Canadian Special Operations Forces Command invests in equality for next generation of hard ballistic plates

November 20, 2023 - Defence Stories


The CAF’s current hard ballistic plates.

Well-designed and functional personal protective equipment is critical for supporting our people, which is why the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) is taking concrete steps to better equip its members. 

Through its Science and Technology Program, CANSOFCOM is developing and acquiring its next generation of hard ballistic plates, which will be lighter and designed for various body types that was not well accommodated in the past. According to Lieutenant-Colonel Luc Angiolini, the Research and Development Program Lead for CANSOFCOM Force Development, hard ballistic plates were historically designed based on a standardized male body type in three sizes (small, medium, and large). However, he notes that as “diversity in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is increasing, and technologies are evolving, we can optimize our operational equipment to meet the needs of our modern members and also keep up with advances in technology.”

The new plates will feature an innovative multi-curve design and will leverage recent advances in ballistic materials to provide enhanced protection and functionality. This will enable a better fit, resulting in more effective protection for vital points and organs. The new plates will also be lighter than the current models, allowing for increased comfort, mobility, and functionality when worn. The new plates will come in a range of different sizes to ensure adequate protection and load capacity for varying roles, missions, and threat levels.

CANSOFCOM is working in partnership with Defence and Research Development Canada (DRDC) to measure, analyze, and apply anthropometric data from a diverse range of body types for the design and development of these next generation hard ballistic plates. Ongoing testing of this redesigned capability, both prior to and after its acquisition, will ensure these plates meet specific ballistic limit requirements for our members. This testing will also enable them to capture and apply critical feedback from members and defence scientists, while also benefitting from DRDC’s extensive expertise in personal protection and laboratory testing infrastructure. The results of this process will also be made available to other CAF elements in support of their potential large-scale procurements in the future. The principles of Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) will also continue to be applied to this project throughout the duration of the developmental and testing phases, ensuring that the plates are designed to accommodate body diversity and maximize effectiveness.

A contract valued at $595,000 (excluding taxes) was competitively awarded to NFM Norway in September 2023 for the design and development of these new ballistic hard plates over two years. An option has been built into the contract to enable a seamless transition to pre-approved procurement immediately after the development phase is completed. Development work has begun, and we currently expect first deliveries to begin sometime in 2025. This innovative procurement approach means that members will receive the new plates as soon as possible, while avoiding a gap in delivery timelines that would occur with the requirement for a new acquisition contract.

These newly designed hard ballistic plates represent an important investment into the operational effectiveness of CANSOFCOM’s number one resource: it’s people. Ensuring that every member has functional and effective protective equipment is an operational imperative; it can’t be based on a one-size-fits all approach.

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