With unrivalled operational experience, the British Army has developed an armoury of powerful and versatile weaponry, from grenades to heavy machine guns, supported by state-of-the-art body armour and personal load carrying equipment.
Personal role radio
The Personal Role Radio (PRR) is a small transmitter-receiver that allows infantry soldiers to communicate over short distances.
Effective even through thick cover or the walls of buildings, PRR enables section commanders to react quickly and efficiently to rapidly changing situations, including contact with the enemy, greatly increasing the effectiveness of infantry fire teams.
PRR is issued to every member of an eight-strong infantry section.
The system is easy to use, is unobtrusive and comfortable to wear yet is rugged enough to sustain the harshest environments.
The use of PRR has significantly enhanced combat effectiveness by providing all informed communications to front line soldiers, used alongside traditional methods based on shouting and hand signals.
20 hours continuous use
The multi-terrain pattern (MTP) combat clothing is designed to blend with the range of environments such as woodland, jungle, compounds, crops, grassland and arid stone. This change to the British camouflage pattern was the first in 40 years.
The latest camouflage design was developed after extensive laboratory tests and field evaluations, which included aerial and scientific photography to provide the right colours and brightness for the new pattern.
Computer modelling was used to represent the deserts and mixed environments in Afghanistan. This multi-terrain pattern (MTP) has been phased in throughout all British Army corps and regiments based around the world and it replaces the previous Combat 95 uniform.
Soldiers deploying on operations are given ‘The Black Bag’ of kit which contains such items as anti-microbial underpants, designed to be worn for days at a time, flame resistant clothing, for working inside vehicles, sleeping systems, load carrying equipment and the Osprey body armour.
Deploying troops benefit from other upgrades as part of the new Personal Clothing System - a tougher, more comfortable and efficient combat uniform that can be easily adapted to suit the many different environments troops face on the front line.
As well as the pelvic protection, other new layers include a T-shirt, thermal shirt and windproof thermal smock, which take advantage of developments in material technology to provide both thermal insulation and sweat wicking.
On the MTP outer layers, buttons have been replaced with Velcro for greater comfort under body armour. Additional panels reduce wear and tear and pockets are positioned for efficient use even when troops are wearing body armour.
Personal Load Carrying Equipment (PLCE) is the current tactical webbing system of the British Army. The webbing consists of a belt, yoke (shoulder harness) and a number of pouches. Associated with PLCE webbing is a series of other similar load carrying equipment and rucksacks. The purpose of PLCE is to hold everything a soldier needs to operate for 48 hours.
This includes ammunition/weapon ancillaries, entrenching tool, bayonet, food and water (and a means to cook), protective and communications equipment. Soldiers will also often carry other items such as waterproof clothing and spare socks.
Troops in Afghanistan are issued with innovative bacteria-zapping socks - which are completely waterproof. The knee length socks help to keep troops' feet dry when they are wading through ditches and streams. To keep feet hygienic, they have antimicrobial properties similar to those found in medical dressings. They are also superior to conventional socks, keeping feet warmer during the winter months.
Combat body armour
Osprey assault body armour provides excellent ballistic protection, while improving the comfort of personnel in a combat role.
The Osprey Assault body armour has all the stopping power of the original Osprey but is closer fitting. It includes improved rubber mouldings on the shoulders, designed to prevent heavy rucksacks and weapons from slipping.
There are elastic draw-cords on the detachable ammunition pouches, giving troops a more accessible alternative to velcro and the protective breast plate is now carried in a pocket inside the armoured vest, making it less bulky and obstructive to movement.
Infantry troops are set to benefit from a new body armour system which will increase agility and make it easier to carry heavy kit.
The new Virtus system uses the latest materials and offers the same protection as Osprey body armour but is significantly lighter, moves with the body more easily and produces a slimmer profile. The amount of protection employed can be scaled up or down to match the type of threat by adding or removing soft armour pads and hard ballistic plates.
One of the most radical innovations is an integral 'spine' - the 'dynamic weight distribution' system. The device is linked to the user’s waist belt and helps spread the load of the body armour, a Bergen or daysack across the back, shoulders and hips.
The system also employs a new quick-release mechanism – a pin positioned on the chest that when pulled releases the entire body kit.
The Scalable Tactical Vest (STV) can be used for:
- load carriage without any armour
- as a fragmentation vest with soft armour padding consisting of a composite granular material but no hard plates
- as a plate carrier with no soft armour
- as a full body armour system with soft and hard armour
It is compatible with both Osprey and Enhanced Combat Body Armour. Any combination of front, rear or side plates can be employed.
The STV comes in seven different sizes for a tailored fit. Chest size and torso length instead of height are now used for measuring. Modified lower profile soft armour further reduces the bulk when compared with Osprey, allowing for more agility.
The quick-release pin allows the STV to be removed in a couple of seconds with one pull. This applies when it is used in any of its configurations.
A lightweight webbing system is designed to be worn under and integrated with the body armour.
Both the daysack and Bergen are fully integrated with the rest of the torso sub-system. This ensures that they are carried close to the body preventing excessive movement of the load but without pushing the rear ballistic plate into the body. Both can be used in conjunction with the dynamic weight distribution system.
Pouches are made from one piece of fabric and fold flat when empty, minimising profile and the possibility of snagging.
The dynamic weight distribution system contains a hard spine that takes the load and is linked to a hip belt. This allows the soldier to transfer the weight of his load from the shoulders to the hips or the other way via an adjuster positioned in the small of the back.
Troops and equipment need to be sized correctly for the DWD to be effective. It is estimated that personnel will need a day’s worth of training and familiarisation with the kit.
The Virtus helmet has a fixed shroud for the mounting of night vision goggles and a counterweight for neck comfort.
Its fit can be easily adjusted in the same way as modern cycling and climbing helmets.
The sculpted rear (see above) prevents interference with body armour or daysack when adopting a prone fire position.
It provides more protection to the side of the head and is 350g lighter than the Mk7 it succeeds.
The helmet can be fitted with both mandible guard and visor, or either, which provide face protection for crews in open vehicles such as Jackal or WMIK.