BEIJING, Feb. 28 -- An open tender document released by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) online showed that the Chinese military will purchase more than 1.5 million units of high-grade bulletproof plates for body armors in the coming two years as PLA’s new-generation individual gear, reported Global Times recently. The program is expected to cost RMB13 billion, or USD1.85 billion, the largest individual gear procurement in the nation’s history.
According to the tender, it will cost less than RMB10,000 each for the 930,000 units of plates for universal bulletproof vests, and more than RMB10,000 each for the 460,000 units of enhanced bulletproof vests, which will all be delivered within 24 months after contracts are signed.
According to China's defense white paper in 2019, the PLA has about two million personnel, including 850,000 troops in 13 main Group Armies. A total of 1.4 million body armor units means every frontline service member could get one, probably with extra in reserve. Considering that China’s Type 95 rifle costs no more than RMB5,000 each, the body armor procurement is almost equivalent to handing out new rifles for the whole military, which disproves the rumor that China has saved money on individual-soldier equipment to build guided-missile warplanes in order to win future battles. The execution of the procurement plan means that the PLA Army will spend the cost of two Type 055 destroyers or 25 J-16 aircraft on equipping all soldiers with body armors.
International media reports have been flooded with news about China-made body armors in recent years. These body armors have been used by many militaries and individuals for their higher quality and lower cost than those produced by foreign manufacturers. Statistics show that Chinese products occupy 70 percent of the international body armor market.
There are many videos on foreign websites about the testing of Chinese body armors, which are not penetrated even when shot at from a medium or close range by a variety of guns. A British soldier wasn’t hurt at all even after being shot 12 times, because the bullets didn’t get through the armor.
The PLA has never stopped the procurement of bulletproof devices, but one of such a massive scale is indeed the first time in history. According to analyst, it might imply that every PLA soldier would probably be equipped with a body armor with plates, and almost each one in mechanized infantry and infantry units carrying out frontline operations be equipped with an enhanced one.
The massive procurement also might indicate a new round of reform of PLA training with soldiers being asked to wear body armors in routine training and drills to adapt to the weight in operation. This would be a great opportunity for the PLA to take a big step forward toward the international level. Soldiers used to not carry all the ammunition and equipment in order to facilitate movement, which wasn’t consistent with real-combat scenario. In comparison, foreign troops are always fully-loaded with sufficient ammunition and protective gear either when on duty or during training.