Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) has issued a RFI for a new, Berry Amendment-compliant, lightweight hard armor plate.

This RFI, which is not a solicitation, is designed to measure industry’s ability to come up with a plate that can work with the Corps’ Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, and “provide sufficient protection for low-intensity threat environments,” according to a presser cited by

Lightweight Hard Armor Plate Requirements

Here are the requirements for the lightweight hard armor plate, as outlined in the RFI posted to FedBizOpps:

  • Provide two-shot ballistic protection from non-armor piercing rounds that are currently prevalent in counter-insurgency operations and other low intensity threat environments.
    • Rounds primarily fired by sniper rifles will be tested at a velocity expected at 100m-200m standoff.
    • One shot will be in the crown location at 0-degrees obliquity; the other shot will be at off-center locations at 30-degrees obliquity.
    • Meet back-face deformations less than 58 mm.
  • Conform to Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert shape and area of coverage.
  • Possess a thickness that is the same or less than current ESAPI.
  • Possess an areal density of 3.75 pounds/square foot (Objective) to 5.16 pounds/square foot (Threshold).

Lightweight Hard Armor Plate Background

So why a new lightweight hard armor plate? Well, last fall, MCSC said it wanted to find lighter, more flexible body armor. Right now, marines have the option of wearing either “15 pounds to be protected or zero pounds and very little protection,” Nick Pierce, Individual Armor team lead for Program Manager Infantry Combat Equipment (PM ICE), said in the press release.

Since last year, PM ICE has tested over 200 commercial plates from 38 different companies. The service wants to determine what type of armor might be possible.

MCSC’s Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad Team tested some plates through the Marine Corps Load Effects Assessment Program course. It was discovered that the lightweight hard armor plate would boost mobility by eight percent, the release stated.

“Without revealing too much information, I can state unequivocally that the new plates will significantly lighten the load from the Marine and increase their mobility,” Pierce said. “This increased capability can save lives and win battles by enabling Marines to engage the enemy or move to cover and concealment more quickly.”

Meanwhile, the plan is for the contract to be awarded—once market research is wrapped up—by the end of Fiscal Year 2019. Fielding will also take place ideally by Fiscal Year 2020.

In addition, vendors will be required to produce at least 40,000 lightweight hard armor plates within a year of First Article Test approval. First Article Test approval is also slated for 180 days after the contract award.

All responses are due by Sept. 7, 12:00 p.m. EST.

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