Body Armor for Boris
By Val Shilin
Three years ago I was attending the European Symposium on Small Arms and Cannons. During one of the presentations, a representative of Heckler & Koch, who was reporting on the newly developed PDW system - Personal Defense Weapon -, mentioned that PDW “successfully defeated Russian body armor.” The folks around started to look at me, the only guy from Russia. Everyone wanted to see my reaction. During the coffee break that soon followed the report, somebody came up to me and asked: “How do you feel? Don’t you think this is a challenge for you? You definitely should answer back. You shouldn’t leave this without comment.”
- You know I do not see anything special about Heckler & Koch’s statement. Let us be realists: you shoot at our vests, we, in our turn, shoot at yours... To me it sounds pretty normal. The fun is, this game does not seem to have an end: if there is a gun and a cartridge, sooner or later there appears an effective flack vest that the gun cannot defeat.
In July 2002 I was participating in the Russian Expo Arms-2002 in Nizhniy Taghil, a town in Central Urals, better known among specialists as a Tank City: T-72s and T-90s are made here.
Within the program of the exhibition, my team and I had to demonstrate fire capabilities of some of the IZHMASH’s products. At one point during the exhibition an individual asked me if I could spare a moment and have a look at a bulletproof vest and a helmet. He also mentioned that his company is going to demonstrate the vest on the line of fire. Furthermore, he said he would ask me to do him a favor - to shoot at the vest with the SVDS sniper rifle. What immediately got my attention was the range. He said he wanted me to shoot at the vest from 5 meters.
Sensing a question in my eyes, the guy, Valeriy Chistjakov, said: “This is a class 5 vest. I guarantee there will be no ricochet.” “OK, I said, let us talk to Nikolay, my partner and a sniper. He will be firing the Dragunov.” I left Valeriy and Nikolay together and got back to my own duties. “Just one thing before I go... Nikolay, you be careful. We may need you tomorrow too.”
They caught my sarcasm and Valeriy answered: “Don’t you worry! We’ve got a Certificate of compliance for both the helmet and the vest.” I was prepared to turn my back to them when Chistjakov suggested: “By the way, after the demo firings are over today, why shouldn’t we come and see our facility? I’ll drive you there in my car. We also have excellent beer in Nizhniy Taghil.
The Zashchita (“defense” or “protection” in Russian) is a privately owned company that both develops and manufactures body armor for the Russian Special Forces. Valeriy explained that he and some of the company’s employees until recently served in SPETsNAZ and have a good understanding of what effective vests and helmets should be. Their close partnership with UVZ - Uralskiy VAGONZAVOD - manufacturer of tanks, offers them a privileged access to the best brands of armored steel and technology for their products.
Later that day I was taken on a tour of the city and the Zashchita manufacturing premises. Director Nikolay Goncharov showed me their workshops, powerhouse and an administrative sector. “In fact,” Goncharov boasts, “manufacture of armored plates, heat treatment to be specific, is our special area of expertise. That is why our vests and helmets are stronger and lighter of weight than the products made by most of our competitors. Less expensive too. Technically speaking, a bulletproof vest protects a soldier from small arms fire, FMJ projectiles in particular, such as all pistols, assault rifles and machine guns including 7.62x25mm TT, 9x18mm Makarov, 9x19mm Parabellum, 5.45x39mm, 5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62x39mm, 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 WIN), and 7.62x54R. In reality, if any of the above bullets hits the vest a soldier suffers a second (medium) degree of severity of trauma: bruise injuries and insignificant local intramuscular hemorrhages. With such injuries, a soldier suffers immediate loss of combat fitness for 3-5 minutes. In less than 15 minutes he or she can return to the front. Complete recovery from such traumas comes in about two weeks. Statistically, 85 % of men resume their combat service. The other portion of 15 % does not, due to psychological reasons rather than the loss of physical fitness.”
“The procedure of certification of vests,” Goncharov goes on, “envisages firing tests from the AKM, AK74, AK101, SVD, PK/PKM, in addition, of course, to handguns.” “What about cartridges?” I asked.
“Class-V defeats small arms FMJ bullets. It is Class-VI-a that can stand against dedicated AP projectiles, which is quite a different story. However, our class-V vest defeats the AKM in caliber 7.62x39mm, firing bullets with hardened steel core.”
To demonstrate this, Goncharov offered me an abstract from the Certificate of pathological and anatomical examination, which ran as follows:
Type of weapons used:
- AKM, caliber 7.62x39mm.
- SVD, caliber 7.62x54R.
- PSM, caliber 5.45x18mm.
- TT, caliber 7.62x25mm.
Type of cartridges:
- PS 7.62x39mm, designated 57-N-231, FMJ with heat-treated steel core.
- LPS 7x62x54R, designated 57-N-323S, FMJ with untreated (soft) steel core.
- Pst 5.45x18 mm, designated 7N7, FMJ with steel core.
- Pst 7.62x25 mm, designated 57-N-134S, FMJ with steel core.
Extensive scientific testing of these rounds has revealed no significant damage to the test simulants.
The findings of the performed tests on the Malakhit-05 bulletproof vest are as follows:
1. The design of the vest, protection class V, meets the requirements of the Russian Standard GOST R 50744-95.
2. Ballistic deformations of the surfaces simulating body soft tissues and the results of pathological and anatomical survey can be classified as light injuries of the body.
3. The Malakhit-05 bulletproof vest can be deployed as a means of personal combat protection.”
A month after my tour of Nizhniy Taghil, I got a call from the Krechet (Hawk) SPETsNAZ team: “We’ve got some funds from the HQ and now are planning on buying a few sets of new body armor. What can you say about the Zashchita vests?” I recommended that we invite the personnel from Nizhniy Taghil and perform joint live tests here in Izhevsk: “Let them bring their armor here so that we can shoot, test and assess. You guys can see for yourselves that their stuff is the right one.”
Without the slightest hesitation Zashchita accepted the idea and sent their representatives with demonstration materials to Izhevsk. During the tests, we thoroughly inspected several models of helmets and vests and fired the SVD sniper rifle, the PKM machine gun, the AK-103 and AK74M assault rifles, the BIZON-2 submachine gun and the PM pistol from the ranges between 5 to 10 meters.
Both their helmets and vests performed in precisely the manner expected.
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