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Flexing in the line of fire: Lightweight, flexible body armor for the future force | U.S. Air Force

Flexing in the line of fire: Lightweight, flexible body armor for the future force | U.S. Air Force

In the line of fire, protective body armor plays a critical role in survival. Hard-plated, rigid and heavy, today’s National Institute of Justice Type IV body armor — the kind that protects warfighters against armor piercing bullets — defends the wearer, but adds weight and bulk that a fast-moving operator could do without.

Engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory are working to change this.

“Battlefield airmen, special operations forces, pararescue troops … all of these individuals are trying to move fast and fit in tight areas, but they have this rigid, bulky armor to wear,” said 1st Lt. Jason Goins, a materials research engineer in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at AFRL. “You can move faster and work more efficiently if you have something that moves and flexes with you.”

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