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Determining the optimum anatomical coverage of side plates for the VIRTUS body armour and load carriage system
  1. Johno Breeze1,2,
  2. R N Fryer3 and
  3. E Lewis4
  1. 1 Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 Department of Maxillofacial Surgery, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3 Platform Systems, Dstl, Fareham, UK
  4. 4 Defence Equipment and Support, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to Johno Breeze, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham B15 2SQ, UK; editor.jramc{at}


Introduction Side plates are worn by UK Armed Forces as part of the VIRTUS body armour and load carriage systems to protect the thorax and abdomen from high-velocity threats. The VIRTUS project has provided the impetus to objectively demonstrate the anatomical coverage provided by side plates.

Method CT scans of 120 male UK Armed Forces personnel were analysed to ascertain the vertical distance between the anterior axillary fold and iliac crest, and horizontal distance between anterior and posterior borders of the liver, delineating the boundaries of essential medical coverage from the side aspects. The percentage of shot-lines intersected by the existing Enhanced Combat Body Armour (ECBA) plates as well as an optimised plate based on the maximum potential dimensions of essential coverage was determined in the Coverage of Armour Tool.

Results ECBA plates were 101 mm shorter and 4 mm narrower than a plate with dimensions providing essential medical coverage for the 50th percentile subject (157×315 mm). Coverage increased by 35% when using two ECBA plates as side coverage in addition to using the front and rear OSPREY plates in the VIRTUS vest. Two side plates with dimensions providing essential medical coverage for the 50th percentile increased anatomical coverage by a further 16%.

Conclusions This analysis has provided strong evidence that ECBA plates are already optimised for side protection, despite not being originally designed for this purpose. They are correctly positioned within the VIRTUS soft body armour vest and the width of the ECBA plate is only 3% less than what would be optimum size for the 50th percentile. Although the height of the plate could be increased to further enhance the anatomical coverage, it is unlikely that this would be acceptable in terms of the human factors, equipment integration or additional mass.

  • side
  • plate
  • protection
  • ballistic
  • armor
  • anatomy
  • coverage
  • military
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  • Contributors JB, EL and RNF are all responsible for the production and reporting of this paper.

  • 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.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data availability statement No data are available.

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