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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy plans to buy 16,000 sets of a new type of body armor for Seabees, with deliveries expected to begin later this spring, Navy officials said.

The Seabees will be getting Modular Tactical Vests, or MTVs, which the Marine Corps began issuing to Marines downrange this year.

The vests have two extra ballistic plates and protect 5 percent more of the body than the Outer Tactical Vests — or OTVs — that other servicemembers wear. The MTVs also feature a rip cord that allows troops to peel off the vests in emergencies.

All Marines in Iraq are expected to have the vests by the end of this year.

Naval Expeditionary Combat Command decided to buy MTVs for Seabees because the vests have improvements in “wearability, utility, versatility and comfort” over OTVs, said Capt. Pat Gibbons, of the First Naval Construction Division.

“The MTV integrates the side carriers and plates used with OTV into the MTV, reducing the number of ‘pieces’ to assemble,” Gibbons said in an e-mailed response to questions. “The MTV functions as a unit, carries the weight on the hip, is easier to move in, and is more comfortable.”

Also, Seabees work closely with Marines, who are beginning to wear the new vests, Gibbons said.

The Navy has ordered MTVs for about seven Naval Mobile Construction battalions, Gibbons said. So far, the Navy has not been told when all the vests will be delivered.

“Seabee units which are training to deploy forward will be the first to receive the new vests. Once trained, these Seabees will deploy with the vests,” he said.

For right now, only sailors in the U.S. Naval Construction force will be issued MTVs, said Navy Capt. Dave Phillips, of NECC.

Sailors serving with ground forces as individual augmentees will continue to be issued OTVs, Phillips said in an e-mailed response to questions from Stars and Stripes.

“Riverine personnel are not issued either the OTV or the MTV,” Phillips said. “Due to their water-borne missions, Riverine units wear the Tactical Maritime Body Armor System (TMBAS) which provide floatation capabilities as well as the same level of protection the MTVs and OTVs offer.”

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