Personal armor are articles of clothing that are designed to stop bullets, laser blasts, or other dangerous ammunition. There are many different kinds of armor from the weak flak vest to the full-strength combat armor.

Protection of soldiers in the battlefield, a term known as survivability, is a tantamount priority to statesmen and generals. Regardless of technological strides and innovation, the heart of any weapon system is the soldier. Unfortunately, he is also the weakest chain.

Personal armor, an evolving field stemming from the medieval ages of Earth, seeks to improve the soldier's survivability by shielding him from the damaging elements. There are varying degrees of armor protection and different types of armor.

Body armor classification Edit

The standards of personal armor were established by the Concordance of Free Worlds in the early thirty-first century, unifying a number of standards that had been enacted by various armed forces and governments. It consists of three categories divided into five levels. Ballistic rates protection against fast-flying projectiles such as bullets, energy defines the defense level against lasers, and stab rates protection against a thin forced tip (knife).

It is not uncommon for an armor system to excel at one particular category but fail certification at others. In the sections to follow, the reader will gain an understanding of the exclusivity of each category--that is, superior protection in one category will diminish performance in others.

Ballistic 9 mm - 365 m/s 9 mm - 410 m/s .357 cal - 570 m/s .223 cal - 920 m/s .308 cal - 820 m/s
Energy 175 MW - Pistol 330 MW - Auto Pistol 1370 MW - Rifle 3135 MW - Auto Rifle 5500 MW Machinegun
Stab 10J - Knife 24J - Combat Knife 36J - Bayonet 50J - Sword 65J - Pressure Knife

It is important to note that the example items provided in both energy and stab rows of the table are relative and scaled for the average human soldier. In other words, a Zangali can deliver sixty-five joules of power with a regular knife.

Hard vs. soft Edit

Hard body armor, made out of ceramic or metal plates, uses its hardness to brute force projectiles, particles, and blades to a stop. That is, the armor material pushes out on the threat with the same or nearly the same force with which the threat pushes in. Typically, hard body armor offers more protection than soft body armor, but is much more cumbersome and heavy. In general, level III body armor and above are hard.

Soft body armor offers flexible protection and is worn much like an article of clothing. It's moderately weighted and is suited for a variety of low-risk tasks where the chance of getting shot is minimal. At its heart, soft body armor is basically a net, albeit a very strong one. Threats that impact with the armor have their momentum and energy evenly distributed over a wide area. The strength of soft body armor is determined by the net's density.

Leather armor Edit

Leather armor is a weak type of body armor designed to protect the wearer from slow moving low caliber projectiles and a minimal amount of thermal energy. It usually rates level I for stab, thermal, and up to level II for ballistic protection. Leather is intended to halt stray shrapnel, but has been known to stop certain bullets. Its fabric is not intended to protect against thermal heat; some old pieces may even catch fire.

The standard leather armor uses layers of synthetic or geniune animal hide, which has high tensor limits. The closeness of the material is sufficient to resist low-energy knife thrusts. Greater force, however, will allow the tip to breach the hide and tear through.

Leather armors are the preferred personal defense choice for civilians. It is practical for most hostile situations encountered by the civilian.

Ablative armor Edit

Ablative armor is designed for the sole purpose of defeating thermal energy in the form of laser fire only. The stacked constituent layers of the armor are constructed of a mildly reflective lattice structure that partially reflects photons that do not become absorbed. The material is ablative, which means that it vaporizes at high temperatures. This allows ablative armor to be rated at level III-energy, I-ballistic, and I-stab.

Why such poor resistance to nonthermal threats? The very reason that makes ablative armor reflective is also what conversely makes it so brittle. The lattice structure is architecturally sound so long as a significant portion of its carrier, or core, remains intact. If the core is critically breached, the structure of the armor will collapse from the inside. It can endure the rigors of combat but not the intense speed of a bullet or the sharp tip of a knife.

Ablative armor is "hard" and unsuited for civilian use. Security and police forces utilize it for high-risk situations where the risk of being hit by lasing fire is high. Some armed forces may use ablative armor. However, many opt for the generally effective all-round tactical vest.

Kevlar vest Edit

The kevlar vest is the military's answer to the slugthrower. It is made of tough, dense aramid fiber interwoven between plates of nylon and ceramic fabric. The carrier is usually insulated foam designed for further protection against stab strikes. It does not melt.

Most kevlar vests certify level III in ballistic and level II in energy and energy; it is generally viewed as the all-around personal protection choice in any hostile situation. Although it is classified as "soft" armor, it affords minimal flexibility because of its keen design: the multiple layers and interlaced fabrics. To maximize scope, the kevlar vest may be worn with reinforced shoulder, knee, and groin protection made of the same material as the vest. These accessories add expense, however.

Kevlar was originally the name of the fabric given by its inventor, DuPont Industries of Earth, but has since been expanded to include any protection device that uses the effective fiber-fabric layering.

Flak light

Flak Jacket (left) and Kevlar Vest (right) in use.

Flak jacket Edit

Tactical flak jackets define the difference between security and military. It is similar to a kevlar vest in design and function but forgoes the layered fabric for blunt, tough ballistic metal plates. These plates, which may be as thick as two centimeters, are designed for thermal, blunt, and stab protection. The alloys are studded with ceramic blocks to absorb the thermal heat, maintaining both ballistic and energy security. An average human would not be able to deliver enough force with a knife to penetrate the tactical vest.

Flak certifies level III in all categories, although some may meet level IV-stab. The metallic plates are treated with chemicals to prevent them from melting, but the sheer wattage of laser weapons may defeat this countermeasure. Most militaries have opted to combine the tactical vest with load-bearing pockets and holsters for increased usability and battlefield effectiveness.

Combat armor Edit

Used exclusively by the military, combat armor is a fully-encompassing suit made of superdense polymer plates. It is designed to be a complete personal protection assembly that offers 100% coverage of the soldier. The combat armor suit is ideal for threat-rich environments where hostility is expected.

The armor is an amalgamation of ceramic interwoven with dense ballistic steel. It's internally covered by a heat dissipation system consisting of acrylic resin and foam. When combined, these two elements yield level IV protection against ballistic, stab, and energy strikes. Specialized suits can excel to level V in any of the three categories at the compromise of usability (in other words, weight and friction may override practicality).

Weight and flexibility become important factors for any wearer of combat armor. It is intensely heavy, even without accessories, clocking in at an average of fifteen kilograms. This weight is alleviated somewhat by the presence of low-friction joints and gyrostabilizers. To put it into perspective, the average human soldier cannot exceed 11 kph when running and is wholly incapable of jumping. He will find it difficult to exert impulse force (snap movements) while in the armor.

Matters are complicated when stealth is a priority. The combat armor presents an expanded silhouette to the enemy, improving the chances that the soldier may be hit by fire. Trenches used by the combat armor soldier must have both expanded width and depth.

The helmet is of particular interest. Combat armor must utilize an IHADSS (integrated helmet and display sight system) to counteract the loss of situational awareness when encased. Technological advances have allowed the electronics-dense helmet to be equipped with a compendenum of features to aid the soldier: infrared, light amplification, linked aiming dots, motion detection, ambient sound system, modular commlink, flashlight, zoom scope, et al.

Conclusions and implications Edit

Consider the certification chart that was provided at the beginning of this article. Understand that armor able to defend against level V threats are rare, heavy, and financially infeasible. How would the ground soldier be able to protect himself? The answer rests in the armored vehicle. Also known as the APC (armored personnel carrier) or IFV (infantry fighting vehicle), the armored vehicle can carry the ground soldier and protect him against high-powered enemy ground fire.

Threats stopped by personal armor may still be powerful enough to transfer residual shock to the wearer, especially for bullets. Soft armor spreads the kinetic energy of a bullet amongst a large portion of the person's body. Hard armor simply rejects the bullet, but may also disorient the wearer by a sharp jostle or vibration. The purpose of armor is to reduce the damage of bullets, lasers, and knives. They do not make the wearer invincible.

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