Women from Security Forces units across the US Air Force will begin receiving new body armor following completion of final gear inspections by officials with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Human Systems Division.
The 23rd Security Forces Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. will be the first to receive the new system.
Developed specifically for female airmen, the new armor is an improvement over the current vests worn by females in Security Forces. They are lighter weight, provide a better fit, allow for improved mobility, and provide better protection of the vital organs.
“We’ve received the initial sets of these systems, and we are now getting ready to send them off to their secondary sites [installations around the world],” said Maj. Saily Rodriguez, female fitment program manager. “We’ve given them a thumbs up and are working to deliver them to our female Defenders in Security Forces.”
Working with requirements from the Air Force Security Forces Center in San Antonio, Texas, the Human Systems Division originally evaluated and tested eight different body armor designs, before awarding a contract in June to TSSI of Harrisonburg, Virginia to produce the Aspetto “Mach V” system.
During the most recent inspection of the Aspetto system, the AFLCMC team checked to ensure each vest met all requirements.
“One of the main things we wanted to check was to make sure the pockets [on the vest] would properly accommodate the ballistic plates,” said Dr. Daniel Mountjoy, a lead engineer with the Human Systems Division. “If the plate is not sitting in there correctly it’s not going to sit on the Defender correctly, and it’s not going to cover the vital organs like it should.”
In addition, the team checked the emergency release system on the vests to ensure reliability in the event an Airman had to get out of the vest in a hurry.
Fielding a body armor solution quickly has been the priority for the AFLCMC team.
“One of the female Security Forces members we worked with [during the search for new body armor] talked about how when she runs, the old body armor system she had on, would rub against her hips, which is bad,” said Rodriguez. “Body armor should sit up higher, as opposed to being supported by your hips which is what tends to happen with female Airmen right now.”
Mountjoy added that another common complaint he received about the old body armor is that when seated for a period of time, it cuts off circulation to the legs because the ballistic plate rest directly on the thighs.
“What we love about the Aspetto system, is that it conforms to the [female Airmen] body and doesn’t move,” said Christine Villa, a logistician with the Human Systems Division. “It stays with them, whether they are running or shooting a firearm. They no longer have to adjust the armor, which was another issue with the old vest, having to adjust to get proper form in order to shoot their rifle. The Aspetto system conforms to their body so they are able to do their daily functions, and we are excited to deliver this new system.”
Approximately 7,000 units of the Aspetto system have been produced and will be delivered to active duty, guard and reserve units through July 2021.