Infantry: Better Battle Briefs


March 8, 2012:  The U.S. has developed more comfortable "blast boxer" (or PUG, for Protective Under Garment) underwear for troops. For three years now British troops have been wearing these skintight Kevlar underpants. U.S. marines began receiving them two years ago and soldiers got them last year. American troops reported that the first blast boxers they got were uncomfortable, causing chafing and heat buildup. The new model addresses both of these problems.

Last year British and American soldiers and marines received additional groin protection. This was known as POG (Protective Over Garment) and consisted of a codpiece attachment for their body armor. Both PUG and POG consist of multiple layers of Kevlar. Both items were developed by British firms. For maximum protection (say, for bomb disposal technicians), two or three pairs of the boxers can be worn in addition to a POG.

The "ballistic boxers", or Kevlar underpants, have several layers of Kevlar around the groin and thigh area. This protects troops from genital damage and projectiles that might sever the femoral arteries (which run down each leg, close to the inner thigh). Bleeding from the femoral artery is a major cause of combat deaths, as it is very difficult to stop the flow of blood. The "blast boxers" originally sold for about $100 a pair but demand has been so high that the price has declined by over a third. The idea for the ballistic boxers was suggested by the troops themselves and the medics that treat many of these wounds. The increased number of groin injuries comes largely from the growing use of roadside bombs and mines by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

It was thought that many troops might not want to use the Kevlar undershorts. For one thing, they restrict movement a bit and are hot when worn during warm weather. The mobility issue also discouraged U.S. Marines from using a Kevlar flap that was added to their protective vest, to prevent groin injuries, but the blast boxers were seen as less of a bother. The new model is still warmer and tighter than normal underwear but the additional protection leads more troops to wear them.

It turned out that there were a lot of troops who found these two issues non-problems. These are the guys who drive the roads of Afghanistan, delivering supplies or aid to Afghans, or just searching for roadside bombs. Mobility on foot or heat is not what these vehicle bound troops are concerned with. The impact of roadside bombs or ambusher's bullets is.

The triangular ballistic codpiece, a medieval design, works because it is not as cumbersome and when not needed (because of low risk of encountering bombs) can be rolled up. This was a much more effective design than an earlier American effort (a square flap). Both items have proved popular with the troops and have already prevented some deaths and prevented a number of more severe injuries.


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