The flak vest was developed when October 1942 report revealed 70% of mortal wounds were caused by low-velocity projectiles. Designed by the UK firm Wilkinson Sword company, it consisted of a canvas vest lined with hundreds of overlapping steel plates to allow both flexibility and protection. Pulling a central red ripcord instantly jettisoned the heavy 25 pound vest. UK production proved slow, and a US mass-produced vest was adopted in October 1943. By January 1944 enough suits were available to equip all heavy bombardment groups in the ETO. No airmen would want to fly over the deadly skies of Germany without this vital life saving gear.
- The “Wilkinson Sword” version features color matched drab brown canvas, soft white corduroy backing, and nickel plated hardware. Complete with the bright red felt ripcord to eject the vest and characteristic "Broad Arrow" stamp.
- The more heavily reinforced US version features mid-war OD green canvas, subdued release tapes, and blackened hardware, complete with spec nomenclature tags and weight stamps. Each component can also be ordered individually.
This museum-quality replica painstakingly copies every detail with nearly 500 individual plates sewn into place. The "seated" position was designed for pilots (with armored seats), and had an empty, unarmored back panel and a lower apron with leg contours for sitting. The "standing" position was designed for gunners, and was fully armored back and front, with a rectangular apron that provided more leg protection. Weighing in at 7 pounds fully armored, rigid composite plates provide the same alligator scale-like texture and feel of the original at only 1/3rd the weight. A full weight steel plate vest can be special ordered upon request. Cheaper "film" versions for background actors can also be built at significant cost savings.
Standard: Composite plates
Seated position: Armored chest & tapered apron, unarmored back: $325
Standing position: Armored chest & back, rectangular apron: $397
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Wilkinson Sword Version:
US Produced Version