British soldiers don anti-blast pants from Northern Ireland
British troops are being kitted out with special anti-blast underpants from Northern Ireland to protect them from home-made bombs.
Over 340 soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and thousands injured — often horrifically — by roadside bombs.
But troops are now being issued with “pelvic protection”, a three-tiered system of clothing and armour consisting of special protective underwear and detachable armoured modular trousers.
The £10m system was designed to integrate with current kit.
Colonel Peter Rafferty, personal combat equipment team leader at Defence Equipment and Support, said: “Our troops in Afghanistan face specific threats and by working together the MoD and industry have created a layered system of clothing and body armour that offers troops fighting on the frontline the best balance between protection, mobility and comfort.
“Troops on operations already have world-renowned body armour but we continually seek to improve the personal protection available to them.”
The first layer is a pair of shorts which troops wear as underwear and provides an initial level of protection to mitigate against blasts, including shrapnel.
The pants were bought as an Urgent Operational Requirement worth £6m and are being manufactured by Cooneen, Watts and Stone, based in Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone.
A second layer of detachable pelvic body armour, designed to meet the greater threats faced by soldiers on the ground can be rolled up and clipped to a belt and then pulled through the legs to form a protective pouch.
The £4m contract for 25,000 sets of the second tier body |armour has been signed with Northern Ireland-based Hawk Protection Ltd.