During the Iraq and Afghan Wars of the early 21st Century, insurgents and enemy soldiers discovered that the body armour utilised by western troops was so strong that even point-blank firing into the torso with assault rifles would not penetrate or seriously injure the target. Their immediate solution was to begin using RPGs as anti-personnel weapons, and then, later, to switch to IEDs, booby-traps, mines, and indirect fire HE weapons systems. Heavier calibre weapons, human wave assaults, and suicidal bravery and fanaticism were also used in an attempt to defeat the protection offered by NATO protective gear.
By the mid 21st Century, the US had begun fielding first special operations teams, then front-line soldiers, in full-body ‘carapace’ semi-powered exoskeletal armour suits. These did not amplify the wearer’s strength or provide particularly improved protection against RPGs or similar weapons, but did provide head to toe ballistic armour that would turn a blade and stop assault rifle rounds. The Europeans and Chinese were quick to follow, and by the late 21st Century the European Federation, US, and PRC equipped their infantry as standard with full-body ‘Hard Combat Armour’. The US M50 suit contained a fully-networked C3ISTAR system that enabled even the lowliest private to have access to more information and knowledge about the battlespace than a battalion commander of the turn of the century, and also featured a ‘reactive camouflage suite’ which shifted the colours of the suit’s surface to match the terrain being fought over. The EuroFed ‘Thor’ series was functionally similar, albeit required repainting to match warzones. Most typically, the Thor was seen in an updated, semi-digitalised flecktarn pattern. The PRC, meanwhile, fielded the ‘Young Dragon’, which is most typically encountered in its factory finish of khaki and black.
All three powers were also experimenting with fully powered armour, but even by the late 21st Century such suits were restricted in the main to special operations units that had received extra training and, in some cases, surgical enhancements, to better exploit the capabilities offered by powered armour.
Other nations and power blocs, however, either could not afford or did not see the need for such extravagant developments. Instead, better and more powerful personal weapons were developed, leading to the Chinese experimentations with gauss weaponry, the English use of the depleted uranium penetrator round, and the European caseless carbon-graphene hardened rounds. The National Bolshevik Republics, on the other hand, famously, and simply, turned to larger, more powerful bullets.
Body armour, however, in many forms, became ubiquitous amongst almost every combat force on Earth. From ‘simple’ body armour of the kind worn by the US in the early 2000s to the advanced powered armour of PRC strike commandos in the late 2080s, no-one entered a battlespace without some form of protection.