The experimental Cupola Protective Ensemble

Reactions mixed to gunner’s safety suit

The Army is trying out the upper section of bomb-disposal suits in Iraq for Humvee gunners. The hope is that the bulky suits will help protect against the blast of an improvised explosive device:

The CPE features a heavy face shield and protective neck collar. It fits over a soldier’s flak vest and is one of a number of methods the Army is experimenting with to reduce the threat of roadside bombs — the biggest killer of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Turret gunners with the Hanau, Germany-based 709th Military Police Battalion and the Fort Stewart, Ga.-based 549th Military Police Company began testing the suits in January and commanders say that they’ve already proven their mettle.

Capt. Larry Bergeron, commander of the 549th, said the suits have probably saved the lives of three soldiers who were sprayed by shrapnel from exploding roadside bombs.

“One soldier’s visor stopped a piece of shrapnel that hit dead center,” said Bergeron, 31. “If he didn’t have that suit on the effects could have been catastrophic.”

The reviews aren’t all positive, though.

More and additional pics below

Like with all new bulky armor issued, not everyone is exactly thrilled about it:

Despite their protective qualities, the suits have earned mixed reviews from soldiers, who complain that the cooling systems frequently break down and that they “look goofy,” wearing the equipment. They say, too, that the extra layer of protection limits their mobility.

“I’m not a big fan of this thing,” said Spc. Michael Floyd, 19, of Lebanon, Ind. “It’s just really hot and hard to move around in. I do feel safer, but only in an explosion. I wouldn’t feel safer in a rollover or in small-arms fire.”

The gunner is probably far safer until the time comes to move. This is usually the case with armor. TANSTAAFL, and increased protection is paid for with decreased mobility.

Keep in mind that this is being tried on an experimental basis.

The CPE consists of the following:
+ Base jacket
+ Sleeves (left and right) with rigid composite inserts (forearm and bicep)
+ Blast plate assembly — chest and groin
+ Rear blast plate
+ Pants and integrated groin protector (IGP)
+ Removable explosive ordnance disposal collar
+ Optional neck/nape guard
+ Visor System worn with Personnel Armor System Ground Troops (PASGT) or Army Combat Helmet (ACH)
+ Hand Guards

See .pdf documents from PEO Soldier and Med-Eng for much more info.

Strategy Page also posted on this.


  1. Here is a quote from the designer of the suit: ‘I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something that could never destroy us. Something I loved from my childhood. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man! He was on all the packages we used to buy when I was a kid. We used to roast Stay Puft marshmallows at Camp Waconda!’

  2. I dunno why everyone says it doesn’t look cool, I think it looks sweet as heck. What would looks goofy is missing half arm….

  3. They started talking about this gitup while we were running escort missions in Iraq and none of our gunners thought that it was the answer to the problem. What makes this better than having a good gun shield and cupola? What do you do on a long mission when you need to swap the gunner and TC on the fly? We took many IED strikes in the year we were running missions and the gun shields and cupolas kept the gunners safe. And they provided roll over protection that this outfit does not. Our company had 3 rollovers that would have killed the guy in the above picture, but did not injure our guys. From our experience serious vehicle accidents, for whatever reason, were more likely to injure or kill than an IED. Not to even get into the logistic issues and cooling system durability.

  4. I was assuming there would be both (cupola shield). It may not be right for every mission then, but it is another option at least.

  5. That may be, I just haven’t seen any photos utilizing both. But that creates a whole other set of issues due to space constraints. And you are surely right that there are some missions that could use it, and as always there are some gunners that would love it. But when the Army deploys stuff like this, you don’t get to decide if it is right for you, because ‘safety’ gear is usually delivered with an order that makes it mandatory, at least in my experience. A true leap in gunner safety is achieved by deploying CROWS, M1117s, and other enclosed gunner position vehicles. But, like the man says…you fight with what you have not with what you want.

  6. ROFLMAO… boy that is funny…looking… on a serious note, these seems like one possible solution to the problem… how about a hybrid half suit, that fits and mounts onto the vehicle by the gunner ring, and functions as body armor, that you could just wrigle into while in the vehicle.. another solution seems to be to go with remote weapon stations..betcha if we had some kind of comptetiton, someone would come out with good one cheap..

  7. Competition among defense contractors? You must still be giddy from all that laughter. The only competition in the defense industry is to see who can get away with the biggest lie. Once you get past that it’s just like milking a cow.

  8. A couple of months before we rotated out, we got one of these. The crew flat out loved that setup. As long as we are stuck w/ the HMMWV, this is the best solution that I’ve seen. The only issue is that they are $250,000 a pop, since the system is still experimental. We also received a M1117, which is a very nice rig for convoy escort duty. It has a couple of shortcomings, but a bit of time w/ the combat arms and it will be ironed out.

  9. i think green army is trying anything they can for protection against osama bin hiding. the company has test pics too – wouldn’t wanna be close with thos IEDs going off: LOL

  10. what about an armor suit that looks like master chief from HALO – kick ass!

  11. The cooling systems do not hold up to the environment and they will go down one by one. You’ll have a heat casualty on your hands very quickly if the cooling system isn’t working. All of the electronic internals of the cooling system are highly exposed and hatch seals DON’T SEAL out the elements. No matter how much you practice your rollover drills, this suit will make it MUCH harder for a gunner to get down in the anticipation of a rollover. The face shield makes it TOUGH AS HECK to aim your weapon. Disabling shots can turn quite easily into accidental kill shots. I know of situations where the suit and face shield has saved a gunner but I also know where it has killed a gunner and led direclty to the accidental shooting of an innocent school teacher.