More or Armor

By streiff Posted in | Comments (7) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

US Special Forces trooper demonstrates the latest in body armor on a combat operation in southern Afghanistan.

Of all the memes that have developed out of the Iraq War the one that is the most annoying is the repeated assertions that the military is unconcerned about providing body armor (the troops have to buy it, you know) and armored vehicles to troops in theater.

After a inexplicably supine reaction to this damaging myth the Army has actually taken the time to answer a recent story by the Washington Post on the armor available to HMMWVs. (lots more on this, including messages from troops in Iraq by way of Michelle Malkin).

I don’t think for a moment that the leadership of the Army or Marine Corps has been cavalier with the lives of young soldiers and marines in combat theaters. The fact is that Iraq is a type of war that all services had studiously avoided planning for and one for which resources were not available. As the Army says in its statement, it entered the War in Iraq with $56 billion of shortages in equipment. It has labored hard and long to make up those shortages but everything takes time and the war had to be fought in the meantime.

Even the newest armor is no panacea and is really a double edged sword.

Nothing comes without tradeoffs. Forty-five pounds of body armor does provide a certain degree of protection from some dangers. The weight, though, does extract a heavy price in endurance, mobility, and alertness. When worn in temperatures above ninety or so degrees the cure might be a lot worse than the disease. The weight of armor on vehicles extracts a price in speed and mobility and imposes a heavy strain on engines and drive trains and severely limits crew visibility and their ability to respond to threats. At best it provides protection against weapons not designed to pierce it. Against an armor piercing projectile, nothing you are going to strap on a light wheeled vehicle is going to amount to much more than a moral victory.

Warfare has been on a spiraling cycle of weapons versus armor since Joe Neanderthal heaved the first rock. We are entering a phase where personal armor makes sense for the first time in three hundred years. I am willing to go out on a limb and make a bet that within 5 to 7 years we are back to where we were twenty years ago in terms of body armor.

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More or Armor 7 Comments (0 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

Dragon Scale is pretty promising thus far. And doesn't weight as much as what most of our troops are currently wearing in the field. As soon as the Army gets the funding to procure large quantities of it (and those large quantities can be made) I think we'll be a lot better off.

Also, the weapons manufacturers in the US, at least, recognize the ned for armour as much as for better weapons. It is becoming like the Radar vs Radar Detector competition where Both are constantly getting better.

Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you:
Jesus Christ and the American G. I.
One died for your soul; the other for your freedom.

was a Special Forces "operator" with three tours in Vietnam. He did NOT wear a helmet or a flak jacket. He told me that the loss of mobility wasn't worth it.

"Brevity is the soul of wit."

De Opresso Liber

I NEVER wore a flack jacket outside of my camp, and wore one in the camp only when being shelled.

I NEVER wore a 'steel pot', except for the above circumstances.


It often severely restricts an infantryman's mobility under fire when it is precisely that capability alone that will save him.

My nephew is an E-7 in the Cav. on his 2nd tour in Iraq, after Kosovo. He and his soldiers don't have the - let's call it 'Latitude' - in Iraq that we in Special Forces in Vietnam had concerning uniform wear (and other things).

He tells me that the body armor they wear is close to the limit (when all other gear is worn) that an infantryman can stand in those latitudes and other thjose conditions.

So, there is a trade-off vis-a-vis body armor and the agility and speed an infantryman needs to survive in a ground fight.

I know, I know . . . it's a good thing to have head-to-foot body armor and it is smart to wear it all, but sometimes . . . sometimes.

Infantrymen maneuvering on the ground under hostile fire cannot match in speed the muzzle velocity of the AK-47 that hits them.

I have been told (but do not know personally) that body armor (so-called flack jacket) cannot always stop a high velocity bullet nearly as well as - say - stopping shrapnel. So, IEDs in Iraq pose a different problem altogether.

At any rate, having said all that, I agree with Streiff's notion that the US Army is just not going to let its people go unprotected into combat. Last time that happened was in Korea.

Keep in mind that the enemy's technical abilities to kill us will most likely soon catch up with or surpass our ability to protect ourselves. It is a cyclic process.

The media and (mostly Democratic) demagogues have been totally dishonest in portraying the armor situation as some kind of political failure. DoD has done as good a job as possible at responding to the situation. In reality, units make armor choices in accordance with the mission and situation.

Nobody LIKES armor, not if you have an offensive mindset. The full Army interceptor kit is absurd: picture. It is heavy, bulky, and constricting. Given the choice, nobody wears the shoulder guards, groin shield, rib plates, or other accessories. Most SOF guys wear a light-weight commercial over-the-head rig like this, but they generally have the luxury of choosing when and where to fight.

Unfortunately, most line troops in Iraq don't have that choice. Many of their missions (presence, security, civic action, route clearance) require them to sit on static positions or troll along designated routes, waiting to take chin shots from IEDs and snipers. The enemy initiates the majority of engagements in Iraq. Given that predicament, commanders have no choice but to direct their troops to armor up to the gills.

Uparmored HMMWVs are lousy vehicles and nobody likes fighting in them. The HMMWV was not designed as a combat platform. It was a beans-and-bullets go-anywhere truck, a replacement for the jeep. You are right, bolt-on armor will always lose the "P for plenty" spiral with the IED makers.

Vehicles like the Stryker are a far more effective solution, but it takes a long time to field Stryker units and they carry a big logistical tail. DoD is doing a hell of a job with that, though. Don Rumsfeld was exactly right, you go to war with the Army you have, and then you adjust.

For the other commenters:

Dragon skin is mostly marketing hype. In order to achieve the required MilSpec Level IV protection, they have to use the same ballistic plates as everyone else.

Nobody wears body armor in the jungle today either. You would die of heatstroke before you found the enemy.

"If all men were just, there would be no need of valor."
- Agesilaus

For bodyarmour:
That is only until they can be convinced that there is something better out there. It's a purely bureaucratic requirement, not because there isn't better stuff out there. And there most certainly IS better gear out there.

Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you:
Jesus Christ and the American G. I.
One died for your soul; the other for your freedom.

Would that be the jungles of New Jersey ? In 1778 at the battle of Monmouth the primary cause of british casualties was heatstroke, from their uniforms and equipment loads. A fact that has never been lost on our military.
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

body armor has it's limitations/use. even dragon scale has it's limits,but it's better than nothing.i believe body armor is more of a judgement call once in the field.anything with more energy than a 7.62x39 will more than likely defeat body armor.

"A free people ought to be armed" - George Washington

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