Note: This is part of a series. You can read part one here. The 1980s, under the Reagan administration and still in the shadow of the Vietnam War, brought an influx of military funding after a long funding drought. The military made leaps forward in numerous military technologies. One of those technologies was body armor.
PASGT (Personal Armor System for Ground Troops) vests, known to troops of that time as “Kevlar vests,” rolled out in the early 1980s. Kevlar was all the rage, and the new helmets were also made of Kevlar. The Gulf War PASGT vests were a hybrid of nylon and Kevlar. It provided superior frag protection but still no real protection from bullets.
OTV/IBA (Outer Tactical Vest/Interceptor Body Armor) vests came out in the late 1980s and were heralded for being able to stop bullets, which they did, but only small-caliber pistol rounds, only on a good day. The OTV was all Kevlar, provided protection from frags, and could stop a round from a 9mm submachine gun. IBA was a slightly different Kevlar mix and was the first true bullet stopper, but again, only 9mm and lower.
SAPI (Small Arms Protective Insert) ceramic plates came out in the late 1990s and replaced the PASGT system. The first SAPI plates stopped 7.62mm and 5.56mm rounds for multiple hits, a major leap forward in ballistic plate technology and user protection. But they were still too bulky and heavy for some.