Lance Cpl. Joshua Babcock fires an M-9 pistol during an advanced driven combat drill aboard the Blue Ridge. Marine officials have awarded two companies contracts to produce the service's next-generation ballistic armor inserts, billed as able to defeat more powerful projectiles without increasing the overall weight of body armor. (MC2 Rafael Figueroa Medina / Navy)
Marine officials have awarded two companies contracts to produce the service’s next-generation ballistic armor inserts, billed as able to defeat more powerful projectiles without increasing the overall weight of body armor.
Ceradyne and BAE were awarded $504,000 and $587,000 contracts to manufacture the Enhanced Capability Small Arms Protective Insert, which will replace current ESAPI plates first adopted in 2005. Marine officials have said they will buy the plates in fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1, and field them as they are available.
“The ESAPI will be maintained until such time as a sufficient quantity of ECSAPI can be procured for the entirety of the Marine Corps,” said Barb Hamby, a Marine Corps Systems Command spokeswoman at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., this summer.
The ESAPI was adopted to provide better protection against armor-piercing rounds. But, Marines are encountering even more powerful rounds requiring better protection, officials said.
The goal of the ECSAPI program is to “protect the Marine against emerging threats without compromising mobility,” Hamby said.
Greater amounts of body armor over the years have increased survival rates among those shot on the battlefield but has also added weight that result in injuries. Marine officials were unavailable to answer questions regarding the final weight of the ECSAPI because of furloughs, the result of the government shutdown which began Oct. 1. But, the solicitation to industry updated in April stated that regardless of performance, the new plates could not increase the weight burden Marines carry into combat, which has ballooned over the past decade.
As part of the fight to reduce weight, the Corps launched the Marine Corps Load Effects Assessment Program, or MC-LEAP, in 2012. The goal of the program was to determine how ever-increasing loads are affecting Marines’ ability to maneuver on the battlefield. All pieces of a Marine’s kit were scrutinized, but body armor has consistently been identified as a major concern.
Exactly which types of rounds the new ECSAPI plates defeat is classified information, but current plates are rated to stop up to .30- caliber M2 armor-piercing rounds.