Tonight we are starting what I hope will turn into another of our semi-regular mini-series on the blog, much like the Canadian webbing series of last year. The Osprey series of body armour and accessories has been in service with the British Army since 2006 and has gone through four distinct marks. Osprey armour was a major advance on previous designs as it was scalable meaning it could be adapted for differing threat levels and had much larger hard plates than the old ECBA. This of course came with a trade off in that the armour was quite bulky and over the various marks changes were made to try and improve both ergonomics and protection. Sadly the plates on Osprey are virtually impossible to get hold of on the collectors market so it will just be the covers we will be looking at, along with the many, many accessories offered with each vest. Going forward I may try and mock up some plates with foam yoga mats to help bulk out the vests appropriately, and if I do I will try and post a suitable tutorial on the blog.
Tonight though we start, rather inappropriately, with the last of the Osprey series, the Mk 4 body armour cover:This vest was introduced in 2010 and was the first to be made in MTP camouflage rather than the DDPM of the earlier models. The design is worn like a tabard over the head and two large panels wrap around and attach to the front with Velcro:The front and back parts of the vest split apart at the shoulders:The official pamphlet explains how to join the two segments together:The right hand shoulder of the armour has a non-slip fabric attached to support the butt plate of the SA80 rifle when firing, with a raised ridge to help prevent it from slipping off the edge:Note also the original user’s Zap number and blood group, written on in marker pen. The soldier also wrote his name on the inside, telling us he was called ‘Mukasa’:The opposite shoulder has a pair of PALS loops for attaching small items, and a plastic loops ring:PALS loops for the MOLLE system are all over the vest and consist of tapes of fabric, sewn at regular intervals to create a network of loops:This is particularly apparent on the rear of the vest:The top of the rear of the vest has a pair of heavy duty carrying handles so a casualty can be dragged to safety. Here the original owner has wrapped them in tape and written his Zap number and blood group again:As was mentioned at the start, this armour is designed to be adaptable and shoulder brassards can be attached, using the Velcro and press studs around the shoulder:A range of collars can also be fitted, with fasteners around the neck. These tuck underneath when not needed:The differing ranges of protection can be seen in this illustration from the official manual, we will look at the other components in the coming months:A belt can be fitted to the bottom edge of the armour, and loops are provided to run this through:The internal armour for this cover is again adjustable and pockets allow a range of soft and hard armour to be fitted, in internal Velcroed pockets before a large zip secures everything:As with most military equipment, large labels are sewn to each half of the vest with sizing and care instructions:I have only worn this armour once myself when I borrowed a set for a weekend exercise with the navy aboard Argus, here is yours truly looking remarkably warlike whilst practicing with a baton:I found the armour very impressive, but bulky compared to the older ECBA and it is interesting to note that when deploying in low risk situations such as on the streets of London last year, troops are still using the ECBA in preference to the Osprey or newer Virtus systems which seem to be reserved for combat roles.
We will return to the Osprey series over the coming weeks.