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Human Systems delivers better protection for warfighters in rapid time

Airmen wear the same size protective gear after re-engineering for better fit and safety.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Taylor Harrison).

Airmen wear the same size protective gear after re-engineering for better fit and safety. The gear is adjustable and does not slide or ride when running thanks to more size options. (U.S. Air Force photo/Taylor Harrison).

Explanation of new Air Force TEP - includes modular scalable vest for comfort and ease of motion while staying protected. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Taylor Harrison)

Explanation of new Air Force TEP - includes modular scalable vest for comfort and ease of motion while staying protected. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Taylor Harrison)

Airmen test the fit and mobility of the TEP system. (U.S. Air Force photo/Taylor Harrison)

The Torso Extremity Protection Program (TEP) is providing Airmen across the Air Force with a modular scalable system that will provide levels of protection against fragmenting munitions, handgun, and small arms (with the use of a hard armor insert) threats. TEP initiative is a modular, scalable four tier system that allows the commander to tailor the Airman's protective level for different mission profiles. Airmen test the fit and mobility of the TEP system. (U.S. Air Force photo/Taylor Harrison)

Airmen test the fit and mobility of the TEP system. (U.S. Air Force photo/Taylor Harrison)

The Torso Extremity Protection Program (TEP) is providing Airmen across the Air Force with a modular scalable system that will provide levels of protection against fragmenting munitions, handgun, and small arms (with the use of a hard armor insert) threats. TEP initiative is a modular, scalable four tier system that allows the commander to tailor the Airman's protective level for different mission profiles. Airmen test the fit and mobility of the TEP system. (U.S. Air Force photo/Taylor Harrison)

Airmen test the fit and mobility of the TEP system. (U.S. Air Force photo/Taylor Harrison)

The Torso Extremity Protection Program (TEP) is providing Airmen across the Air Force with a modular scalable system that will provide levels of protection against fragmenting munitions, handgun, and small arms (with the use of a hard armor insert) threats. TEP initiative is a modular, scalable four tier system that allows the commander to tailor the Airman's protective level for different mission profiles. Airmen test the fit and mobility of the TEP system. (U.S. Air Force photo/Taylor Harrison)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio (AFLCMC) - The Human Systems Division of Agile Combat Support used sister branch contacts, a current Department of Defense (DoD) initiative and ingenuity to quickly deliver better protection for warfighters in less than two years.

Every deployed Airman is issued a mobility bag with protective gear including a helmet and body armor. Soon, Air Force members will have updated and more comfortable body armor, replacing the Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV). New requirements call for an update of the armor that protects the torso extremity area. The new solution is scalable and lightweight.

The Air Force will call the new program Torso Extremity Protection, or TEP.  

“We needed four tiers of scalability, all the way from concealable – which is soft armor under your uniform – to the fourth tier which is complete protection to include [the] pelvic area and deltoid and neck protection from blasts,” explains Taylor Harrison, Program Manager for Combat Ready Airman with the Human Systems Division of Agile Combat Support.

Conventional wisdom would say more body armor is better, but that isn’t always the case.

“What we have found, sometimes more is not better because you’re adding weight and limiting mobility,” explains Harrison. “This means you can’t move as fast and that is detrimental to safety. If you can get out of danger, it is better for you than to stay longer with more protection. With this effort, we needed to reduce some weight and increased mobility movements, so people could move more fluidly.”

The lighter body armor is also expected to reduce musculoskeletal injuries which Harrison says is a common complaint among Airmen.

Harrison and the rest of the team working on finding the new TEP solution realized it was important to include a wide variety of body types with the new armor system. A larger male and petite female can be outfitted in the same size “family” with the equal level of protection and comfort. Using an Army product called “Modular Scalable Vest Generation II (MSV Gen II),” the Air Force was able to adopt for its own needs. Airmen can now choose from extended sizes, including options like extra small short.

Weight of the TEP depends on tier level. There are four tiers of scalable coverage and the higher the level, the more protection an Airmen is wearing. See the image above for differences in coverage among tier levels.

Tier three is a common level most Defenders wear, typically comprised of soft armor inside the vest with hard armor front, back and side plates. Tier four would be for Airmen downrange, requiring full deltoid and groin area protection like on a convoy detail.

The scalable system means commanders can decide mission-to-mission what Airmen should wear depending on job function and threat assessments.

Human Systems received the initial requirement in October 2020. The DoD common solution initiative helped speed along the process.

“We were able to leverage a lot of the documentation the Army used which cut a lot of testing time,” Harrison explains. “Our engineering team worked to validate that the Army solution did in fact [fit the] Air Force population and requirement we had. We are very proud we could deliver that to the warfighter.”

Mobility bags will begin to receive the revamped body armor solution by end of fiscal year 2022.