August 19, 2015 - 11:20 ( Brasília )

Technology

Argentina Produces First Bullet-Proof Vests for Women in the Security Forces


Versão Português

Eduardo Szklarz
 

Argentina has started manufacturing its first bullet-proof vest specifically for women who serve in the country’s security forces.

The Women’s Multi-Threat Vest 2.2, which is among a few female models in the world, is 100 percent domestically designed and manufactured by state company Directorate General for Military Manufacturing (FM) according to the Argentine Ministry of Security's specifications.

“The vest protects against multiple threats because it is bullet-proof and puncture-proof; that is, it offers protection against projectile impacts as well as bladed weapons,” said Colonel Enrique Vizzo, director of the FM Production Unit at Fray Luis Beltrán, in the province of Santa Fe, where the product is manufactured.

Before now, women in the security forces wore a men’s size small, which was rather uncomfortable. The new vest is better fitted to women's bodies, providing better protection and greater freedom of movement. The item is also lighter -- it weighs between 2.9 kilograms and 3.3 kilograms, depending on size, while the men's model weighs 3.5 kilograms on average.

“The vest was designed to protect women in the security forces more effectively and allows them an equal opportunity to develop their skills,” Col. Vizzo said. “There are some bullet-proof vests [on the market] for women, but they have a rigid structure, which make them much more uncomfortable than our model.”

Minimal injury

The vest’s high degree of resistance is due to its polyamide composition with Kevlar, a lightweight, resistant, synthetic fiber that prevents bullets from penetrating the body. In addition, its anti-trauma foam provides a dampening effect that helps prevent or minimize injury.

The mechanics are simple: upon being hit by a shot, the vest stops the bullet by deforming the fibers in the fabric and in the projectile itself; this deformation dissipates the impact energy throughout the vest and prevents the bullet from entering the body, thus minimizing injury.

The effect is similar to a soccer ball flying into a goal. When the ball strikes the net, the kinetic energy is transferred throughout the net. Usually, injury occurs when a vest prevents a projectile from penetration but fails to dissipate its localized impact, Col. Vizzo explained.

“If the trauma is severe, the impact could break a bone or damage a major organ, or even cause death – even if the bullet had not pierced the vest,” he said.

Such scenarios are uncommon though; FM vests have among the world's lowest rates of bodily injury. “This guarantees that officers who are shot can remain standing, in control of the threat or repelling the attack.”

The FM Multi-Threat Vests can withstand bullets fired from firearms such as .357 Magnums and .9mm handguns, as they provide RB2-level ballistics protection, according to Argentina's National Weapons Registry (RENAR).

Vest saves life of Argentine police official

Argentina’s Federal Police Deputy Inspector Pablo Alejandro López is alive thanks to the effectiveness of the male version of the vest.

On August 6, 2014, he was ambushed while pursuing criminals through the back streets in the town of Rodrigo Bueno, in Buenos Aires.

"A bandit shot me over half a dozen times at a distance of one meter," he told the news agency Télam . "At the time, I did not feel anything, but my colleagues told me that one of the bullets hit the front part of my vest."

The female version of the vest that saved López will be just as effective, and will provide a greater degree of safety for women who serve in the security forces, said Santiago Rodríguez, president of Military Manufacturing.

"But it is also a reflection of our company's progress in the equality of the sexes, since it was our agents' own professional performance of duties that made this need clear," Rodríguez added.

Joint effort

The project to manufacture bullet-proof vests in Argentina began in 2012, when FM designed the product following strict international guidelines. The following year, the FM branch in Fray Luis Beltrán started producing the Men’s Multi-Threat Vest 2.2, which served as the basis for the women’s model.

In May 2015, FM signed an agreement with Argentina’s Domestic Security Council (CSI) to manufacture 55,000 bullet-proof vests, which will be used by police in 11 provinces and the Argentine Federal Police (PFA), the Airport Security Police (PSA), the Naval Prefecture, and the National Gendarmerie, which patrols the border. The initiative was possible thanks to a coordinated effort among the National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI) and the Ministry of Security, Industry, and Social Development, as well as six cooperatives and small and mid-sized companies that manufacture bags for the vests.