Well, well. Just a few days back, a Marine report came to light blaming some troops' deaths on the lack of plates in their body armor -- particularly side plates that protect the warfighters' flanks. Now, the New York Times reports, the Army has decided to send to start sending those side plates to its soldiers in Iraq.
The Marine Corps, which commissioned the study in December 2004, began buying side plates in September for its 26,000 troops in Iraq. Army procurement officials said they began studying a similar move last summer after receiving requests from troops in Iraq, but were hampered by the need to supply a much larger force of 160,000 individuals.The Army had begun supplying small quantities of side plates to soldiers much earlier in the war through its Rapid Equipping Force. Armor Works of Tempe, Ariz., which is making the plates for the marines, said it shipped 250 sets in November 2003.Another manufacturer, the Excera Materials Group of Columbus, Ohio, said that since late 2004 it had shipped 1,000 sets of side plates to Special Forces personnel, the Air Force and individual units that used their own procurement money to buy the armor.According to the Armed Forces Press Service, the side panels "weigh 3 pounds [and] will be made of the same material as the small-arms protective inserts," or SAPI plates, which protect the front of soldiers' torsos.
Other shoulder and side protection adds 5 pounds. Wearing all pieces of the Interceptor armor could add about 27 pounds to soldiers' burden.By comparison, the "flak vest" of Vietnam came in at about 25 pounds, and the original flak vest worn by airmen during World War II weighed around 40 pounds, Air Force Museum officials said.Soldiers and marines differ sharply on whether this extra armor is a good idea or not in today's war. Check out the debate raging in the comments section here.UPDATE 3:02 PM: Sgt. Eric Daniel, who has written extensively for Military.com and returned from Iraq in October, writes:
Something folks don't take into consideration is the tradeoffs associated with wearing additional armor. Just before I rotated out, we were getting issued the DAPS (deltoid auxillary something-or-other...) and the "space marine" shoulder pads. While these offered additional protection to the side of the chest and shoulders (from small arms fire and small fragments) they were so cumbersome to wear that you were effectively imobile while wearing them. In fact, it was so bulky that I could not put it on and then climb through the turrets on the LMTVs and HUMVEES; I had to put the armor on top of the vehicle, get in the turret, and then suit up. Furthermore, while my small arms protection may have gone up, I was a dead man when it came to vehicle roll overs or surviving an IED/VBIED blast. This is just with the DAPS/ shoulder armor, mind you. Now they're talking about equipping gunners with entire ensembles of kevlar armor (complete with portable AC systems). That's just insane.The bottom line is, in my opinion, we are going overboard with armor; just like you can't armor a tank every where (there's 2.5 feet of armor on the front of a tank, but only 1 inch on top) you can't armor a person everywhere. Everything has trade offs. Yes the SAPI plates could be bigger, but it really isn't cost effective to make 40 different sizes and it's impossible to tailor them, so we run with what we have.We have gotten to the point that we're wearing so much of it now that we are combat ineffective (we're too heavy and too slow to chase the bad guys so really all the armor does is allow them to shoot at us with impunity. If the military wants to make our lives safer, rather than give us more armor to wear they ought to untie our hands and let us take the fight to the bad guys, by getting rid of the restrictive rules of engagement.