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Bul­let­proof jack­ets were all over the news when In­dian Army signed a con­tract worth Rs. 639 crore with a New Delhi-based man­u­fac­turer SMPP Pvt. Ltd. The In­dian army will pro­cure 1.86 lakh (1,86,138 to be pre­cise) bul­let­proof jack­ets in next three years. These new jack­ets have been thought­fully de­signed and de­vel­oped to meet the strin­gent re­quire­ments, spec­i­fied un­der GSQR 1438 (tech­ni­cal pa­ram­e­ters) by In­dian Army. “When the specs was made, it was given a thought to the ex­tent that to­day it is one of the best-in-class jack­ets,” stated Ashish Kansal, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, SMPP Pvt. Ltd. With this pro­cure­ment, a long wait of nine years has fi­nally come to an end.

Over the years, the bul­let­proof jack­ets have im­proved with change in bullet-re­sis­tant ma­te­ri­als. Let’s look at the tran­si­tions from the start. Mov­ing even­tu­ally from met­als (steel) to Kevlar fab­ric, Kevlar changed the dy­nam­ics of bullet re­sis­tance which paved the way for fi­bres. How­ever, Kevlar was only able to stop soft am­mu­ni­tion like 9mm pis­tol bullet, but not ri­fle or AK- 47 bul­lets.

The Dupont trade­marked fab­ric was then chal­lenged by the new de­vel­op­ments such as Spec­tra and Dyneema. These fi­bres sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the weight of the jacket.

The need to fur­ther re­duce the weight of the jacket and pro­vide much bet­ter pro­tec­tion urged the man­u­fac­tur­ers to shift to ce­ram­ics in 1960s. An­other ben­e­fit that ce­ram­ics pro­vided was the de­struc­tion of the bul­lets with hard pointed tips while ab­sorb­ing the en­ergy. The light­ness and hard­ness of ce­ram­ics makes it a bet­ter choice com­pared to steel. The ce­ramic plates are in­serted in­side the vest dur­ing the mak­ing of the bullet proof jacket. Three types of ce­ram­ics are used in the man­u­fac­tur­ing of bul­let­proof jack­ets, namely, Alu­mina Ox­ide, Sil­i­con Car­bide, and Boron Car­bide. These ce­ram­ics have been used due to their fea­tures of less weight, more mo­bil­ity, and hard­ness. Alu­mina Ox­ide, highly dense ma­te­rial, could stop AK- 47 bul­lets, but had much lesser weight than steel. Then, came a much lighter ce­ramic called Sil­i­con Car­bide.

Boron Car­bide is the hard­est ma­te­rial with a very low den­sity. Boron Car­bide ce­ram­ics are pro­cessed at very high tem­per­a­ture to make them ex­tremely hard and tough. The thick­ness of a sin­gle plate de­pends on the re­quire­ments. Areal den­si­ties of Boron Car­bide com­pos­ite sys­tems, de­signed for pro­tec­tion ac­cord­ing to Ger­man SK4 (7.62 x 51 AP), start at 30 kg/m2. This is lower in weight than Sil­i­con Car­bide based sys­tems (typ­i­cally 36 kg/m2) and sig­nif­i­cantly lower than Alu­mina-based sys­tems (typ­i­cally 42 kg/m2).

Fea­tures of SMPP Bul­let­proof jacket

The old bul­let­proof jack­ets worn by In­dian sol­diers were only able to of­fer a NIJ level III pro­tec­tion, which means they could not stop AK- 47 hard steel core rounds, or even the 5.56 In­sas ri­fle bul­lets. The new jack­ets of­fer pro­tec­tion of NIJ level III+ which is be­tween NIJ level III and NIJ level IV and can stop AK- 47 hard steel core bul­lets.

The new jack­ets, make use of the most ad­vanced ma­te­rial in the world, ‘CaraSTOP Boron Car­bide Ce­ramic’, which is the light­est and hard­est ma­te­rial for bal­lis­tic pro­tec­tion. No metallics have gone into the jacket.

The plates in old jack­ets were smaller in size (cov­er­ing an

area of 1,500 sq. cm.), thus were not able to pro­vide full pro­tec­tion to sol­diers. The plates in jack­ets made by SMPP are al­most 40 per cent big­ger (cov­er­ing an area of 3,500 sq. cm.) than the older ones.

The mod­u­lar de­sign of the new jack­ets al­lows sol­diers to re­move the throat pro­tec­tion and groin pro­tec­tion pan­els when not needed. There­fore, free­ing sol­diers of un­wanted load and pro­vid­ing pro­tec­tion in ar­eas that were ear­lier not con­sid­ered.

The new jack­ets come with side plates on both sides which were miss­ing in pre­vi­ous jack­ets, thus pro­vid­ing a 360- de­gree pro­tec­tion to our sol­diers.

The front plate and back plate of the ad­vanced jacket can take 8 bul­lets each and each side plate can stop 3 bul­lets.

The weight of the jacket is around 10.4 kg, in­clu­sive of mod­u­lar pan­els.

SMPP has used a rip­stop fab­ric which en­sures that the fab­ric will not sag with the weight of the pan­els. The pres­ence of ny­lon go­ing through enough in pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive di­rec­tion pre­vents sag­ging of fab­ric with weight.

The fab­ric of the bul­let­proof vest has much higher tear strength, mak­ing it more durable.

The fab­ric has not been coated with plas­tic to make it breath­able for sol­diers.

Why did In­dian man­u­fac­tur­ers fail ear­lier?

Us­ing in­dige­nous jack­ets were al­ways the pri­or­ity, but In­dian man­u­fac­tur­ers were not suc­cess­ful in get­ting the jack­ets val­i­dated. The re­quire­ments put out by In­dian Army were far more strin­gent than any other forces in the world. They de­manded jack­ets to be light­weight that can pro­tect the head, neck, chest, groin, and sides of the sol­diers apart from of­fer­ing greater agility. This made the de­vel­op­ment of the jacket a chal­lenge. An­other chal­lenge that puts man­u­fac­tur­ers on back­foot was the pres­ence of test­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

Test­ing fa­cil­i­ties in In­dia were very limited, thus elon­gat­ing the time for man­u­fac­tur­ers to do the R& D from out­side coun­tries. More­over, the test­ing en­vi­ron­ment would also change be­tween the coun­tries.

Ashish Kansal, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, SMPP Pvt. Ltd. Us­ing in­dige­nous jack­ets were al­ways the pri­or­ity, but In­dian man­u­fac­tur­ers were not suc­cess­ful in get­ting the jack­ets val­i­dated. The re­quire­ments put out by In­dian Army were far more strin­gent than any other forces in the world.

The new jack­ets for In­dian Army meet the re­quire­ments spec­i­fied un­der GSQR 1438

Hard­ness and den­sity of var­i­ous ma­te­ri­als used in bul­let­proof jack­ets’ man­u­fac­tur­ing

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