Body armor plates worn by U.S. Special Operations Command troops are being recalled after testing revealed defects in some of the plates.
According to the Military Times, the defective equipment is manufactured by Ceradyne Defense, a company that has supplied the U.S. military for decades and shares similar technology with other armor plates in the Defense Department’s inventory.
In October, SOCOM issued guidance to all corners of the special operations community explaining the recall and outlining procedures for a test that must be performed each time the gear is worn, a move officials hope will ensure the gear that special operators wear in combat still stops the bullets it is designed to defeat.
Officials who oversee acquisition and upkeep of SOCOM’s personal protective equipment determined the SPEAR Generation III armor plates, as they’re known, “display a latent delamination defect,” according to an unclassified message sent in March to all members of SOCOM. The message was updated in October and obtained by Military Times.
When delamination occurs, the plates’ internal components separate, creating a void that compromises the ability to stop direct hits.
The document notes that specific production lots — Nos. 1 through 24 — have a “higher probability” of being defective, and all are being recalled and taken out of service.
“Lots 25 through 39 are not being replaced and will remain in the field,” the document states.
For plates from those lots, troops must perform a “tap test” before taking armor on any mission, according to the document distributed by SOCOM’s operations directorate. To perform the test, troops tap the back of the plates with a metallic cylinder and listen for a “ting” or a “thud.” A ting means the plate is intact. A thud means it’s compromised.
Any plates in lots 25 through 39 that fail the tap test must be removed from service.