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Sizing of ballistic arm protection for the VIRTUS body armour and load carriage system
  1. Johno Breeze1,2,
  2. J I Davis3,
  3. R N Fryer4 and
  4. E A Lewis5
  1. 1 Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 Department of Maxillofacial Surgery, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3 UK Ministry of Defence, Defence Equipment and Support, Bristol, UK
  4. 4 Platform Systems, Dstl, Fareham, UK
  5. 5 Defence Equipment and Support, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to Johno Breeze, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham B45 9UA, UK; editor.jramc{at}


Introduction Severe haemorrhage from the arm that is unresponsive to direct pressure necessitates the application of a tourniquet. Detachable arm protection, referred to as brassards, are used by the UK Armed Forces to protect the upper arm from fragmentation threats. However, the coverage they originally provided was based on limited medical evidence. Medical consensus has determined that the dimensions of arm protection should in future be related to how far up the arm a tourniquet can be applied.

Method CT scans of 120 male Armed Forces personnel were analysed to ascertain the vertical distances from acromion process to the point at which a tourniquet can applied, equating to the anterior axillary fold. These values were statistically compared with those derived from the 2007 UK Military anthropometric survey using a paired t-test. Additional distances were added to account for tourniquet width and slippage, with the total value compared with VIRTUS brassard length.

Results No significant difference (p<0.01) was found in mean acromion to axilla length (114 mm) compared with that found in the anthropometric survey confirming sample validity. The deltoid insertion lay 24 mm below the axillary fold for the 50th percentile value from CT. Essential arm coverage for the 99th percentile male in this study was calculated as 201 mm.

Conclusions Based on this research, a single new brassard for the VIRTUS body armour and load carriage system was recommended and manufactured based on the 99th percentile. This is over 30% shorter than the existing VIRTUS brassard, reducing the overall weight burden for the soldier and improving heat dispersion, integration and interoperability. The new brassard has been issued to Armed Forces personnel since October 2018. The reduced mass of ballistic protective material in conjunction with requiring only a single size of brassard has already saved the Ministry of Defence £20 000 in procurement costs.

  • military
  • arm
  • body armour
  • armour

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  • Contributors All authors were responsible for the design and reporting of this manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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