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With the advancements in weapon technology and the emergence of new models of bullets, soldiers and law enforcement officers need more advanced bulletproof vests. In India, the need is highlighted by the fact that the security forces have been battling local insurgents and terrorists in various parts of the country without donning fully protective gear, including bulletproof vests. The Indian army itself would be requiring about 100,000 jackets annually over the next 10 years.

Indian security forces have successfully tested home-grown lightweight bulletproof jackets that will come much cheaper than what they are buying at present.

The prototype, named Bhabha Kawach, was developed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) — India’s multi-disciplinary nuclear research center which transferred the technology to firms for mass production.

“Test samples of ballistic shield capable of giving protection against armor-piercing bullets (Level IV) have been developed and successfully tested by Central Reserve Police Forces. 10 numbers of Bhabha Kavach specially made for field trials in anti-terrorist operations have also been successfully tested,” K.N. Vyas, the director of BARC, said.  

The jackets were tested in Jammu and Kashmir, where Indian security forces have been battling militants for several years.

How does a bulletproof vest technology work? Usually, the layers inside a vest are designed to reduce the velocity of a round to a point below supersonic — faster than the speed of sound — so the fibers can have time to react to the bullet and exert their toughness on the bullet. The more layers, or the greater the density of the weaving of layers, the greater the toughness of the fibers and the more capable they are of stopping a bullet, according to howstuffworks.com.

The new Indian jacket has been developed through a special process to strengthen high molecular weight polyethylene, resulting in high ballistic performance composite sheets. The jackets weigh less than 3.5 kg and can provide protection against hard steel core bullets used in guns such as the AK-47, according to sputniknews.com.

In April this year, India’s Defense Ministry signed a contract with the private firm SMPP for the supply of 186,000 bulletproof jackets to the army in the next three years. The contracted jackets are heavier than the new model. With the successful trial of the Bhabha Kavach, it is now being estimated that it would constitute at least 50% of the total requirement of the Indian Armed Forces.