The Marine Corps released a request for information (RFI) Tuesday to gauge industry’s ability to deliver lightweight hard armor plates needed to replace its Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (ESAPI), with an eventual contract award expected by the end of FY ‘19.

Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) said its looking for industry partners who could deliver a minimum of 40,000 lightweight armor plates that would be capable of providing sufficient protection in low intensity threat environments.MCSCLOGO_VECTOR

“Our current ESAPI plates do an amazing job of protecting Marines and have saved many lives. “The only problem is Marines are currently given a binary choice between taking on 15 pounds to be protected or zero pounds and very little protection. This new lightweight plate would protect Marines and give commanders the choice of what plate to use based on the specific mission,” Nick Pierce, Individual Armor team lead for MCSC’s Program Manager Infantry Combat Equipment (PM ICE), said in a statement.

The new lightweight armor plates could be fielded as early as FY ‘20, according to the Marine Corps.

PM ICE previously spent this year studying over 200 commercial plate designs to see the feasibility of offering new armor capability to Marines that will still lighten their cargo load. MCSC officials tested several prototypes on Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad Team.

“Without revealing too much information, I can state unequivocally that the new plates will significantly lighten the load from the Marine, and increase their mobility,” Pierce said.

Responses to the RFI are due by September 7. ESAPI plates are typically inserted into bullet resistant vests.