates, the U.S. military is looking at sending the latest gear to Afghanistan so the troops can come home safe and sound.
Next month, the Army is going to start sending the "ballistic boxers" to soldiers in Afghanistan, and the Marines intend for each of their troops there to have four pairs of the "protective undergarments," as they are formally known, before the end of the year.
The heavy silk boxers, which look like shorts that professional cyclists wear, won't stop a bullet or shrapnel from an IED. But the silk can stop small projectiles like those kicked up by an explosion.
"It is expected to prevent fine sands and particles that are thrown up by explosives, so that the tissue wounds are cleaner, less ragged and easier to treat," said Lt. Jamie Larson, a Marines Corps spokesperson. And since the silk is treated with antimicrobial agents, the boxers help protect injured troops from wound infections.
While it may not sound like it affords much protection, silk is actually a very strong fiber, said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, who heads the Army office that tests and develops new protective gear. He noted that silk was used by medieval knights "under the mail armor" to protect against wounds from swords and other weapons.
The Marines haven't actually started buying the boxers yet, but the Army has chosen boxers from a company in Northern Ireland called Cooneen Watts & Stone that is already making them for the British military in Afghanistan.
Silk boxers aren't the only step the military is taking to protect the groin.
They are testing various cups that a male soldier will wear over his genitals. One of the cups being considered is made of stainless steel; another is made from high-molecular-weight polyethylene, a plastic that is lighter than Kevlar but better at stopping bullets.
"They all basically work to slow down the fragments. We are looking to prevent penetration of the genitals," said Col. Bill Cole, an Army officer overseeing projects aimed at better protecting soldiers.
In addition, the Army and Marines are looking at undershorts that will have pockets that will hold Kevlar pads to protect the wearer's femoral artery, the main blood vessel to the legs.
While Kevlar may be the answer to protecting arteries and groins, Kevlar helmets may soon be history. Kevlar is a fabric that can, when arranged in multiple layers, stop most bullets.
The Army and Marines are working on upgrading their head protection to the Enhanced Combat Helmet (ECH).
The outer shell is made from the same high-molecular-weight polyethylene plastic being investigated for groin protection. The thicker protective shell would make the helmet lighter than the current Kevlar model. The Army hopes to start giving those to soldiers in Afghanistan by November.
READ THE FULL STORY AT CNN
Posted by Steve Douglass at 8:23 PM