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Network Members’ Digital Exhibition

Body Armour Plate

(Decorum NI)

There were many developments in the production of protective wear for soldiers and police throughout the conflict. Initially soldiers and police officers had no real protective wear other than helmets. However, as the conflict progressed the need was identified and soldiers were issued so called ‘flak jackets’ which had been developed for use by American aircrew in the Vietnam war. The police then procured bespoke body armour produced by Bristol Composite Materials Engineering Ltd (BCME) which provided some protection against small arms fire and blast.

Numerous iterations of both the flak jackets and the BCME armour were produced over the years. The photograph shows the part of the final iteration which was produced for the British Army called the Improved Northern Ireland Body Armour (INIBA). This comprised a heavy wrap around vest made from Kevlar (a composite textile 5 times stronger than steel), into which composite ceramic plates were fitted in pockets over the front chest area and mid back area (i.e. covering vital organs in the body). This proved to be very effective with the ceramic plates capable of stopping a direct hit from a high velocity weapon, and the Kevlar providing protection from lower velocity weapons and blast. Several soldiers survived direct hits on the ceramic plates.

The downside of this very effective armour was that it was heavy and uncomfortable, especially in warm weather. However, the view of the soldiers who wore it was that if it saved your life it was well worth the discomfort.