The Air Force has inked a contract for thousands of sets of body armor specifically designed to fit its female security forces airmen, and may start receiving the new armor as early as this fall.
The contract, to company TSSi of Harrisonburg, Virginia, is for the Aspetto "Mach 'V'" body armor system, according to a service release. Although the total contract award is redacted in government contracting documents, individual systems can be purchased for roughly $1,600.
According to Aspetto, the body armor was designed specially for Air Force security forces and featured a reinforced drag handle; design elements to help the plate carrier retain its shape; and a quad release feature that allows an airman to take off the carrier in one second, among other details. The Air Force plans to buy up to 5,600 body armor systems, with delivery starting this fall and completing within a year, contracting documents state.
"Our female Airmen had gaps due to poor fitment issues, Maj. Saily Rodriguez, Female Fitment Program Manager, said in a statement. "The new gear fits properly which improves protection and offers better comfort for gear that has to be worn in difficult environments and conditions."
The Air Force announced last November that it was pursuing better-fitting body armor for its female security forces members, and would use a "try-and-buy" approach to select a winning design from five prototypes.
Security Forces troops defend Air Force bases and provide other law enforcement functions. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has described acquiring better-fitting equipment and uniforms for female airmen as one of his priorities.
Air Force officials hailed the relatively quick process of acquiring the armor as a case of effective collaboration between multiple teams and commands.
"This is a perfect example of Air Force Materiel Command getting feedback from the field and delivering the Air Force We Need to the warfighter," Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., AFMC commander, said in a statement. "I'm proud of the team pulling together to do what is right for our Airmen. They deserve gear that offers the protection they need while allowing them to complete their mission."
Last year the Air Force authorized two-piece flight suits as part of the effort to make gear that works better for female airmen. Service officials have also cited plans to redesign other gear used by female pilots who historically have had to make do with uniforms and equipment designed for men.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.