New navy vests repel both bullets & water

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A Royal Thai Navy sailor died recently when he fell into the Mekong River after being shot. He didn’t die from the gunshot, but from drowning. Unable to swim, the sailor was wearing a bulletproof vest that became waterlogged and pulled him under.

It was then that Capt. Wirat Somjit, commander of the Naval Military Police Regiment, realized the navy needed a new vest. Together with Capt. Cholphuu Chuusree, commander of the 1st Naval Military Police Battalion, deputy commander Naphiphut Rattanaphutuk and Petty Officer 1st Class Rakkiat Sreebunshu, they created something they couldn’t buy in Thailand or overseas: a buoyant bulletproof vest that weighed just four kilograms, was cheap to make and could be manufactured in the kingdom.

Top Navy officers inspect the bullet proof floatation vests.Top Navy officers inspect the bullet proof floatation vests.

Made of X-ray film sheets and a face-up automatic inflation system and signal lights, the vests can withstand pistol and assault-rifle fire. The vests can support 150kg in weight and can be manually inflated.

Wirat said the vests will be used by the Naval Military Police Regiment and by coastal special task forces, particularly during pursuit and inspection of suspicious boats on the sea and on rivers.

Every mission, no matter how minor it seems, can be dangerous, Wirat said. So whether it’s setting up checkpoints or checking boats, officers need to be prepared to attack.

The vests held up under rigorous testing.The vests held up under rigorous testing.

He said the vests have passed testing to international standards to withstand a range of weapon calibers. The key is the X-ray film, which is a high-heat polymer that absorbs impact, yet remains elastic.

Adm. Narong Pipathanasai said every year the navy encourages units to invent new technology based on HM the King’s “sufficiency economy” philosophy. These vests, developed by Thais, made of locally made products and manufactured in Thailand, meet that goal perfectly, he said.