Aircrew Body Armor (a.k.a. “Chicken Plate”)

The need for body armor capable of defeating large caliber armor piercing rounds became a priority with the advent of “airmobile” combat as evidenced in Vietnam. Helicopter and recon aircraft crew members originally made due with body armor developed for ground forces, namely the Nylon M-1952 vest and the Nylon/Doron M-1955 vest. However, these vests were designed to stop fragments only and did a rather poor job of stopping high velocity and large caliber ammunition.

Armor capable of defeating armor piercing rounds became viable in 1962 with a new composite ceramic. The first armor for aircrewman was designed with small, flat plates of ballistic ceramic formed into the shape of a torso. This early armor was designed to rest on the pilots thighs or on a support attached to the seat between his legs. Still, this armor was not suitable for crew members whose jobs required them to move about the cabin (door gunners). This armor also had a lack of protection where the edges of the plates met.

Finally, a vest which could be comfortably worn by all crew members was designed. This vest is the “Armor, Small Arms-Fragmentation Protective”, “Body Armor, Aircrewman”, or, as known by macho pilots, and hereafter referred to as the “chicken plate”. This was a new design which used a monolithic ceramic (one piece) which was molded to match torso contours. The chicken plate was made in two versions; One with a front plate only for pilots and copilots, and a second version with front and back plates for crew members who did not sit in armored seats. The vests are capable of defeating 30 caliber armor piercing ammunition and are designed for use in aircraft without ejection seats.

The ceramic plates are faced with a layer of ballistic Nylon as a spall shield to reduce bullet fragments. The back of the plates are faced with a reinforced plastic. So, if you see one of these plates, you never actually see the ceramic. You only see the spall shield and the plastic. The chicken plate was made in 3 different ceramic compositions:

  • Aluminum Oxide (heavy weight)
  • Silicon Carbide (medium weight)
  • Boron Carbide (light weight)


Stock Number Reference

Body Armor w/ Insert

Body Armor, Small Arms Protective

Front Plate only

Insert Type Size FSN Assign Date
BORON CARBIDE Short 8470-935-3180 1968-01-31
Regular 8470-935-3181 1968-01-31
Long 8470-935-3182 1968-01-31
ALUMINUM OXIDE Short 8470-935-3183 1968-02-02
Regular 8470-935-3184 1968-02-02
Long 8470-935-3185 1968-02-02
SILICON CARBIDE Short 8470-935-3186 1968-02-14
Regular 8470-935-3187 1968-02-14
Long 8470-935-3188 1968-02-14

Front and Back

Insert Type Size FSN Assign Date
BORON CARBIDE Short 8470-935-3189 1968-02-21
Regular 8470-935-3190 1968-02-21
Long 8470-935-3191 1968-02-21
ALUMINUM OXIDE Short 8470-935-3192 1968-02-21
Regular 8470-935-3193 1968-02-21
Long 8470-935-3194 1968-02-21
SILICON CARBIDE Short 8470-935-3195 1968-02-14
Regular 8470-935-3196 1968-02-14
Long 8470-935-3197 1968-02-14

Vest Body

Vest, Small Arms Protective Body Armor

Size FSN Assign Date
Short 8470-999-1473 1966-04-18
Regular 8470-999-1474 1966-04-18
Long 8470-999-1475 1966-04-18


Insert, Small Arms Protective

Insert Type Size Front / Back FSN Assign Date
BORON CARBIDE Short Front 8470-935-3165 Unknown
Back 8470-935-3162 Unknown
Regular Front 8470-935-3166 Unknown
Back 8470-935-3163 Unknown
Long Front 8470-935-3167 Unknown
Back 8470-935-3164 Unknown
ALUMINUM OXIDE Short Front 8470-935-3177 1968-01-24
Back 8470-935-3174 1968-01-24
Regular Front 8470-935-3178 1968-01-24
Back 8470-935-3175 1968-01-24
Long Front 8470-935-3179 1968-01-24
Back 8470-935-3176 1968-01-24
SILICON CARBIDE Short Front 8470-935-3171 1968-01-26
Back 8470-935-3168 1968-01-26
Regular Front 8470-935-3172 1968-01-26
Back 8470-935-3169 1968-01-26
Long Front 8470-935-3173 1968-01-26
Back 8470-935-3170 1968-01-26

Reference: Technical Manual TM-10-8470-202-13