British Armed Forces tests 'blast pants' for troops

An urgent move is underway to get groin protection for British troops in Afghanistan, Newsbeat has discovered.

The Ministry of Defence has told us they have been carrying out extensive testing on designs.

It's after reports of a big increase in the number of serious injuries to this area of the body, mainly from roadside bombs and explosives.

The Armed Forces has known for a while that the Taliban's weapon of choice is the Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

Those who survive a blast from an IED are often left with horrific injuries, with many losing limbs.

But other injuries are on the increase and they're ones that aren't often talked about.

Groin protection

Former Royal Marine Ben McBean, 23, was five months into his first tour in southern Afghanistan when he stepped on a landmine.

He lost an arm and a leg but the injuries that he was most concerned about were to his groin area.

Ben McBean
A year after losing his leg to a landmine Ben ran the London Marathon

Ben, who now lives at home Plymouth, said: "I was 20-years-old at the time so to get blown up, even though my leg was missing, that wasn't really the main concern initially.

"It was mainly, 'Are all my bits still there? Are they still working? Can I see them? If I've lost a leg, it's probably going to be hard enough trying to meet a girl, let alone if something's missing or not working'."

He lost one testicle in the blast and was left with a lot of scarring.

Newsbeat has been told the MoD put a call out asking for help in developing a form of groin protection.

One company says it's come up with something it thinks can help.

Will is from army kit suppliers BCB International.

"Basically it's a standard pair of boxer shorts but there's a special type of Kevlar lining," he explained.

"This Kevlar absorbs the energy from fragments and particles that are flying through the air."

'Bit of a bruise'

There are other forms of groin protection on the market, with the US Marines using a type of flap which hangs over the front of their kit.

But they're hard to move around in and don't offer as much protection from an upward blast as a soldier would receive from an IED.

Newsbeat tested the blast pants by firing a small piece of shrapnel at them at 195 metres per second.

Will explained the results: "In a failure situation there'd be hole in the pants themselves but if we lift up the shorts, you can see it's completely flat there.

"It might give a little bit of a bruise but it's certainly not going to penetrate the skin.

"We have done tests and what I would say is in the short term, something's better than nothing.

"They're designed to protect against small fragmentation; pieces of stone and dirt flying through the air. [They're] certainly not bomb proof."

The MoD is testing the blast shorts alongside other designs and a decision is expected soon.

It says it wants to achieve the right balance between protection and manoeuvrability.