Introduction OSPREY personal armour has been issued to UK forces since 2005. From 2015, the VIRTUS personal armour and load carriage system have been progressively replacing OSPREY. In 2016, the ban on women in ground close combat roles throughout the UK’s Armed Forces was lifted. In anticipation of this, work has been ongoing to prepare future ballistic protection programmes for a potential increase in the number of female users.
Method A human factors questionnaire was provided to 150 female users of OSPREY body armour to complete while on combat operations in Afghanistan. The questionnaire asked the users to rate the comfort of their OSPREY body armour along with their ability to carry out basic tasks. Other background data such as size of body armour worn and bra size were also collected for the analysis.
Results The female participants reported various types of discomfort when wearing their OSPREY body armour, with 135 instances of discomfort experienced in the hip region, for example. Challenges were reported in the ability to carry out basic movements, with the tasks rated on a Likert scale as difficult or very difficult by between 29% and 59% of participants. In addition, a restriction in ability to access personal equipment worn on the person (including pouches, trouser pockets) was commented on by 39% of participants.
Conclusions Female users reported challenges relating to the fit and function of OSPREY body armour. The VIRTUS body armour system for UK Armed Forces Personnel has already addressed many of the reported issues with OSPREY. Further optimisation for VIRTUS with regard to female users is planned and includes sizing of ballistic hard plates.
- ballistic protection
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Contributors EL conceived the idea and supervised the work. JE planned and implemented the survey. JD collated the results, performed the analysis and wrote the manuscript with guidance from EL. All authors discussed the results and commented on the 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.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Ethics approval No ethical approval was required. The survey was voluntary and anonymous, distributed to units with female service personnel by the Scientific Advisor (SCIAD) in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan at the time.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request.
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