Indian Air Force Seeks Lighter Bulletproof Jackets for Helicopter Crew, Approaches Industry

Indian Air Force

New Delhi: Indian Air Force helicopter crew deployed in counter-terrorist environment and internal security duties will get new bulletproof jackets that are lighter and more comfortable to wear while flying than the existing variants.

The IAF has approached the industry to design bulletproof jackets that, while being lighter, provide adequate protection to the aircrew from small arms fire during flying as well as combat survival on ground. The present jackets, which weigh 6.5 kg, are stated to be fluffy, bulky and difficult for the aircrew to wear while flying. In addition, they have to wear a separate tactical vest over the jacket to carry ammunition and survival gear.

The IAF’s requirement is for a jacket whose weight does not exceed 4 kg during flying and 8 kg during combat survival and offers Level 3+ ballistic protection using a combination of hard armour panels (HAP) and soft armour panels (SAP). Level 3+ category offers protection against different types of bullets fired from 7.62 mm rifles, including AK-47, at ranges as close as 25 metres. Each member deployed in such operations would be authorised a bulletproof jacket.

While deployed in anti-terrorist operations and internal security duties such as anti-Naxal operations, helicopters as well as the aircrew, including pilots and on board specialists such as flight gunners, load masters, medics, are exposed to risk from ground fire. The IAF regularly operates in such environments.

The jacket would have two components – an inner jacket offering front and side protection that would be worn while flying and an outer shell, with storage pockets and all-round torso protection, to be worn over the inner during combat survival in case the helicopter is brought on ground.

In addition to be suitable for Indian climatic conditions, the design of the jacket would be such that it does not hinder the mobility of aircrew while flying and provide adequate manoeuvrability during combat survival, as well as have flame retardant properties.