January 23, 2015: Strategy Page
During the 50 Day War with Hamas in July-August 2014 Israel tested some new infantry equipment. This consisted of a new bullet-proof protective vest that is 15 percent lighter than existing ones. Israeli infantry do not regularly wear this type of heavy vest, but a lighter one that protects from shell and grenade fragments as well as most pistol bullets and ricochets from rifle and machine-gun bullets. To provide protection from snipers and machine-gun bullets SAPI (Small Arms Protective Inserts) were developed. These ceramic or polycarbonate plates are inserted in the front and rear of the protective vest. The basic "Level 3" SAPI plates are 25.4x305cm (10x12 inches) and weigh 2.1 kg (4.6 pounds) each. The new Israeli plates are lighter and thus easier for soldiers to wear for long periods. It’s very hot in Israel most of the time so the weight soldiers have to carry is particularly important. The SAPI plates double the weight of a protective vest so most of the time Israeli troops go without it. The lighter weight SAPI plates were popular in Gaza, particularly since Hamas used a lot of snipers. Only 400 of the new SAPI vests were available for testing, but 20,000 more are being ordered so large numbers of troops can use them is needed.
Also tested were new goggles, both day and night versions. These use shatterproof material and proved popular. Also much appreciated were the new ear protection, which kept very loud noises out. Max peak noise reduction was 30 db. Normal conversation is 65 db, a loud motorcycle is 110 db, a nearby jet engine is 140 db, a nearby shotgun blast is 165 db and battlefield explosions are often 180 db. Thus a 30 db reduction makes a big difference because noises over 140 db can be painful and lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss. With the new ear plugs troops could adjust these ear plugs to different levels of sound suppression.
There is also a new helmet in development that is lighter and provides better protection from sniper bullets. Providing better protection from high-powered sniper rifle bullets is important as Hamas and Hezbollah have learned that this is a very effective way of killing Israeli soldiers. In general Israeli troops will quickly defeat Hamas or Hezbollah gunmen in a fire fight, but a few snipers not only increases Israeli fatalities but also forces the Israeli troops to operate more deliberately and slowly, allowing more Arab gunmen to get away from a battle they are losing. Israel has also pioneered the development and manufacturing of sniper detection equipment. But this is only useful after a sniper has fired. For pretection before that you need SAPI.