What body armor do US Army soldiers use?

These days, most modern militaries in the world, including the US, equip their soldiers with body armor. Ballistic vests and body armor plates protect soldiers in combat situations and save lives every day.

The US was among the first countries to make ballistic body armor a standard issued piece of kit for all of their troops. They first openly introduced body armor in the early 80s, with the PASGT (Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops). Since then, body armor has evolved quite significantly, and today we are going to talk about the standard body armor system that the US military

History: Interceptor Body Armor vs. Outer Tactical Vest (OTV)

Let’s start with a brief history of Ballistic body armor in the US military. The Interception Body Armor (IBA) System was the first fully ballistic armor worn by US troops. This system consisted of an OTV (Outer Tactical Vest) which was the core of the system, and carried a pair of Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) ballistic plates and had multiple Kevlar Armor inserts as well.

The full system components of the IBA also included pieces for neck throat protection, groin protection, and deltoid protection. So, the OTV was just the main part of the whole Interceptor body armor system.

The IBA system was introduced to military service in 2000 and was replaced in 2007. It saw use in the military with some units until about 2010. In fact, some National Guard units used the OTV up till 2015, and it continued production till 2020 for some foreign customers. However, the OTV was completely replaced by the IOTV (Improved Outer Tactical Vest) in the US military by 2010.

Improved outer tactical vest (IOTV)

The IOTV armor system was introduced in 2007, and it had multiple improvements over the previously fielded Interceptor Body Armor system. The Improved Outer Tactical Vest was designed to carry the ESAPI (Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert) ballistic plates, which offered higher ballistic protection.

It incorporates the Enhanced Side Ballistic Inserts, and with complete system components like the DAPS (Deltoid and Axillary Protector System) it also offers neck throat protection and deltoid protection. The Improved Outer Tactical Vest is also compatible with the groin protection extension used with the original OTV. Another key feature of the IOTV body armor system is the Army Combat shirt, which is a flame-resistant shirt designed to be worn under the Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

The IOTV ballistic body armor system is still in service with the US military and is developed by several manufacturers in the US. Although it is the standard body armor used by the US military, for now, the Modular Scalable Vest system is in development to replace it in the coming years.

Changes between IOTV Gen 3 and Gen 4 ballistic body armor system:

After being introduced in 2007, the IOTV armor system kept on improving over the years and went through multiple generations. The military took the feedback of active military personnel and made some much-needed changes to the system to make it more efficient and effective.

The Gen 3 IOTV system incorporated a new quick-release system to allow soldiers to take the vest off more easily. This can be very helpful when medics are trying to treat injured soldiers in the field. The Gen 3 also incorporated a new Camouflage Pattern for different operations. The Gen 4 has also aimed to incorporate modularity into the IOTV system, to make future upgrades a lot easier.

Armor Plates compatible with IOTV

The Improved Outer Tactical Vest is designed to work with a wide range of armor plates and panels. Though the US military uses ESAPI (Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert) plates for combat operations, if you own an IOTV, you can also use it with lighter protective inserts or SAPI plates.

For everyday use, you can add level IIIA soft armor inserts into the IOTV. these monsters are designed to stop pistol calibers, and with the optimal design characteristics of the IOTV, they make for a very comfortable armor system. You can also use any hard armor plates with the IOTV, whether they are level III or level IV plates. The Improved Outer Tactical Vest is designed to work with Sapi Profile plates, but it accepts other cuts as well.

If you are looking for an alternative to the IOTV, that offers the same level of protective coverage and maximum freedom, then you should check out the Modular Special Operation Vest made by AceLink Armor.

The MSOV is a complete armor system, which includes a main tactical vest, neck, and throat protection collar, shoulder protection panels, and a ballistic groin protector as well. The vest and all other armor carrier components are made from super durable 500D Nylon and have very strong stitching.

The MSOV also features MOLLE webbing on the front for additional load-bearing equipment, and its optimal design characteristics ensure more protective coverage, the best possible weight distribution, and maximum freedom. The MSOV is fully adjustable and uses Industrial grade hook-and-loop fasteners to make sure that the vest does not get loose when you are moving around on the field.


Price $892.00
Comp-28 Vest Standard
Price $443.40

M.S.O.V. Full Coverage Protection:

The M.S.O.V from Ceiling armor isn’t only a standard ballistic vest, but it is a complete full coverage protection system. With its full system components, the M.S.O.V included 8 protective panels, consisting of a neck protection collar, two shoulder panels, one front panel, one back protection panel, and two side ballistic panels, along with a groin protection panel.

Moreover, the most impressive part is that this entire armor system can weigh as little as 13 lbs with lightweight soft armor inserts. All of these ballistic components still permit maximum freedom and movement and allow you to assume correct firing positions without any hindrance.

M.S.O.V. compatibility with hard armor plates

The Modular Special Operation Vest from AceLink Armor is designed to work with both soft armor inserts and hard armor plates. You can use up to 4 hard armor plates in this vest, with one insert in the front, one in the back, and one on each side. The M.S.O.V can easily carry both level III and level IV hard armor plates.

You can add 10×12” hard armor plates in the front and back armor pockets, and 6×6” or 8×8” side armor panels in the cumberbund pockets. All the remaining armor panels of the M.S.O.V system like the neck protector, shoulder protectors, and groin protector have soft armor inserts like the IOTV.


Level 4 SA Multi-curve Armor Plate
Price $360.00
Level 4 Ceramic Hard Armor Plate
Price $279.00

Final Thoughts:

When looking for tactical gear, using the same equipment that the strongest military power in the world uses can be a great source of confidence. So, we hope this post helped you learn everything you want to know about the body armor system the US military uses. We have also mentioned one of the best Civilian Alternatives to the military’s body armor system to help you get the best possible gear.