Last week we looked at the Mk IV Osprey cover from 2010. Tonight we go back a few years and look at its predecessor, the Mk II which was developed at the end of 2006 and issued to troops on operations in early 2007. The original Osprey body armour had been the subject of close interest from the government’s Defence Clothing Integrated Project Team and they had identified a number of flaws with the design including PALS strips pulling undone, poppers which opened too easily and a general feeling that the first pattern had been poorly made. The Mk II updated not only the vest, but also the shoulder brassards and collars (which we will look at another week). Originally these covers would have contained a ballistic filler and hard plates, however these are virtually impossible to get hold of on the civilian market at the moment.
The vest is split into two parts, a front and a back:These are fastened at the shoulder with an arrangement of Velcro and press studs:To improve the reliability of the vest in service all press studs were now made one-directional rather than multidirectional as in the earlier design. This meant that the only came undone if pressure was exerted in the right direction and this massively increased their reliability in the field. Note also the folded down fasteners to attach the collar to the armour.
One immediate difference readers will note when compared to the later design, is that the armour for the vest sits proud in a separate pocket, rather than being integral to the vest like the Mk IV:The large pocket unzips and allows a large hardened SAPI plate to be fitted covering the whole of the thorax. A smaller pocket is also included so the plate from the old ECBA can be fitted over the heart if a lighter, but less well protected, set up is preferred:The same arrangement is fitted to the rear:Note also the black male Fastex buckles top and bottom for the attachment of a Camelbak water bladder and two fastenings are fitted along the bottom edge to allow a respirator haversack to be attached. Both sides of the vest are fitted with PALS loops to allow pouches to be attached as required:A handle is fitted to the top of the rear to allow an injured soldier to be dragged clear by his comrades if needed:One of the changes made to the Mk II vest was to fit a waist cummerbund belt to improve the fit and comfort of the vest. These straps pass around the body of the wearer and secure with Velcro at the front:Another change made was the addition of a short strap to the shoulder:This is designed to be passed through the rear sling loop of an SA80 and supports the weapon from the shoulder in lieu of a standard sling.
A single rank strap is fitted to the front to allow a rank slide to be fitted if required:Both sides of the vest have a label giving sizing and care instructions:There were a total of eight different sizes of Osprey Armour produced: 170/100, 170/112, 180/104, 180/116, 190/108, 190/120, 200/116 and 200/124.
Osprey armour was very effective, but it was bulky and heavy, which coupled with high temperatures and heavy loads in theatre led to rapid fatigue amongst troops wearing it- the Afghan National Army working alongside British troops dubbed them ‘tortoises’ for their appearance and speed!For those whose life has been saved by the armour though, the weight is a small price to pay. Lance Sergeant Collins was shot at in 2008:
When I was shot I thought the worst, especially because it from only about 200 metres away and I think it was a 7.62mm round – that’s a high calibre bullet to be hit by. I was examined on the spot expecting to be told bad news but there was nothing there. The body armour had stopped the bullet and saved my life.
He came away with just some bruising- only a few years before this would have been fatal.
We will continue our study of osprey Body Armour next week when we start looking at some of the accessories used with the various marks of armour.