The 6b2 body armor vest is quite an ironic piece of equipment. It is simultaneously the most common body armor used in the Soviet Army and almost the hardest one to find nowadays. Well, they are still out there but in hot demand - as the 6b2 body armor was the most used protective vest by the 40th Army. Literally every Soviet-Afghan War reenactor needs one, as well as other equipment, the list of which we have gathered here.
In this article, we will focus on the history and usage of the 6b2 body armor vest in the Soviet Army.
A brief history of 6b2 body armor vest
At the beginning of the article about the 6B1 body armor vest, it was mentioned, that the Ministry of Defense was not investing in body armor development before the invasion of Afghanistan. It is generally believed that the Army was satisfied with the existing 6b1 vest and that they planned to put it into mass production only in case of actual armed conflict.
This information has been passed on the web from one article to another and it turned out to be impossible to find the actual source. The whole idea of increasing the production from none to thousands is flawed itself, but let's leave it for the moment. The fact is - that the Ministry of Defence of the Soviet Union did not purchase any personal body protection equipment in the 1960s and 1970s. While this statement is correct, it is worth noting that other Ministries did work in this direction. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (police) has been receiving ZhZT-71 body armor sets throughout the 1970s. And even though these aren't related to 6B2, even with visual resemblance, some technologies developed used to make ZhZT-71 were essential for 6B2.
The whole story behind 6B2 is, in fact, fascinating. We have covered it in the corresponding article - The history behind the development of the 6b2 body armor vest.
The characteristic of the 6b2 body armor vest
The body armor turned out to be rather good for the conditions of Afghanistan. It was incredibly light - even lighter than its predecessor. The weight of the 6b2 vest was somewhere between 4,2 and 4,8kg, depending on the size and the production date. The technology and the amount of material have changed a lot of times during the production years. This overall lightness was achieved by using very modern materials for the time.
But the general rule was still there - the lighter your armor is, the less it can protect you from the incoming projectiles. And of course, 6b2 was not an exception. Unlike modern body armor concepts, the Soviet Army relied on a large number of small plates. They varied in material and thickness, but the overall layout stayed for all vests.
On one hand, this concept was not bad - the idea behind was to provide a greater cover for the body of the soldier. After all, statistically, the greatest threat for a soldier in a post-WW2 conflict was coming from shrapnel rather than from a bullet. So the main idea was to cover as much of the torso with anti-shrapnel material.
The bullet-stopping characteristics were not great. Officially, the 6b2 body armor vest is required to protect from pistol caliber rounds - namely 7,62x25mm TT and 9x18mm PM. This is further proved by the memoirs of A. Tumaha:
Once it came to shooting: Valera Larionov (artillery commander) and my company commander argued over whose body armor was better. The company commander took my titanium armor, and Valera put on our battalion's Czechoslovak armor. Well, it was necessary to get drunk so much in order to shoot at each other from the PM! The duel was arranged, the aristocrats are fucking. After the shots, they immediately sobered up, having received a huge bruise on the entire chest.
Do not get confused by the word "Chechslovak". If you think about it, the 6b2 body armor was entirely different from everything else in the Soviet Army - the new material, velcros, and the overall look. Soviet soldiers and officers honestly thought that these vests came from the Warsaw Pact or maybe even from Western countries.
But if the 6b2 body armor vest was capable of stopping a pistil round, it could not stop a rifle round from almost any distance - the official tests proved that it was hit through even from the distance of 600 meters, using a 7,62mm AKM round. So, relying on this body armor for close combat with the enemy mainly armed with small arms was not the greatest solution. And this, among other factors, is why the Soviet industry has essentially moved on to 6b3, 6b4, and 6b5 vests.
The 6b2 body armor vest in the Soviet-Afghan War
The 6b2 body armor vest was, by war, the most common piece of body equipment throughout the whole conflict. There is approximately an 80% chance that if you see body armor in the photo, it will be a 6b2. The Soviet industrial complex was at its peak in the 1980s. This allowed for the army which had no body armor at the invasion to equip some forward operating units with body armor by the end of the first summer at war. The whole 40th Army was more or less fully equipped by late 1982 - just under three years from the unofficial adaption of the vest!
Just like almost any other Soviet Army equipment - this body armor was widely used in all the regiments and units. From pipeline troops to artillery crews and all the way to Airborne Reconnaissance Commando - when looking through Afghan photos you will find it everywhere. The only exception would be the Soviet Spetsnaz - they almost never used the body armor in Afghanistan. But this is a story for another time.
After the Afghan war, the 6b2 body armor was mainly forgotten - the existing vests were used out and the new ones were not produced since 1985. However, it is not uncommon to see these vests used by the Armed Forces of the post-Soviet republics.