In a three day visit to Afghanistan last week, the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, told Australian soldiers that Army will start issuing a new light-weight combat body armour system that is lighter than the current system for trial by the end of 2010.
LTGEN Gillespie discussed and demonstrated the new Tiered Body Armour System (TBAS) with troops at Multinational Base Tarin Kowt including the 1st Mentoring Task Force and Special Operations Task Group, as well as soldiers at three patrol bases in the Chora and Mirabad Valley regions.
He said that the new body armour system is likely to be issued to key elements of the next rotation of Australian troops deployed to Afghanistan during 2011.
“We are looking at issuing the first batch of TBAS for trial to soldiers at the end of the year,” LTGEN Gillespie said.
The TBAS package currently includes up to three load carriers designed for multiple combat roles. TBAS also uses a new ballistic plate system that weighs less than the current Modular Combat Body Armour System (MCBAS) issued to most troops in Afghanistan.
“We are continually reassessing issued combat equipment to reduce load and enhance functionality and we will incorporate recommendations from soldiers into the new tiered system once the trial is complete,” LTGEN Gillespie said.
LTGEN Gillespie demonstrated the proposed TBAS package that will incorporate a new ammunition pouch system designed to enhance pouch access and versatility.
Infantry Section Commander from the 1st Mentoring Task Force, Corporal Mathew McKeever, said that the new system appears to be more in-line with demands placed on combat armour in a complex and mostly dismounted patrolling environment such as Afghanistan.
“I patrol on foot in the Mirabad Valley everyday with my soldiers and we’ve been in a multiple contacts with insurgents,” CPL McKeever said.
“When you’re in a contact you don’t think about what you are wearing – you’re focused on your job
“The issued kit we have now is fine – it does the job and provides exceptional protection – but it’s also good to know that a lighter and more multipurpose system will be issued soon.”
1st Mentoring Task Force soldiers conduct dismounted patrols in mountainous and rocky terrain, in deserts, and through the wet and heavily grassed green zones everyday. Sometimes these foot patrols are up to 20 kilometres.
The Force Protection Review includes a provision to enhance the combat body armour for troops in Afghanistan.
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