Air Force to field new body armor carrier systems for aircrew

  • Published
  • By Brian Brackens
  • Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force aircrew operating across 20 different rotor, tilt-wing, and fixed-wing aircraft – including but not limited to CV-22s, HH-60s, C-130s, and C-17s – will receive new body armor carrier systems as part of an effort to update and replace older models.

“We are replacing approximately 7,300 current legacy body armor carrier systems and components because they are either no longer being sustained by the Defense Logistics Agency or they are impacting mission readiness due to their weight and particular design,” said 1st Lt. Diego Martinez, Program Manager for Aviation Body Armor within the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Human Systems Division. “This effort is crucial because aircrew often operate in hostile environments where they are in real danger, and having the right body armor on the operator or inside the aircraft can be lifesaving.”

The body armor carriers are unique and designed specifically for aircrew.

“Aircrew have very different mission sets compared to other Air Force career fields that may require body armor,” added Martinez. “For example, aircrew body armor carrier systems need extraction capabilities in the event they [aircrew] need to be extracted for medical reasons.”

One of the benefits of the new carrier systems is that they will weigh less than the legacy systems.

“In the past, weight wasn’t looked at as too much of a big item because people thought that body armor is just heavy inherently,” Martinez said. “But there have been lots of recent efforts by manufacturers to develop different types of materials or different designs to specifically reduce weight.”  

So far, the division has identified two potential replacement systems for aircrew, including the Aviation Body Armor Vest or ABAV and the Army Aircrew Combat Equipment also known as ACE.

Testing to evaluate operational use and safety of the two systems is scheduled to begin in Oct. 2023 and will conclude by summer of 2024. The selected system(s) will be fielded by individual units between the summer of 2024 and the summer of 2025.