The project has been three years in the making. Women now make up 14 percent of the army, according to NPR, and have been deployed in places like Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade. But the idea of female-specific armor was only proposed in 2009, when female soldiers reported that they had trouble bending over, moving in and out of tight spaces, and correctly positioning their rifles while wearing armor designed for male bodies. The extra-small size was too large for up to 85 percent of female soldiers, causing additional mobility issues:
"Females are not small males," said Beverly Kimball, project engineer for female Army aviation combat uniforms also being developed at Natick. "We have specific proportions that require designs for fit and function for uniforms as well as equipment."
The new armor is designed for shorter torsos and takes into account pesky female attributes like hips and breasts. If all goes according to plan, the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center hopes to roll out 3,000 vests for female troops next year, Natick researchers told the Times-Union. Here's to keeping our military women safe.