Throughout the Korean and Vietnam conflicts experiments were made using woven steel, fiberglass, synthetic cloth fibers, and ceramics. The watershed occurred in the 1970s when the DuPont Corporation introduced Kevlar, a light, flexible material five times stronger than steel. Kevlar vests and helmets have also proved comfortable enough to wear routinely. Comfort and ease of movement are not perks; protection is only as good as compliance. Every physician interviewed for this article agrees that the new vests have saved thousands of lives.
Explore This IssueMay 2007
Material scientists in Israel and the United States are currently creating artificial spider silk, an even stronger and lighter material than Kevlar. Armor containing this component is set to be field-tested in 2007.
Experts are less enthusiastic about the helmets. Although compressed Kevlar helmets are light and comfortable, their design doesn’t protect enough of the face and neck, says Dr. G. Richard Holt. Dr. Holt, who has testified before Congress on this matter, proposes helmets designed like those worn by professional football players, which protect most of the face and neck, as well as the head.
Until such innovations are realized, there is a collar attachment to the Kevlar vest that protects part of the neck. If only Franz Ferdinand had had one.
©2007 The Triological Society