Armor Express Lighthawk XT Body Armor

Let's take a look at everything that came in the Lighthawk XT package and then I'll discuss how I configured it for my needs followed by a report on the wear / field test.

In the main body of the vest, in the back, integrated into the plate pocket, is the hydration pocket. It allows for carrying a hydration system without having to add an extra pouch on the back, leaving all the back MOLLE open for other pouches that may be necessary. The way the carrier is designed, the hydration bladder would be between the soft armor in the back and the back plate. At the top of the pocket, in the center, is a "port" that allows you to run the drinking tub out and then in either direction over your shoulder. One word of advice if you're going to use that hydration pocket: Fill and install your hydration bladder BEFORE you adjust the vest for fit realizing that when you wear the vest with an empty hydration system the cummerbund will wrap a little farther. That's perfectly okay since as much as four inches of overlap in the front is covered by the design.

Now, let's talk about the quick-release cable system. As with most decently designed tactical vests today, the Lighthawk XT has a quick-release system designed into it so that if the wearer/operator needs to ditch the vest in a hurry it's easy to do. Before I go on, let me throw out a few words of caution:

  1. You should never count on using the quick-release mechanism unless you've tried it at least once in a safe environment and know both how it releases and how to put it back together, and
  2. Be aware that the vest is heavy and when you pull that quick-release all of the front weight may come down on your toes. While you may not care about that in an emergency situation, it'd be a shame to unnecessarily hurt your feet in practice.


The Lighthawk XT's quick-release system involves two cables - one that runs over each shoulder - that trail over the shoulder and down the back of the vest to lace each side of the cummerbund together. If you pull one of those cables all the way out, the cummerbund will be released from the back so that the waist of the front of the vest is separated from the waist of the back of the vest, and whichever side shoulder you pulled will also separate leaving the vest to fall off the opposite side shoulder. For example, if I pull the right side release, the right shoulder and waist will separate allowing me to dump the vest off my left shoulder. If I pull the left side release, the left shoulder and waist will separate leaving me to dump the vest off my right shoulder. To get the vest off of whichever shoulder doesn't separate requires only a small shrug and the weight of the vest (thanks to gravity) will do the rest.

I should also note that there are optional "Communications Wire Restraints" on my test vest. They are located two on each shoulder at the collar and three on each side of the plate pocket in the front. The restraints on the collars work perfectly for directing the cable release pulls and all of the restraints work equally well for directing your drinking tube if you're using a hydration system.

Naturally all body armor is only as good as the protection it provides. Adjustable fit and modular components are great, but if the armor is sup-par then what do you really have? Armor Express has multiple armor options because the Lighthawk XT uses concealable body armor panels for the main body and then add-on panels for the cummerbund, collars, etc. For soft armor choices they have:

  • Their Seraph line
  • Their HALO line
  • Their Quantum line
  • Their Gemini line
  • Their Taurus line

Information on those lines of armor, protection levels, etc is available on their website.


Additionally they have other accessories available in addition to or in replacement of the hard plates they sent with this test vest. They include:

  • Cool Max T-shirt
  • Carry bag
  • Ara-Shock Plate
  • T-Shock Plate
  • Soft Trauma Pac
  • Soft Armor Pac
  • Enhancement Pac


All of the modular pieces are also available as accessories and Armor Express also has product lines that include Shields, Helmets and pads. Check out the Lighthawk XT on their website via the link below.

Overall for fit, comfort and mobility I have to give the Lighthawk XT high marks. With the user ability to add or remove modular armor pieces to make the vest better suited to a specific mission and/or to make it more comfortable for the wearer, there's no excuse to complain about discomfort or coverage. It is what you choose for it to be - unless you want more than is available from the design.

Stay safe!

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About The Author:

Lt. Frank Borelli (ret) is the Editor In Chief for, and has over 29 years of military and civilian law enforcement experience. An instructor since 1989 and having delivered training across the country, he stays active in police work, training, and writing. Frank has had four non-fiction and two fiction books published along with two research papers of specific interest to the law enforcement and/or military communities. All can be found / purchased on his Author Page on linked above. If you have any comments or questions, you can contact him via email to

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