Xena Body Armor: Military Takes a Cue from the Warrior Princess

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Xena body armor: They say that life often imitates art, but you generally don't think that this would apply to syndicated television fantasies featuring warrior princesses. However, if drawing inspiration from television programs and motion pictures helps keep our troops safe and sound when they're defending our freedom, then I'm all for it. And should these soldiers resemble something entirely badass in the process, well, that's pretty cool, too.

In an effort to provide better protection for the army's legion of female soldiers, the masterminds working behind-the-scenes in the military's research and design department have taken a page from the Lucy Lawless TV show "Xena: Warrior Princess": The body armor worn by the show's butt-kicking heroine will serve as inspiration for the armor worn by the military's own female warriors. Currently, there are 11 different variations of male body armor available to these women, though the army is hoping to improve that selection in the near future.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the new armor will provide better protection for female soldiers by allowing "more curves in the chest and hips". The problem was addressed in 2009, when female soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division complained about how some of the male-oriented gear was a tad uncomfortable.

"It rubbed on the hips, and the vests were too long in the front, so that when you had female soldiers climbing stairs or climbing up a hill or a tree, or sitting for a long time in a vehicle, that would create pressure points that in some instances could impact blood flow and cause some discomfort,” says Lt. Col. Frank Lozano, who also helped co-design the body armor.

"Some people would like to eventually make plates so it’s like ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’ and conforms to the shape [of female soldiers]," explained Douglas Graham, a spokesman for the Army’s Office of Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment.

Of course, in order to provide more protection in the right places, more plates will need to be added to the body armor, which, in turn, will make it heavier for soldiers to carry around. Eight different sizes are currently in development for female soldiers, which will feature narrower shoulders and "bra-shaped darting" in the chest.

Lt. Col. Frank Lozano says testing has yielded some positive results for female soldiers, though the real challenge will be finding the money to mass produce them.

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