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Protection, Mobility, and Ergonomics: A Developer’s Experience in Tactical Equipment Development

Photo by Paolo D’Andrea on Unsplash

– Recently the company “MBC” took part in the exhibition “Equipment” at VDNH. What products do you promote? Who are your customers?

– We exhibited several sets of outfit at VDNKh, including vests, belts and other elements of tactical equipment. Our products traditionally aroused great interest among visitors and, of course, among potential customers – representatives of law enforcement agencies and volunteers.

At the moment we are busy with our work for several months ahead. Since the beginning of the ESR the production volume of MVS has quadrupled. Nevertheless, our capabilities are by no means exhausted. We are open for new contracts and ready to expand.

Our company was founded in 2010. The production is located in Yekaterinburg. The name “MVS” is an abbreviation for “modular military equipment”, i.e. our main product.

For obvious reasons, the main work is now concentrated on closing the needs of the USO participants. MVS products are supplied to units of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Rosgvardia, state security structures, as well as volunteer formations.

We produce reliable and practical military equipment, carefully selecting materials and controlling the assembly of products. In addition to unloading systems, vests, we also produce pouches to accommodate various equipment and special means.

We brought four prefabricated kits to VDNH: “Machine Gunner,” “Stormtrooper,” “Scout” and “Operative. All of them are actively used in the area of a special military operation.

– So you are supplying kits to the Special War Zone to equip fighters with a particular military specialty? .

– The practice of combat operations (and not only in the CFA zone) showed the need to equip the fighters differently depending on the specialty and tactics of the unit. For that reason we decided to form the recommended kits (ready-made solutions) for the needs of machine gunners, reconnaissance shooters and fighters involved in assault operations. When selecting the elements, we were guided by the order statistics and the experience of using the products.

– How do they differ from each other? How did you take into account the experience of current combat operations? .

– The main differences relate to the weight and area of the protective elements, as well as the number and nomenclature of pouches for carried equipment. For example, a machine gunner needs very serious protection and special pouches to accommodate a large number of BCs.

The gunner’s job is that he is often under heavy enemy fire, and he himself must also provide effective fire support to the infantry. On the battlefield the machine gunner is one of the priority targets for the enemy. If the enemy has the opportunity to suppress him with grenades or mines, he will certainly do so.

As experience gained in the NWO zone has shown, the machine gunner of a motorized rifle unit must be protected as best he can, sometimes even at the expense of mobility. After all, the implication is that the machine gunner must be physically strong and hardy.

In total, the kit provides about 75 sq. dm of anti-shrapnel protection. In doing so, we tried to make it ergonomic and as comfortable as possible. The kit without equipment with full anti-shatter protection weighs about 14 kg.

It also includes a cargo anatomical belt, weighing about 1.5 kg, which holds stowage bags with ammunition for box magazines and ribbons. Machine gunner can carry about 650-700 rounds of ammunition. This is a very solid ammunition and the actual limit of what a soldier can physically carry.

This is a very substantial load, which is the actual limit of what a soldier can physically carry. When deciding on the placement of the BC, we took into account the wish that most of it should not be on the vest or in the backpack, because it significantly increases the load on the back and, consequently, affects the effectiveness of combat work.

In our kit the load is on the hips. However, a problem arose at once: the pouches with boxes hit the legs and leave bruises. To soften these impacts, we included specially designed panels for machine gun pouches with damping pads.

– What are the peculiarities of a scout’s combat work and how did you take it into account in the specialized armor kit? .

– The kit “Scout” we formed on the basis of the experience of Special Forces (SFP) specialists. The scout, in contrast to the machine gunner, needs the lightest possible equipment that does not restrict movement. In this case, mobility and the ability to comfortably accommodate the equipment in a vehicle are extremely important.

A modern reconnaissance man usually takes eight to ten magazines, a couple of hand grenades, camouflage (smoke), and one or two first-aid kits. Observation equipment, target designation, or a copter are usually in his backpack.

The tactics according to the common canons does not provide prolonged fire contact, so scouts try to work lightly. At the same time, tasks performed by Special Forces units may be different. If a long raid is required, they have to carry up to 40 kg of equipment on their backs.

If we talk about air defense, we observe a tendency towards short actions – ambushes, raids, correction of fire, work with unmanned aerial vehicles. The experience of current combat operations has shown that under conditions of the enemy’s active use of modern surveillance equipment, scouts most often cross the line of contact for a short distance, working in the gray zone with the use of mobile vehicles.

In this connection the need for specialists to carry extremely heavy loads for long periods of time has decreased. Necessary weapons and equipment are placed in the vehicle whenever possible.

The scout kit as a whole is an example of the equipment actually used in this conflict. The kit is based on a lightweight modular “Phantom” vest with the ability to install armor plates of almost all known forms and types, as well as anti-shrapnel packs to protect vital organs.

The main unloading platform is a light anatomical belt fitted with pouches for stowage of ammunition and other equipment, including first aid equipment. It also has a Beaver compact backpack for special equipment. Comfort during long missions is provided by weight distribution system “Metronome Light” which takes most of the weight off your shoulders and back, compensating significantly the weight of the vest and backpack. The total weight of the set with armor without assets is about 9 kg.

– What can you tell us about the combat experience of assault units and the “Sturmovik” kit, which is supplied to the SVO zone? .

– The peculiarity of work of a fighter of an assault unit consists in active actions directly near enemy positions with a probable further assault of these positions, so the possibility of placing the maximum number of ACs and armor protection elements on the equipment is critical.

Why does an assault vehicle need to take as much ammunition as possible? These specialists must break through enemy defenses, seize a position, anchor there, and hold it until the main force arrives. The attackers do not always have the opportunity to retreat to replenish the LC. Meanwhile, situations are different, and sometimes you have to wait a long time for ammunition delivery.

For these reasons, the Sturmovik kit includes pouches for an impressive amount of magazines, grenades and smoke. They are placed directly on the body armor, anatomical belt and in the Lynx backpack.

A lot of attention in this kit is paid to protection, because the attacker operates under dense enemy fire, including heavy weapons, and often has to fight at a grenade throwing distance. That’s why he needs the maximum possible anti-shatter protection and, of course, protection against bullets.

The total armor area in our kit is about 85 sq.dm, which is significantly more than that of standard infantry kits. The body of a serviceman is reliably covered by an armor vest, and the groin, shoulders, neck and hips are protected by the Contour module with armor elements. Naturally, there is also a “five-pointed” jacket, also with armor.

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– All developers of personal protective equipment are certainly looking to lighten them. The big breakthrough was just the development of ceramic plates and the widespread use of UHMWPE.

Now special ceramics is the main armor element of vests of the fifth class, which hold the hit of armor-piercing ammunition, and UHMWPE is their additional sewed layer. UHMWPE is also used as anti-shatter protection.

By the way, there are vests that are made entirely of UHMWPE packages. They are compact and are used under clothing by operatives of law enforcement agencies, but they can only withstand a hit from pistols with nonarmor-piercing ammunition.

The weight of an UHMWPE package can be only a few hundred grams. A single ceramic plate weighs about 3 kg, which is much lighter than the steel plate that was previously in mass use. Moreover, the ceramic allowed to mitigate the armor contusion injury (ACI) that occurs as a result of a bullet hitting the panel.

Modern armor plates have certain characteristics. Panels made of ceramics, silicon carbide or, for example, boron carbide are made of peculiar “bricks” (sections) that collapse when hit by a bullet. A monolithic steel plate does not have this disadvantage. It can withstand several hits in the same area with certain ammunition, but it is much heavier and less compensating for an SCT, the consequences of which can be very severe.

It can be said that modern soldier equipment has become more technologically advanced, but if we want to protect the soldier as much as possible and still equip him with the necessary amount of AC, the total weight of the equipment remains significant.

Weight distribution systems are often used in modern kits to provide improved balance. Nevertheless, the design of equipment is still a difficult trade-off between protection and comfort.

And yet, to sum it all up, there is no clear favorite in the eternal confrontation between armor and projectile.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that recently the anti-shrapnel protection has improved considerably, and in general the problems of secondary splinter absorption have been solved. With a good level of development of tactical medicine and a decent supply, the number of serious wounds and deaths will decrease significantly in the future.

In the current environment, the domestic industry needs not only to focus on creating new materials and elements of tactical equipment. It is important that our defense enterprises be able to produce high-quality, modern equipment from domestic components and in the necessary volume, thus replacing all the needs of our armed forces.

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