Norwood said the Army always is looking for new technological opportunities, and is soliciting small businesses for new ideas. "One of the vendors recently started looking at a way to embed ceramic balls into the small-arms protective insert in order to decrease weight and improve ballistic protection," he said.
"Our goal is always to make body armor lighter and more available to the soldiers," Norwood added. "We try to maximize the two biggest constraints -- the weight vs. the ballistic protection. It's a constant trade-off. You can get more ballistic protection, but it usually costs you a larger penalty."
He said the helmet works in conjunction with the body armor. It's fitted so it provides an equal amount of protection. The way it's worn is tailored to the mission the wearer has to perform.
"Individual soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines or Coast Guardsmen all need to be looked at as part of the overall system that they're using to perform their mission," Norwood said. "So all service members are part of a larger system. That concept can't help but benefit other services."
Norwood said military body armor is similar to that used by police Special Weapons and Tactics teams. "But we have specifications for the inserts that have to meet specific size, weight and ballistic protection criteria," he noted. "I don't know what police requirements are, but our requirements are very stringent."
Everyone doesn't get the same body armor, Norwood said. For example, Army Special Forces body armor has slight variations from what's fielded generally throughout the Army. Specifications for body armor for Marines and for Navy and Air Force special operations personnel will differ, depending on specific requirements for their mission, he said.